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Thursday
Mar292012

Opening night dinner at The NoMad

  • Restaurant  The NoMad
  • Cuisine  New American
  • Location  1170 Broadway (at 28th Street), Manhattan
  • Phone  212-796-1500
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  sophisticated, rich, understated elegance
  • Attire  business casual
  • Ideal for  small-mid sized groups, 1x1, foodies, dinner w/ the parents, celebratory date night
  • Price  expensive
  • The NoMad on Urbanspoon

Originally, the four of us had plans to dine at Eleven Madison Park.  "Girls, forget Eleven Madison," her text read, "I just scored us a reservation for opening night at The NoMad!  It's Chef Daniel Humm's newest restaurant!!"  Leave it up to Hollywood (CY's nickname) to snag us a seat at the hottest four-top in town...

The NoMad Hotel is the newest, most talked about project on the Flatiron neighborhood's landscape.  Actually, it's so new that, despite the fact that its namesake restaurant officially opened its doors to the public on March 27th, the hotel won't start giving out room/suite keys until April 1st! 

Although our dinner reservation wasn't until 6:30pm, Julie and I came to the executive decision that it was not only imperative - but necessary - that the two of us to conduct some pre-meal reconnaissance.  At the bar, of course. 

One of the greatest traits that Julie and I share is our consistent timeliness.  For example, if the said reservation is for 7pm, you can bet money that we'll be there no later than 6:50pm.  Secretly, I think we try to beat each other to wherever it is we're going/attending.  Like, we compete to see which one of us can get there first.  This time around, Julie won.  Upon my arrival, she was already seated at the bar, next to the stool that was housing her black Chanel.  With my name on it, of course.  The purse was just keeping my seat warm. 

Ever the lady, Jules waited until I joined before ordering a cocktail.

"Thank you, darling," I said as I simultaneously handed Jules her purse.  After I plopped atop the plush, velvety bar stool, I couldn't help but gawk at my beautiful, sophisticated surroundings.  After all, this certainly felt more "uptown" than its awkward location in the midst of a wholesale area that some call "Little Haiti." 

The matte metallic-painted ceiling must have reached heights of at least 20-feet.  And from the point where it met the wall, built-in mahogany-wood shelving was lined with empty glass bottles before giving way to a large display of liquor.  Two hand-carved wooden elephants stood atop the bartender's counter, creating quite the focal point.  In terms of positioning oneself, imbibers could choose between sitting atop bar stools or leaning against communal high tops. 

Off to the side and through a door was a larger, more casual room with plenty of seating for bar spillover (see photo, below).

For such a rich, fancy bar - within a hotel, for that matter - I was pleasantly surprised by the prices listed on the cocktail menu:  beers average $8, many cocktails are under $15, and you can get a glass of wine starting around $8.  Julie and I each chose the "Bartender's Choice," a cocktail option which allows the 'tender to tailor a creation based upon your personal taste.  "I'm a tequila or a gin girl, and I love my drinks to be both sweet and sour.  Salt is always welcomed, too!" I explained to Will, the friendly mixology-master.

As we waited for drinks to arrive, Julie and I spotted Wylie Dufresne sitting just a couple of bar stools over.   

While I am unable to give you the full list of ingredients, I can say that Will did an awesome job of customizing a cocktail to suit my unique, uber-feminine taste!

Midway through our second beverage, Hollywood and Sylvia - escorted by one of the lovely dining room hosts - approached.  We were whisked away from the bar and seated immediately!

"I don't think I've been this excited about a meal in recent history!"  Hollywood gushed.  "I mean, just look at this place!"  She was right.  As if the bar area wasn't breathtaking enough, I think that the dining room just may have surpassed it.  Think:  a vaulted skylight that plays the role of "ceiling" - walls and floors lined with unpolished white marble and chestnut/mahogany wood accents - heavy velvet drapery and Oriental rugs with floral motifs - and the most gorgeous, satin-y, peridot-green chair upholstery.

Eve, our server for the evening, cheerfully greeted us before handing out dinner menus and taking individual drink orders.  For my third, I chose the "Bee's Knees," a sweet, gin-based cocktail with a honey aftertaste.  

Bee's KneesAlthough we had discussed the tasting menu, the four of us ultimately decided to go a-la-carte; sharing each dish.  This way, we could sample much more of the menu! 

After placing our elaborate order, we were presented with a small, wooden butcher's block that was topped with a slab of homemade potato and leek focaccia bread.  Eve, our server, bet us that we would finish at least 3-4 loaves throughout the course of the evening.  "It's that good," she exclaimed.

Thinly sliced onions, potatoes, and a smidge of white cheese topped the golden bread.  Its crusty exterior gave way to a pillowy soft, moist interior that was dotted with silky, melted leeks.  For a moment, the four of us were silenced by deliciousness...  

And, sure enough, Eve was right:  by the night's end, we had gone through four loaves of focaccia!

 

Appetizer 1:  Sweetbreads Croustillant 

Croustillant.  A sexier way of saying "spring roll."  But, like most words, it just sounds better/fancier in French. 

A thin (read miniscule) slice of sweetbread was topped with parsley and neatly wrapped/folded in to the shape of a cigar.  Fried until crisp and golden brown, the "croustillants" were served against brown paper, leaning vertically in a small bowl.   Almost resembling a serving of proper Belgian frites.

To me, the "croustillant" tasted like a really good vegetable and/or 'mystery meat' spring roll from your local Thai restaurant.  "I don't taste any sweetbread, whatsoever" Hollywood blurted.  And neither did I, thank god. Truth be told, I'm not really down with organ meats.  However, when the majority of the dinner table rules, I tend to keep my mouth shut and play fair...

