NoMad – Is the Emperor Wearing Any Clothes?

If you want to read about the greatest meal I have had in awhile…go back and read the Mas (la grillade) report from yesterday.

Because this review isn’t really a love letter.

Even though I could have sworn that it would be…I ate at a restaurant I have wanted to experience for a year. I was expecting culinary fireworks, and what I got were a few sparks but mostly a dull flame.

NoMad is Daniel Humm’s and Will Guidara’s whimsical restaurant. The Eleven Madison Park alum created the hit of the 2012 restaurant season with decadent takes on classic foods like chicken, bread, and even radishes.  It has a downtown meets uptown gothic vibe – dark velvets paired with a soaring atrium and modern music paired with excellent, formal service. It was – and still is – such a hot reservation that you either have to know someone, make a reservation 30 days out, or eat incredibly early.

Hey, when it gets dark at 4:00 PM, I can eat by 5:45 at night!

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Start with one of the excellent cocktails. The Sippy Cup with vermouth, Averna, ginger, and lime, is like a tomato-less Bloody Mary. The ginger kick is strong and spicy, with a fragrant, herbal backbone from the Averna and the bright note of lime. It’s the ideal aperitif – it sparks the appetite, whets the palate, and prepares tour stomach for the meal to come.

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Radishes and butter

The restaurant’s signature appetizer and a truly delicious one. The radish is dipped in a super rich, thick butter flavored ganache and there is a small pile of coarse salt crystals in which to dip the butter. It’s different from just plain butter - it really is thicker, more intense, more buttery than…butter itself.

It’s expensive, but worth it not just for the taste but for the novelty.

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Fruits de Mer

Here’s where I stop drinking the Kool Aid. This plateau is phenomenal in variety and quality. The oysters are briny but still creamy, with an icy champagne gratine. The uni panna cotta with salty nuggets of caviar is so mild that it has just the faintest suggestion of the sea – soothing and rich. The scallops with lime and pistachio are tender and fresh as can be and the king crab is totally genius – a citrus-y poached crab with creamy foam stuffed back into the claw to resemble its appearance when whole. But…wow. This is an expensive dish. I get that this stuff is expensive and that the chefs do careful and excellent work on it. However..it’s tiny. So tiny. It wouldn’t even make a dent in my blood sugar let alone curb my appetite.

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King crab tagliatelle

My favorite dish of the night, and the one worth going back for. So simple – fresh, eggy tagliatelle, mild, sweet king crab, and a plethora of butter. Enough to stop my heart. Enough to make my heart sing. This is the buttered noodles of your youth upped a notch. The crab is so tender, so mild, so wonderfully rich and tasty. I can’t imagine a more delicious pasta dish. It’s comforting and interesting with just enough salt and the most soothing, lush texture. If you go, please get this.

And, once again, get the big portion. Because even that is JUST about enough to share as an appetizer.

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Brussels sprouts with hazelnuts, apple, and bacon

Very good but nothing that I haven’t made at home. Crispy sprouts, sweet apples, smoky bacon, and crunchy hazelnuts. A great balance of flavors and textures, to be sure – it just paled in comparison to other courses.

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Broccoli roasted with lardo, lemon, and Parmesan

Some fabulous broccoli – the finest I have had since Amaya in London many years ago. It’s roasted at such a high temperature that it gets incredibly crispy without burning. It’s tender at the core but so crunchy outside that it’s almost like a high fiber potato chip. Served atop a verdant broccoli puree, it is broccoli in stereo, coming at you from all angles. The lemon and Parmesan are generously applied, adding bright, salty, and nutty flavors. The lardo is used more sparingly, but its sweet, porcine flavor literally melts onto the brocoli and really infuses the veggies with a meaty, deep flavor.

HOWEVER…

The portion is so lilliputian that my sister actually turned to me and said “you have GOT to be kidding me.” It was a size that is appropriate for a hungry 6 year old. NOT a remotely peckish adolescent, let alone an adult. I totally get small portions in a tasting menu or reasonable portions so you don’t feel sick when you leave a restaurant. I understand high prices for big ticket items like foie gras or labor intensive preparations. But this. is. insane. It’s just too much money for too little food.

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Roasted chicken with foie gras, brioche, and truffles, served 2 ways

The dark meat is served with crispy chicken skin and a poached egg – it’s wonderful.

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Juicy, tender, and succulent with a supremely poached egg and addictive salty bits of chicken skin. It’s familiar yet totally elevated – you ain’t never had no chicken and dumplings like these.

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The breast is good, if a little dry. It’s a wee bit salty and the foie gras flavor is mostly lost in the stuffing. The truffles are a wonderful counterpart to the very fresh white meat, but it isn’t the ethereal chicken of Olympus that it has been purported to be. 

And it isn’t worth the money. I’m so sorry, but it just isn’t.

The desserts are so unmemorable that I can’t even spend time on reporting on them.

Especially since we weren’t gifted the neat macarons that tables on both sides of us got to try.

Maybe we didn’t order enough wine to warrant them? (There is an amazing wine by the glass selection, including the chance to try incredible wines that you would normally never get to drink by the glass).

For whatever reason, it left a bad taste in my mouth even after a very tasty meal.

But tasty doesn’t cut it for the price tag. Or the wait to get a reservation. Or the hype. It just doesn’t cut it for something that I have waited for for a year. I would have enjoyed it a lot more without the hype and with the caveat “get a drink and some appetizers – and bring your gold card. I can’t say that I would recommend this place for anything other than a cocktail, the radishes, and a bowl of that insanely delicious pasta. Nothing  else really stands out.

NoMad is just a case of the Emperor new clothes. And – spoiler alert – he isn’t wearing any. And they still cost him a ton of money.

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Comments

  1. Ttrockwood says:

    I went to the Library for cocktails and a few snacks with a friend and we really loved the creative cocktails. The apps we had were really good but the bill was still a little surprising since i knew i would be hungry again in two hours. Its too bad dinner wasn’t more fabulous! Maybe its just a great grab a posh drink before going to nearby k-town for a real meal….

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