“from Scandinavia to Siam”
Through years of hard-fought practice and the miles of travel it came to fruition. The universal chef’s dream: Own a restaurant.
Autumn 2020, I came across a modest seaside spot with a stunning harbor view of my birthplace Boston. Twelve-miles due north along the picturesque coastline of Kings Beach lays the town of Swampscott. Originally, I planned to open a Southeast Asian restaurant, but that little slice of the Atlantic across the street had something more to add to my story. Enter Njord, the ancient Viking deity of the sea and wind. Protector of those Scandinavian seafarers who traversed this very ocean. This struck a deep chord in my Celt-Nordic DNA. I forged a menu, and it flowed.
Njord Haven restaurant was born.
Recalling a pivotal moment…
Winter 2014, a group of MGH medical staff who regularly dined at my cafe for lunch proposed I should join them on their annual VAC Pediatric Clinic in Vietnam. They said I would love the food, and they would show me around.
These people are true humanitarians, giving up their vacations and the comforts of home to make the Boston Pediatric VAC possible. They work their medical magic to change for better kid’s lives wherever they travel. Unknowingly, they we are about to work some of that magic on me.
After a long 27-hour flight, I arrived to the other side of the world. Ravenous, jet-lagged, past midnight, but I could not resist. I had to see the food. The Southie-born boy did go without direction, cell towers or GPS into those sweltering late night labyrinths of Saigon. I followed the glow of light in the mega humid night sky a few blocks from the hotel and found street food, lots of it everywhere. Lemongrass cockles and Banh Sao washed down with cold beer on ice. I stared like a wallflower at how this parallel universe was abnormally normal.
“Toto, I think we are not in Kansas anymore.”
In the ensuing 3 weeks, my 8-color box of Crayola’s upgraded to the BIG BOX. A kaleidoscope of new colors in the form of ingredients, culture, and flavor. Everything learned as a western chef was now to be thoroughly reevaluated, turned upside down and shaken. A treasure chest of travel. I ate things I never imagined or knew. I dared to try. Welcome to Oz.
I returned every year, sometimes twice. Food-centric solo treks through the highlands of Vietnam, up the mighty Mekong through Cambodia, spur trails to Myanmar and Lao. Then more freedom to roam via car rentals. Self-guided road trips all over Northern Thailand, deep into the nooks and crannies to find food unadulterated by “faranag” western tourism. These trips always kicked off with sleep deprived half day whirlwind layovers in Tokyo, then closing in crescendo of the big city cooking of Bangkok. I was molting.
What is new this Nordic Cuisine?
Making something inspiring from what the season leaves a chef to forage, yes especially in the dead of winter when it counts the most.
A canvas to pin all those crazy delicious culinary postcards I have collected.
The avant-garde nestled beside something you loved as a kid.
Colorful quirky cocktails inspired by time warped alchemy, faraway lands and hazy self-impaired memories set to the backbeat of an ice shaker.
Njord Haven is fueled by a treasure chest of travel, local farms, the ocean, and little ethnic markets everywhere.
Everything tastes better with a smile.
Chef Don Golden