Anyone who reads my blog or listens to me on the KCUR Food Critics show knows that my husband doesn’t like to spend a lot of money on “fancy” restaurant meals. So it was with some trepidation that I booked a table at The NoMad hotel in New York to celebrate my son’s birthday last month. I had heard it was a beautiful space and, since we hadn’t been to Eleven Madison Park where owner/chef Daniel Humm made his name, I figured this would be a way to experience Humm’s cuisine on a less formal scale. Not inexpensive by any stretch, but less so than the $195 multi-course meal at EMP.
The dining area is divided into 4 very distinct rooms–The Atrium (the largest and loudest), the Library (a gorgeous bar that serves light snacks), the Parlour (smaller than the atrium but still humming), and the Fireplace (the smallest and quietest). Each room is gorgeous, but I asked for a quiet room in advance because I wanted to be able to have real conversation rather than having to shout across the table. We lucked out and got a table in the five table Fireplace room. I don’t know if they have a real fire in the winter, but this was summer and the fireplace was filled with candles to create a lovely glow.
My husband was so impressed with the service throughout the evening that he didn’t complain about the hefty bill. Everyone who came by our table (and there were many) had been beautifully trained to provide smooth, knowledgeable and friendly service, not a surprise really since Eleven Madison Park was originally a Danny Meyer restaurant, so Daniel Humm learned hospitality at the knee of a master. But it did elevate the evening beyond the enjoyment of a good meal.
Every dish was visually striking and there was an intensity of flavor in each bite. Here’s what we had:
ROASTED WITH TOMATO, BASIL & CORN CREAM
MARINATED WITH TOMATO-DASHI & LEMON VERBENA
GLAZED WITH ROMAINE, CUMIN & YOGURT
KING CRAB, MEYER LEMON & BLACK PEPPER
CONFIT WITH PEACHES, ARUGULA & BACON MARMALADE
WHOLE-ROASTED FOR TWO: FOIE GRAS, BLACK TRUFFLE, BRIOCHE
MALTED GANACHE WITH CHOCOLATE FONDANT & MALT ICE CREAM
POACHED WITH ANGEL FOOD CAKE, RICOTTA & ANISE HYSSOP
The chicken is the specialty of the house, and is based on a similar dish served at Eleven Madison Park. The entire bird is presented at the table with a flourish, and then taken back to the kitchen where the breast is plated for two, and served with a fricassee of thigh meat, mushrooms and shallots that is presented on the side in a cast iron vessel. The chicken’s stuffing of foie gras, truffles and brioche transforms what could be a very pedestrian dish into an incredibly rich indulgence.
What we all noticed is that the menu description of each dish paled in comparison to what we ate. To say I ate a bowl of corn doesn’t begin to express the nuances of the dish, either in the preparation or the presentation, and so it was with everything we experienced that evening.
The NoMad is a treat for all the senses. Without question it was a lovely spot to celebrate a special occasion.