NoMad, which officially opened on Monday of this week, is the new restaurant owned by EMP’s Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, — probably the most eagerly anticipated restaurant opening of 2012 in New York. Because of our long relationship with EMP, we were invited to preview NoMad during “Friends & Family.” As soon as we received the emailed invitation, we were on the phone and secured a reservation for the very first dinner service on Wednesday, March 25.
It was an unusually balmy evening as we made our way to the restaurant in the also new boutique NoMad Hotel, on Broadway and 28th St. About a block away, we spotted a familiar figure coming toward us. It was Chef Humm. He was on his way to check in at EMP where, incidentally, we’d had dinner the night before.
After exchanging hellos, he said he’d see us later when he’d be back at NoMad. (The two restaurants are only a few blocks from each other.)
Entering NoMad’s reception area, we were greeted with warm hugs by Kristin Millar. As a member of EMP’s reception team, she had welcomed us many times there before leaving last year to become the head receptionist at Ai Fiori when it opened. Now, we were thrilled to see her “back in the fold” at NoMad in charge of reservations and reception. After our jackets were checked, she asked if we’d prefer to tour the restaurant before or after dinner. We decided on after. She then led us into the lounge area where a smiling Will stood waiting to greet all arriving guests. He told us they had special plans for us – a tasting menu. He did request that I not take any photos. (He explained his reasons which I won’t go into here, but they made sense to me.) Actually, it was nice to just sit back and not concern myself with anything but enjoying the food — and, as always, Michael’s company.
Kristin escorted us into the dining room, seated us at a table for two along the left wall, and told us she’d be back when we were done to take us on the tour. The dining room is beautiful with a turn-of-the century feel, including elegant red draperies and pillars adorned with large white squares picturing various herbs and such. Seating is very comfortable. In fact, the chairs are the same design as those at EMP but covered in period fabric rather than EMP’s leather. And there was music. Watching a video of Daniel and Will doing a Google Q&A, I noted Daniel’s remark that there would be music. I’m loud noise-phobic, so that worried me. But I needn’t have been since the music – jazz and other styles, including a bit of (recognizable to me )rock ‘n’ roll – was kept at a reasonable level. With tables about 80% occupied, the overall noise level was pleasant.
Cailene, our server, arrived with a cheery greeting. Bright and bubbly, she took attentive care of us throughout the meal. When Michael asked about wine, she said a red and a white were available on the house; however, he could certainly do a wine pairing for which there would be a charge. He opted to do pairings, so Cailene sent over a sommelier. Danielle discussed Michael’s wine preferences (reds whenever possible), and he was very pleased with her selections. Cailene also had a surprise for me. The bar was preparing one of my favorite non-alcoholic drinks at EMP, the Orange Julius – and, she emphasized, with a straw! At EMP, the bar usually sends out the O.J. without a without a straw, so I always ask for one. Will has told me he agrees that it really needs a straw, so I was really touched that he had made sure the straw would not be forgotten. As I often tell him, he is the best!!
Though there were menus at our place settings, we only glanced at them. I didn’t take any notes as I had intended to get a copy to take home but then forgot to do so. However, Eater came to the rescue by posting the menu (it’s not on NoMad’s website yet) though there are a number of things we had that don’t appear on it. So, in those instances, I’ve been left at the mercy of my less than stellar memory.
Our tasting menu consisted of seven courses, the same number listed on the menu and will be served “family-style for two or more people.” However, while the majority of our courses were served family-style, we also had individual portions that came from the hors d’oeuvres and snack sections as well as from the a la carte.
First Course. To get things rolling, we were served two hors d’oeuvres. Scallop Ceviche with Yuzu, Jalepeno and Pistachio served in a shell was much like the scallop amuses served at EMP in this case with different embellishments. It was delicious though I thought the jalapeno flavor needed to pop more. The other was Sea Urchin Panna Cotta topped with an apple foam cap, the mild sea urchin’s sweetness was counterbalanced by the slight tartness of the apple. We noticed at other tables that diners were served these two small bites as part of a tower. On the menu, that’s the Grand Plateau of “Fruits de Mer,” which also includes other sea foodie things like oysters, crab, hamachi, and lobster.
Second Course. Three more hors d’oeuvres sitting atop a large cylindrical wooden box – an interesting presentation. A bite-sized rolled pastry filled with sweetbreads was deep-fried, crunchy, and with not a hint of oiliness. Fantastic! It reminded us of the cornet-shaped pastry filled with sweetbreads that for a long time was on the hors d’oeuvres tray that used to start the meal at EMP. A second hors d’oeuvre was rectangular in shape and topped with what I think was a pork mixture. Unfortunately, the third hors d’oeuvre has gone completely out of my head, and Michael doesn’t remember what it was either.
When our plates from this course were cleared, the cylindrical box remained. Hmmm…?
