A year ago, I wrote that The NoMad was New York’s “restaurant of the moment.” Since then, the restaurant has garnered a Michelin star, and spent a lot of time on Eater’s list of the top 38 restaurants in Manhattan. (By the way, does anyone know why they list the top “38”? Why not 35? or 40?) The restaurant started off with a bang and has really maintained its momentum since. Around the corner, Eleven Madison Park (my reviews here and here), with the same chef-owner, Daniel Humm, is doing some pretty neat things. My not-so-secret hope for The NoMad was that it would be a place to get food at EMP’s quality, without having to pay EMP prices, and it looks like The NoMad might hit that sweet spot.
To be clear, this is not a place where you’re going to get the “close-to-four-hour ode to the romance and history of New York,” but for $50 instead of $200. But it is a place where the dishes are simple but inventive, interesting enough to set them apart but not so much that they look like an “overdecorated cake.” And the place continues to be quite vegetarian friendly.
I continue to be in love with the bread at this place. The first time I ate here, I had some sort of potato bread; the second time (on the rooftop) it was a tomato bread; this time, it was rosemary-Pecorino. The bread is sort of a microcosm of the restaurant: interesting, not something you’ll see every day, and done really well with great attention to detail. I still cannot get over how the bread tray has an indentation so that the blade of the knife lies flush on the tray!
For the first time, I had The NoMad’s famous radishes:
I have never been a fan of radishes and got these only grudgingly. Boy was I glad I was talked into it! If you can imagine radishes as a candy, this is what they would taste like. A thin coating of butter, and a just a pinch of salt from the side. The radishes were fantastic on their own and frankly would have held up quite nicely even without the butter–I’m sure it’s as much aesthetic (they look like white-chocolate covered strawberries!) as it is about taste. In any case, this is definitely something you want to try at least once.
My first course was the “snow pea chiffonade,” with pecorino and mint. As you’ll see from the menu, the dish is supposed to come with pancetta. I had it without, which I think made it a bit underwhelming. But, honestly, the peas actually held their own surprisingly well. (One disappointment was that several of the first courses had meat–pancetta here, ham in the spring garlic veloute–and the one that didn’t was the poached egg, which I had last year.)
Some people asked about the wine I order at restaurants. This time we got a bottle of Olga Raffault “Les Picasses” 2007 for the table. It retails in the range of $25ish at your local wine store; I don’t now remember the price but I think NoMad had it for around $50. All in all, not a terrible markup — and it was a great wine. As you may know, French wines are typically classified by geography (Bordeaux, Champagne) rather than varietal (Chardonnay, Merlot). This particular wine is predominantly Cabernet Franc, from the Loire valley. The chateau says this can be aged up to 15 years, but it was drinking quite well after just 6, and had great complexityeven without any decanting. (jar?) You can get this wine right here in New York for $22, so I’m considering picking up a few bottles.
Anyway, back to the food. For my main course, I had morels, which I am convinced are the new trend ingredient (see here and here and here). I recently had morels at EMP, but The NoMad’s preparation was quite different. The morels were sauteed and served with nettles, which like — as greens go, I find them more interesting than spinach or kale. The usual preparation comes with lardo, which again I left off. Some mushrooms and potato gave the nettles some depth. This is a great example of a vegetarian dish that isn’t puny. It presents quite nicely as a main course, even without the meat. (Again, the only straight-vegetarian option was the asparagus, which I had last year.)
Finally, dessert. We ordered and shared three desserts for the table. First up (above) is the Kouign Amann. My first introduction to the Kouign-Amann was at the Park Hyatt-Vendome in Paris, where it’s part of the pretty badass breakfast spread. So maybe it’s that I had Paris on my mind, but for some reason the Kouign Amann at NoMad didn’t quite do it for me. I know it’s supposed to be more dense than a croissant, but even still, I thought it was a bit too dense. The various rhubarbs (sorbet, etc.) were quite good, though.
The “Milk and Honey” is NoMad’s signature dessert. Food Republic deconstructs the dish, but the name really says it all. The dessert presents milk and honey in several different forms, with different tastes and textures. I thought of this as something like Momofuku Milk Bar’s “cereal milk” — but whereas my friend once described that as “slightly more rich than eating a stick of butter,” the Milk and Honey here doesn’t overwhelm. It pops just enough, in color, flavor, and texture, to make an impression, but doesn’t hit you over the head.
We also got the “chocolate,” which was a way to combine different forms of chocolate and malt. One interesting thing about high-end restaurants (particularly at dessert) is to see how they can be original with pretty standard ingredients. Chocolate is one of those things — lots of places have “chocolate” as a dessert but present it in really inventive ways. This was one of them.
So what do I make of my return to The NoMad, a year later? It is still probably my favorite restaurant in New York. It’s accessible (in more ways than one — not crazy expensive, you’re not tied to a tasting menu, you can dress casually), and the food is top notch. And generally speaking, they are happy to accommodate vegetarians. The one reason I drop the rating a half-star is because there weren’t many items on the menu that were vegetarian “as-is” — both of my dishes had to be adjusted. But maybe that was a fluke: as you saw in my first review, there were several vegetarian choices, and the menu that’s currently online features a “corn” first course and “summer squash” and “eggplant” main courses, all of which are vegetarian. (That’s in addition to the snow pea, which I had, and tagliatelle, both of which can be made vegetarian.) And I particularly liked that the poached egg remains on the menu — perhaps in time it will become a NoMad classic in its own right.
In short, I had another great experience at The NoMad. A slight demerit because there were slightly fewer vegetarian choices, but nothing major. I still feel like this restaurant’s best days are head of it. Four stars.
The NoMad’s menu is below. (Return to the body of the post.)
Dessert menu: (Return.)