The “restaurant of the moment” in New York right now is at The NoMad hotel. Daniel Humm, the chef-owner at three-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park — the restaurant that got my first and only five-star review (although my second visit disappointed slightly) — opened this eatery at the NoMad Hotel in the Flatiron District. The NoMad has already been written up, generally favorably, by The New York Times and New York Magazine. I went there recently and was pleasantly surprised. In time, I think this could rival its older sibling a few blocks away.
The New York Times writes that The NoMad is “very different” from Eleven Madison Park, in part because one can order “à la carte, an option that is not available at Eleven Madison”. Although it’s true that you can’t order à la carte at EMP, you are asked to select an ingredient that features prominently in each course. The NoMad’s menu similarly highlights an ingredient at each course: “Beets”, “Snow Peas”, “Egg”, “Carrots”, etc. There quite a number of vegetarian options on the menu, so points right off the bat.
The bread (pictured above) was great. It was warm (and according to the Times) changes daily. I was particularly impressed by the serving tray, which had an indentation in it to accommodate the knife so that the blade lay perfectly flat on the tray. Such attention to detail!
I started with the Egg, which was lightly poached and served over asparagus and toasted quinoa. The egg was perfect — delicately done — and the quinoa added a nice crunch. The creaminess of the egg was rich and decadent, but it didn’t go over the top. The asparagus added some color and texture too.
We also got (complimentary) for the table the beets — roasted, with strawberries and raspberries, with black pepper sable. I’ve noticed beets on lots of menus recently, but these were unlike any I’ve had. The strawberries and raspberries added a dimension of sweetness that was just completely unexpected and delicious.
My main course was the asparagus, served with “bread salad’, those little mushrooms, and black truffle. I loved that the asparagus was well-roasted, until it had a good char– I find that asparagus is often undercooked, which makes it hard to cut and doesn’t, at least in my opinion, bring out the flavors quite as much. The toasted bread pieces added a good crunch, and, well, it’s hard to go wrong with black truffle. I never did figure exactly what was going on with the mushrooms; they were fine, but not particularly flavorful on their own.
The asparagus was recommended to me, but if (when) I go back again, I’ll probably get the carrots. Again, the carrots were well-roasted. They were served on top of pureed carrots with cumin. This was another complimentary dish (so we didn’t know we were getting it) but the waiter independently had it made without the duck skin because he knew I was vegetarian. These are the kinds of little touches that make a vegetarian feel like the restaurant is actually paying attention, rather than just tolerating the “outliers”. Anyway, the roasted carrots were good, but what really made the dish was the pureed carrot with cumin, which was amazing. This dish was so good that I tried making it myself at home a few days later. Suffice it to say that I fell far short. (Roasting carrots is easy; re-creating the rest of the dish is not.)
Dessert is served from a cart. I don’t remember what the things on the bottom shelf were. What you see on the middle shelf, on the left, is a sort of raspberry tart. Next to that is a macaron, with a layer of raspberries in the macaron! Various garnishes are on the top shelf.
I went with the raspberry tart, served with whipped cream. This was very good, though nothing spectacular; I thought the ratio of raspberry to “crust” was a little off. I liked the whipped cream though, which seemed freshly made.
All in all, The NoMad was a great experience. The place is very vegetarian-friendly; many menu items are either vegetarian or can easily be adjusted to accommodate. The service was exceptional and the food was just about fantastic all around (dessert fell a bit short, which is the only exception). The NoMad has gotten a little bit of flak for being expensive, but it was not much more expensive than other top restaurants in the city, and I certainly think it is in the same league as those “top restaurants”. Other people seem to compare some of the meat-centric dishes (the chicken and pig in particular) to Chef Humm’s dishes at EMP. I can’t speak to that, but I can say that the vegetarian dishes are fantastic here, whatever one might say about the other items (I will note that my dining companions were not vegetarians and they all agreed that the food was great). The NoMad may not have the history, atmosphere or sophistication of EMP, but the quality of the food and service is still top-notch. Four and a half stars.
Note: The NoMad is opening a rooftop restaurant this summer. The rooftop will serve a $125 fixed-price dinner menu — more along the lines of EMP, both in price and menu style — and, from what I understand, is aiming to be a three-Michelin-starred restaurant. No word on what the vegetarian options will wind up looking line there (I worry that with a single menu per night accommodating might be tough) but if I can score a reservation I’ll be sure to file a report.
The NoMad’s menu is below. (Return to the body of the post.)