Tag Archives: Daniel Humm

The NoMad | New York | Oct ’13, Nov ’13 | “crackling with late night energy”

21 Feb
  • Address: NoMad, 1170 Broadway, New York, NY 10001
  • Phone: (347) 472-5660
  • Hours: Breakfast: Daily 7-10am, Brunch: Sat, 11am-2pm, Sun 11am, 3pm; Lunch: Daily 12-2pm; Dinner: M-Th, 530-1030pm, F-Sat, 530-11pm, Sun, 530-10pm.
  • Price (after tax + tip, excl. drinks): $60-80
  • Rating: 17/20 (dinner)
  • Value: 3/5
  • Average Dining Time: 90-120 minutes
  • Chef: James Kent
  • Style: Contemporary New American
  • Michelin Stars: 1

Rating: 17/20 (dinner)

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The NoMad is Eleven Madison Park duo Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s sister restaurant, opened in April 2012. I came here twice towards the close of 2013; once for dinner, and another time for a weekend brunch.  The main dining room is topped by a glass pyramid which lets down natural light during the day, and has two other dining sections as well as a bar.

Instead of trying to appeal to a single new audience, however, Humm (who was named James Beard Outstanding Chef last week) and his partner, the restaurateur Will Guidara, have decided to jam a hodgepodge of styles under one roof. There’s a glass-ceiling Atrium for the ladies who lunch and a clamorous, stand-up bar area for the cocktail crowd. If you wish to sit with your bespoke cocktails and French wines and pick at casual snacks, you can do that in the Library, and if you’re looking for something more intimate, there’s the Parlour, which is appointed, like a Victorian sitting room, with burgundy-colored rugs and velvet chairs trimmed with gold. – NYMag

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During the night, a crackling electricity runs through the place. The average decibel level in this place is loud, with the constant buzz of conversation from tables tightly packed, if you sit in the main dining room. (It was much quieter during brunch). Classic rock is played at a moderate loud volume, the choice of music is no accident.

It’s difficult, for instance, to give your full attention to a meal at the NoMad once you have read the interviews in which Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, its ambitious young operators, talk about modeling the restaurant on the Rolling Stones.

They went through a branding exercise, writing down words that defined the band (loose, alive, genuine, deliberate) and molding the restaurant’s identity around them. Those words hang on a kitchen wall, not far from the enormous photo of Mick Jagger onstage, one leg goose-stepped up to microphone level. – NYTimes

Dinner was priced very reasonably for this level of cuisine, featuring a couple of tricks not done any, at about $50 per person. Tables were turned over quite fast at around 10pm (I’d estimate about 90 minutes per table). Brunch is priced about $20-25 per person, and there is no overlap between the two menus.

Other Notable Write-ups:

  • Bloomberg reviews the NoMad, recommends roast chicken, foie gras and suckling pig.
  • “Under a skin of lacquered brown the color of a loaf of challah lies a stuffing of brioche with foie gras and truffles. It is a dish from another era, when chicken breast was still seen as a worthy canvas for great chefs. Taste it and you know why. This is white meat for sybarites. On the side is a fricassee of the dark meat with morels, almost an afterthought. If served at a dark no-reservations tavern in the Village, it would be enough to put the place on the map.”

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(Unfortunately, I lost the pictures from dinner, so I shall rely on credited photos taken by others.)

SUNDAY DINNER

Snack: Rosemary Focaccia with Grapes (3.5/5) A huge slab of rosemary focaccia, laid on with grapes. Fresh from the oven.

Tagliatelle. King Crab, Meyer Lemon & Black Pepper. $28 (4.5/5) : Considered one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, I liked this dish very much. The bright lemon made eating the king crab and tagliatelle very appetising. There’s a visual and textural similarity to the flat noodles (mee pok) used for my favorite Singaporean hawker dish – bak chor mee. The sourness that opened the appetite (“开胃” in Chinese) was a simple application of lemon juice.

Photo taken by Eatingwithziggy.com

Photo credit to EatingwithZiggy. Also, see the Gastronomy blog for a great photo and write-up.

Lemon.Custard with Almond Shortbread and Ricotta. $12 (4.75/5)

I came to the NoMad on the strength of a SeriousEats write-up about their lemon tart. It was slightly on the bitter side for me, but with a strong lemon taste and ingenious method of coating the lemon with pastry. A great dish.

Photo Credit: SeriousEats

On first glance, the tart appears to be surrounded by a thin, shiny layer of caramel or mousse. In fact, the covering is made of shortbread. [Mark] Welker explains that they start with a classic French-style tarte citron that’s baked in a half sheet pan before the lemony discs are punched out and frozen. Then a traditional almond flour-based shortbread is pureed in a blender until the heat melts the butter, creating a molten mixture. The discs are then dropped in liquid nitrogen and then dipped into the shortbread batter. The shortbread coating solidifies as soon as it comes into contact with the cold lemon discs.

The result is a beautiful, even layer of glossy shortbread that tastes as good as it looks. Both the shortbread and the lemon filling are soft in texture and easy to pass a fork through. Those who might miss the crust from the absent tart shell will be pleased to see some almond shortbread crunch on the plate that easily replaces the lost texture. Similarly, Welker says the (subtlety flavored and light) ricotta ice cream serves to replace the traditional role that meringue plays in balancing the tart citrus. Some iridescent confit lemons are artfully arranged on the plate. – Niko Triantafillou, SeriousEats.

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BRUNCH

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OMELET (4.5/5)

Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Spinach, Chevre & Toast. $18

A well-executed omelet with a creamy center of cheese and mushrooms. I’m not the biggest fan of brunch food but this was a well-executed omelet.