Third Course. Cailene arrived with three packages of butcher paper which she unwrapped for us. Each contained several slices of different types of salumi. Another server placed a small board on the table on which lay a sizable loaf of house baked bread. Then came a surprise! Cailene removed the top of the cylindrical box revealing a tray holding a generous assortment of pickled vegetables, a variety of olives; and two types of mustards, yellow and purple. Wow! A mind-boggling smorgasbord! Using the knife that came with the board, I cut slices of bread, we slathered them with the mustards (they were both terrific) and topped them with the charcuterie. Yum! The bread, studded with onions and (I think) some other things was incredibly delicious. We love anything pickled, as well as olives, so we were in heaven. As if this wasn’t enough, a server appeared in order to add a perfectly-dressed radicchio salad. This was truly a one-course feast! Except for the salad, none of this is listed on the menu.
Fourth Course. From the a la carte menu, we were each served the Poached Egg with Asparagus, Quinoa & Parmsan, a wonderful combination of textures and flavors.
Fifth Course. A very sizable steak – I think it was a ribeye — arrived sizzling in a black iron pan. A piece of meat at the bottom was still attached to the bone while the rest had been cut into thick slices so we could easily share them. On the menu, there is a steak on the a la carte menu I presume it’s for one person) which comes with trumpet mushrooms and parsnips. Our sides were different: a piping hot potato gratin in a little iron ramekin and from the a la carte menu, Snow Peas Chiffonade with Pancetta, Pecorino, Mint, and Lemon. The steak, cooked medium rare, was juicy and flavorful; the gratin was fabulously creamy; and the salad’s mixture of textures and flavors was spritely and delightful. At this point, we were getting kind of full, so we ate half of everything and took the rest home.
Sixth Course. Cheese. But instead of a selection of cheeses as stated on the menu, we were served a warm “casserole” of ham and cheese. To be honest, this was the only dish I didn’t much care for. I like very mild cheeses, and the one used here was too strong for me. Also, I never eat ham and cheese together because that combo doesn’t appeal to me. Michael thought it was fine though he only ate a very small amount because it was very rich, and he wanted to save room for dessert…
Seventh Course. A delicious rhubarb cobbler had a terrific crumble topping and was accompanied by generous scoops of fantastic bay leaf ice cream.
Wow! A truly memorable meal!
Overall, I describe the style of NoMad’s cuisine as Chef Humm “letting his hair down” but not completely. Some of the things we had were reminiscent of his haute cuisine style at EMP, while other dishes were more casual and comforting. Michael dubbed it “haute bistro,” which is, I think, a succinctly accurate description.
Chef Humm did stop by as promised during the meal. Will also came over to ask how everything was. They and G.M. Jeffrey Tascarella made the rounds all evening to ensure that everything was running smoothly at all the tables. We’d not met Jeffrey before. He graciously spent quite a bit of time chatting with us, and it was a pleasure getting to know him.
Kristin returned when we were done eating to give us the tour. (She did come by during the meal to check on how things were going.) We started back in the lounge, aka the atrium, a huge space with a more casual ambiance than the dining room. An enormous skylight will, I’m sure, let in spectacular light during the day.
On the left side of the lounge is the Fireplace Room, named for the magnificent marble fireplace imported from France. (And I want that gorgeous wall covering!) This room can seat up to 14 people and will be used for small private parties.
Behind the lounge is the bar room, another very large space with a capacious bar which stretches from one end of the room to the other, and where the entire menu will be available. Leo Robitchek, who was Head Bartender at EMP, is now Bar Manager for both restaurants. He was in the bar room, so I thanked him for the Orange Julius and asked if there would be other non-alcoholic cocktails at NoMad as they have at EMP. He said there would be, and that he was working on them, so I’m excited to see what new things he comes up with. EMP’s regular cocktail program is considered one of the best in the city (last year, Leo won a cocktail competition in New Orleans), and I’m sure the program he’s devised for NoMad is equally terrific..
Kristin then took us down a hallway into the library, an extraordinary two-story space lined floor-to-ceiling on all four walls with books. Handsome furnishings include lots of comfy seating and two gorgeous Persian rugs. A wonderful spot to enjoy coffee and pastries which will be served there every morning.
Finally, we made our way downstairs to the kitchen where Chef de Cuisine Abram Bissel and his staff were hard at work. We, of course, know Abram well from his time as EMP’s Executive Sous Chef. We congratulated him on his new position at NoMad, so well-deserved as he’s very talented, and thanked him and his crew for the wonderful meal they had prepared for us. Chef Humm was there, and we chatted with him for a few minutes before going back upstairs. But we didn’t leave the kitchen empty-handed. I had noticed some luscious looking chocolate thingy at the pastry station. I asked what it was and was told it was a chocolate and caramel. “Ooh!” I said, “I love chocolate and caramel!” They then insisted on giving us two to take home. I took this photo of one of them in our kitchen.
Pastry Chef Mark Welker has come over from EMP where he was the Sous Pastry Chef. This little gem, the rhubarb cobbler, the bay leaf ice cream – and let’s not forget that bread! — are indications that those who love desserts or bread or both are in for a rollicking good time.
A New York Times Diners Journal article by Florence Fabricant had this headline: “Gracious Dining, Alive and Well at NoMad.” How true that is! NoMad has the whole package: a strikingly elegant yet comfortable setting; welcoming, attentive service from a young, exhuberant staff; and, of course, food that rocks!
There’s not the slightest doubt that Daniel Humm and Will Guidara have another mega-hit on their hands. We, of course, are looking forward to dining there often because, as you can tell, we’re mad for NoMad.