3/27/2012 12:24:00 PM
NoMad Day One: Inside Daniel Humm and Will Guidara's New Hot Spot
The New York dining scene has been anticipating NoMad so eagerly that one might have expected trumpets to sound and streamers to fall from the ceiling when the joint finally opened last evening (which may have happened - we didn't get there until later). But when a powerhouse team like Daniel Humm and Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park decide they're going to open up a brand-new, reasonably affordable restaurant, it's kind of a big deal. Up next, check out our first impression of the spankin' new Chelsea hot spot, NoMad inside the NoMad Hotel.
The Crowd: A smattering of business-casual types, rich-looking dudes in suits and a few industry notables - we spied chef José Andrés and Restaurant Girl Danyelle Freeman among the early arrivals. The vibe is grown-up (we definitely remembered to put our napkins in our laps and kept our elbows off the tables) with über-attentive service to match. Food & Beverage GM Jeffrey Tascarella (formerly of Tenpenny and Scarpetta) presided over the dining room. Humm and Guidara floated among the crowds as well, chatting with friends in the library and even taking a seat on the couches to hobnob with the high rollers.
The Decor: The restaurant is split into several rooms - the main room is an open space with dark wood tables and chairs upholstered in shiny gold thread. A massive atrium ceiling lets in tons of natural light, making the sophisticated decor just a shade less dramatic (in a good way). An old-school mahogany bar in the center back of the restaurant is reminiscent of pre-Prohibition-era New York bars. To the left of the main room is a large dining area beset by red velvet drapes, gorgeous antique chandeliers and walls lined with encased dried, pressed herbs. Our favorite room was the library lounge area in the far back of the restaurant. Comfy couches line a room with a two-level old-school library (including the requisite spiral wood staircase) - this room is attached to the bar and is the restaurant's built-in cocktail lounge. Decor wise, this is a restaurant you might have found in New York 80 years ago, and most of the items, down to the plates and serving trays, were handmade by local artisans.
The Food: The New American menu is a "casual" departure for a chef like Humm (with chef de cuisine Abram Bissell at the helm) - but with this team, even casual food is done with much more thought and care than almost any restaurant we've been to recently. The menu has either à la carte or tasting menu options. For a mere $125 you can sample the menu via a seven-course "family-style" tasting. We ordered à la carte and started with the beef tartare from the "snacks" area of the menu, and from the small plates section tried the tagliatelle with king crab and Meyer lemon. From the entrees section, we had to try the auspiciously-priced $22 carrots, some $18 asparagus and the scallops with sorrel and maitake mushrooms. All the food certainly hit the mark - perfectly seasoned, artfully presented - making a crab pasta that doesn't taste fishy is a feat in itself. Were the carrots actually worth $22? We enjoyed them thoroughly, but even the crispy duck-skin topping didn't make them as transcendent as we were hoping for.
The Cocktails: With around 30 proprietary cocktails and a serious beer and wine list, NoMad is not messing around in the booze department. The libations will set you back $15 but, in most cases, are worth every penny. We tried the Hot Lips: jalapeño-infused blanco tequila, mezcal, vanilla, pineapple, lemon and cane syrup served in a salted glass. Thumbs up.
The Tunes: A mix of adult contempo - nothing that really sticks out in the memory/overwhelms the hum of conversation. Bill Withers' "Lovely Day" was the only tune we remember hearing - mostly because we believe this song should not be played in a restaurant...ever.
The Deets: NoMad is an all-day restaurant located at 1170 Broadway (between 27th and 28th Streets). You can attempt snagging a rezzie by calling 347-472-5660.