Thursday, April 12, 2012

Garment District Dinner

The NoMad. Will Guidara and Daniel Humm's latest joint foodie project. A dark bar leads to a formal host stand, where a maitre'd with an anemic sense of humor takes my coat and leaves me to fend for myself to meet my guest: through the carpeted dining room, into the back bar, and back into another room aptly called The Library, where books line the walls of a dark-paneled room. Instantly, it's a scene. Ben Leventhal of Eater saunters in; the black-clad cocktail waitress will not let us sit at a table for two, since tables "with books on them" are reserved. Except, it's a library. There are books everywhere.

Cocktail lists come in books, but the system is flawed, with pages sticking out every which way. Cute idea, if you can make it work. Cuter is the mythic bottles of booze, hiding in fat books on The Library's walls. Find one, and it's yours, but it's gauche to look with so many people staring into cocktails.

We are exported back into the dining room, which feels empty and full at the same time. Too many staff members. Too few diners. Too many people tripping through the room and knocking our chairs. We order a three course meal: two snacks, a seafood tower, and an entree for two with another appetizer in lieu of a side. Snacks arrived in seconds, thin pastry cigars stuffed with sweetbreads and a rillette jar of beef tartare with brioche squares. Our wine came. Seconds later, the seafood tower--a staggering $25 per person--came, too. It was, perhaps, the star of the evening. Uni in a sweet gelee with a brunoise of apple hit all the right notes, as did a clean oyster with a similar apple garnish. The fat from cubed hamachi was cut by shaved fresh white horseradish. King crab benefitted from lemon and lobster benefitted from just a hint of mayonnaise and fresh tarragon. A scallop shell played host to a chopped raw scallop with crunchy accoutrement.

But we still had another bottle of wine to tackle and food was coming with a surprising ferocity. And so we tacked on an additional course, which arrived shortly after our bread service, a soft and salty onion and potato flatbread. Next, tagliatelle with more king crab and perhaps a bit too much butter, mitigated only by a salad of chiffonaded sugar snap peas with pancetta and parmesan.

Then the entree arrived, a whole chicken brought for us to see first--lacquered brown skin, and a plume of fresh herbs. Minutes later, the chicken reemerged as a butchered, plated thing, a breast apiece, a smear of truffled pommes puree, three spears of white asparagus, and a medley of morels and chicken thighs in butter for us to share. A bone marrow appetizer, topped with croutons and anchovy paste, provided the heft necessary to sop up all that spare fat.

We reached the end and ordered dessert, a weird if impressive rumination on milk and honey (milk ice cream with honey, crisp meringue) and a peanut butter bar that brought to mind a sophisticated s'more. NoMad is still negotiating sea legs--uneven service, an abruptness when it comes to pushing food out--but the food itself isn't the problem. Nor should it be.

*
The NoMad
1170 Broadway
New York, NY 10001
212.796.1500

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