 

Appetizer 2:  Butter Dipped Radishes with Fleur de Sel

These fresh, ruby-red jewels were dipped in a smooth, fondant-like layer of butter and served alongside fleur de sel crystals.

Prior to a couple of years ago, I would have never put these two ingredients - butter and radishes - together.  However, one bite of this unique combination - dunked in fleur de sel - is all it takes to become a believer.

 

Appetizer 3:  Foie Gras Torchon with Tete de Cochon, Radishes & Nasturtium 

Here we go again with the organ meats.  I know.  For those of you out there who are wondering:  yes, I do have a backbone.  It's just that my friends are ballers.  They're foie gras, pate, and caviar connoisseurs.  It would be akin to them going out for Mexican food with me and throwing a tantrum if I vetoed ordering a chimichanga for the table.  Get it?

Radishes and edible flowers encircled a disk of silky, rich foie gras that was crowned with parsley jam.  Tete de cochon acted as the "yolk," or centerpiece.  Toast points accompanied.

It was at this point in the meal when I began to feel the "effects" of my three cocktails.  Hollywood divided the torchon in to quarters, and we each grabbed our respective "wedge."  I gleefully spread the entirety of my portion atop a toast point.  "Wow," I squealed, "this is really good!"  Although I couldn't hear too much aside from my own chewing, I did hear Sylvia ask Hollywood for the English translation of tete de cochon.  "It's head cheese," she replied.  Oh.  Dear.  God.  If I could just swallow what was in my mouth, I could chase this last bite with a huge gulp of "Bee's Knees!"  Le buzz kill was now in full swing.  The effects of the alcohol instantly subsided...

 

Appetizer 4:  Bone Marrow with Parsley, Shallots, Anchovy

A hollow, halved cow's bone was filled with a stuffing composed of marrow, parsley, shallots, anchovy, and croutons.  Baked until golden brown and buttery, the centerpiece was accompanied by undressed greens.    

I found this appetizer to be a delightful, extravagant, and sophisticated play on traditional American "Stove Top" stuffing. 

 

Appetizer 5:  Tagliatelle with King Crab, Meyer Lemon & Black Pepper

House-made tagilatelle ribbons were tossed in a tangy Meyer lemon/butter sauce and topped with snow-white chunks of king crab meat and coarsely-ground black pepper.

I found this dish to be light, peppy, and summery - especially when compared to many of our initial appetizers.  It proved the perfect segway in to our entree courses.

 

Entree 1, 2:  Whole Roasted Chicken For Two

Prior to cooking, the chicken's skin was slightly detached so that the flesh could be rubbed/sealed with a moist mixture of foie gras, black truffle, and brioche.  The skin was reattached before roasting.

Eve presented the table with the picturesque bird before slipping away and returning with two equally portioned plates.  The chicken rested atop a rich veal gravy and buttery potato "veloute."  White asparagus spears accompanied.

 

Entree 3:  Suckling Pig Confit with Dried Apricots, Onions, & Wild Greens

The crisp, buttery skin enveloped the luxuriously-tender suckling pig confit.  Its naturally-occurring salty flavor was precisely balanced with the aid of grilled onions and sweet, dried apricot.  Wild, flowering greens accompanied and served as a gorgeous color contrast.  

 

Entree 4:  Roasted Duck with Apple, Dandelion, & Vadouvan

Two perfectly-cooked, ample duck "steaks" were surrounded by halved, roasted apples, dandelion greens and, what I recall to be, a potato gratin (the latter is not listed on the menu as an accompaniment).

While I never order duck, myself, I found this version to be nothing short of excellent and, quite possibly, a game changer.  The meat was incredibly tender and juicy, and I didn't notice any lingering gaminess.

 

Dessert course:  Carrot Cake - Five Cheeses - Milk & Honey

Had I known that the "Carrot" and "Milk & Honey" desserts would be deconstructed, I would have vetoed the order.  Deconstruction reminds me of molecular gastronomy, which reminds me of high school science class, which...makes me yawn and roll my eyes.  I found the "Carrot," which was listed as containing cake, to be a huge disappointment and false advertisement.  Where was the damn cake?  This was wrong on so many levels - I don't even know where to begin.  So I won't.

The cheese platter was lovely but, unless you're serving Velveeta, how hard can that be to screw up?  

I know I sound like a grouch, but dessert did get a little better:  the "Milk & Honey," despite the fact that it, too, was deconstructed, was actually quite delicious.  I'm not quite sure what all was going on in that bowl, but I do know that it contained brittle, shortbread, and ice.  But that's just because I'm looking at what is stated on the menu...   

 

To conclude:

I enjoyed my experience at The NoMad and am especially thrilled that I got to dine there on opening night!  First and foremost, what impressed me above all else was how precise the service was, from the bar to the dinner table.  Every employee was incredibly friendly, knowledgeable, and gave the impression that they had been mastering their craft for years - thus setting me, the diner, at ease.  Secondly, I was pleased by the more laid back/less stuffy vibe.  This is not the type of place where you will feel intimidated by the staff - your friends, on the other hand, could be a different story.  And, speaking of your company, my third point:  The NoMad is the perfect segway for those who want to dip their toe in to the wild world of organ meats.  The approach here is less "slap in the face," if you will, than, perhaps, many other establishments.

I am thrilled to welcome The NoMad to my ever-blossoming neighborhood.  I am confident that, with Chef Humm at the helm, only good things will follow.

 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

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Reader Comments (1)

Another amazing post Linds! Described the evening perfectly. Once again, I am in love with your pics - so, so beautiful.

XX
Julie

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

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