Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Nordic Feast

Don't get me started on the impossibility of getting into Acme. Say you have a reservation on a Sunday evening, procured, pre-Times-review, through Open Table. Say you show up to this incredibly hip NoHo spot, only to have a snotty, well-dressed host tell you that the restaurant is closed for a private party. No apology. No delicacy. They might as well throw you out onto the streets.

Say, by way of response, you write the restaurant a nasty email, complaining about the indelicate way in which you were treated, the snottiness of said host, the lack of professionalism inherent in the kind of restaurant that wouldn't even deign cancel out their reservations on Open Table when a private party is booked. And say, as apologetic salve, the restaurant responds by sending you a $200 gift certificate in the mail, along with an invitation via the General Manager to dine whenever you please. You might be inclined to doubt whatever it is you'll find behind said restaurant's flashy doors.

So I was not taken aback last night by the half hour wait, despite my eight o'clock reservation. I was not taken aback by the gorgeous and slow-moving bartender who mixed my drink, grudgingly, in eleven minutes. I wasn't taken aback by the cute-but-dumb server, or the expeditor who dropped dishes without explaining what they were. Acme is more scene than restaurant. The meal my brother and I ordered probably exceeded any gluttony previously seen in its glossy dining room.

But the food mostly made up for the annoyingly sceney vibe. Foie gras with langoustines blended the buttery texture of liver with the silkiness of shellfish, helped along by a hint of white walnut. A bison and sweet shrimp tartare, served atop spears of endive, was clean and bright and cut into beautiful ribbons. A strangely unbalanced "duck in a jar"--a confit of livery meat topped with inadequately pickled vegetables--was redeemed only by charred bread, but a dish of littlenecks and seared scallops and sweet pea shoots swimming in just-cooked barley made me wonder why more chefs don't use the grain in everyday dishes. We wiped the bowl clean.

Heirloom carrots, colored black and red, arrived draped in lardo. We wondered why a person would ever want to eat a carrot any other way. Hand cut pasta tangled with ribbons of root vegetables and draped in brown butter outdid every bad version I have ever eaten.

There was another savory course to come: braised pork cheeks (a little dry, but saved by a plated sauce) and poached chicken with fried poached eggs in a garlicky jus. French fries with "oyster mayonnaise" tasted like completely ordinary, though delicious, fries, but a pommes puree with smoky lardon and fried shallots called into question the raison d' etre of every other plate of pommes puree. Why don't they all have bacon, after all?

Donuts--the new New York trend--were fine, if ordinary and served with a caramel cream and applesauce. Tres Nordic. But a beer custard--sweet and salty and lined with a disintegrating layer of cake beneath the soup and cream--stole the show. It sounded weird, but in her one show of servitude all evening, our waitress pointed us in the right direction.

*
Acme
9 Great Jones Street
New York, NY 10012
212.203.2121

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