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HASH

Chicken, Sunny-side up eggs & Roasted Potatoes $20

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Condiments for Scones

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“I suppose that finally New York is a Broadway theater where one play after another, decade after decade, occupies the stage and the dressing rooms-then clears out. Each play is the biggest possible deal (sets, publicity, opening night celebrations, stars’ names on the marquee), then it vanishes. With every new play the theater itself is just a bit more dilapidated, the walls scarred, the velvet rubbed bald, the gilt tarnished. Because they are plays and not movies, no one remembers them precisely. The actors are forgotten, the plays are just battered scripts showing coffee stains and missing pages. Nothing lasts in New York. The life that is lived there, however, is as intense as it gets.” – Edmund White, City Boy.

Eleven Madison Park | New York | Nov ’13 | “I <3 NY"

10 Nov
  • Address: 11 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10010
  • Telephone: (212) 889-0905
  • Price (after tax + tip, excl. drinks): $295
  • Courses: (12 main/16 total) 1 amuse / 9 savory / 3 dessert / 2 mignardises / 1 take-home
  • Price/Main Course: $25
  • Rating: 18.5/20
  • Value: 5/5
  • Dining Time: 230 minutes
  • Time/Course (total): 14.5 minutes
  • Chef: Daniel Humm
  • Style: French / Theatrical
  • Michelin Stars: 3
  • Notable: Reliance on sous-vide cooking

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I must have walked past the art-deco building with high ceilings in Madison Park at least five times previously without realising that it housed the restaurant I had been so eager to try. With its high ceilings, I had assumed that it housed a bank. In days of yore, Eleven Madison Park was an Italian restaurant, under its old ownership of Danny Meyer, New York restaurant empire-builder. But since Chef Daniel Humm and Will Guidara bought this place over in 2011, Eleven Madison Park is a restaurant that has become known for risk-taking.

I’ll give you the punchline: Eleven Madison Park is the most fun restaurant I have ever been to, hands down. There are so many toys being used in service – meat grinder, tartare tray, eggcream cart, Manhattan cart, playing cards, tied-up white boxes, glass cloches, picnic baskets, portable barbecues. Fine dining is never just about the food (thought experiment: would you enjoy your dinner as much if it were given to you in take-out boxes?), it is about the whole package – service, ambience, fellow-diners (both across the table and adjacent tables), and the innovative ways in which food is presented. In most restaurants, innovative presentation stops at plating. Not Eleven Madison Park; here presentation goes the whole hog.

This incarnation of Eleven Madison Park is about one year old – the $195 NY tasting menu was introduced mid last year, replacing the $125 four-course prix fixe where diners would choose their courses based on a 4×4 grid of ingredients. We were treated to a four-hour extravaganza of New York lovin’, and I would have not wanted to be anywhere else on the planet.

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EMP’s plate with recessed hole: a conceit to make the dishes pop.

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1st: Mystery Box

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1st: CHEDDAR: Savory Black and White Cookie with Apple

A tribute to a New York black-and-white cookie, usually made with vanilla fondant and chocolate fondant. Here the biscuit is made savory, and tasted like a Nabisco Ritz cheese cracker with the texture of butter biscuit. A small dollop of applesauce within for contrast kept it interesting.

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2013-11-09 13.55.332nd: OYSTER: Grapes, Bulgar Wheat, and Sorrel (4.5/5)

A remaining core of 10% of the Oyster, which was plump and mild, not briny – maintained the marine taste of oyster. The outer 90% had the texture of oyster but taste-dominated by a Concord grape granita. Interesting.

“… and lucky sorrel” – parting words of our server. At first I thought lucky sorrel was some rare aberration, like four-leaved clovers – but it turns out it’s a thing.

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3rd: SHRIMP: Marinated with Sea Urchin, Foie Gras, and Chervil. (4.5/5)

A bottarga, dried and shaved, made of sea urchin, coats sweet Maine shrimp. Foie gras paste with chervil foam. Good.

(Obsiblue prawns at Jaan spoilt me. When I think of sweet shrimp now, I think of those little buggers swimming of the great barrier reef. Of course, Eleven Madison Park, with its focus on the New England and Yankee hinterland, would probably not import those prawns from halfway across the world.)

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4th Part One: STURGEON: Sabayon with Chive Oil (4.5/5)

A foamy Sabayon, over a base of chunks of smoked sturgeon in verdant green chive oil.

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4th Part Two: STURGEON: Smoked with Everything Bagel Crumble, Pickles and Caviar (4/5)

This dish is the bastard child of Caviar-Sturgeon & the Smoked Lox and Cream Cheese on a Everything Bagel that is classically New York. Served theatrically with a glass cloche (plated smoke that isn’t part of the cooking process), the smoked sturgeon was fair. Continuity was emphasised with half-a-quail egg (the other being in the sabayon one dish ago?) and the sturgeon. Our server explained that this was a celebration of New York’s bagel traditions – an evocative montage without being supremely delicious. Caviar was served a tin with cream cheese – their tastes didn’t combine in any significant way. A play on sense memories.

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Bread, Butter, and Butter fortified with Venison Trimmings

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5th Option One: FOIE GRAS: Terrine with Plum and Bitter Almond (5/5)

A stunning dish. 3 sweet crisp layers of tuile sandwich savory blocks of foie gras, cut to perfect and uncloying thickness. Soursweet dark complexity from an umeboshi (pickled plum) puree and syruped plum bits with plum jelly. Tremendous. The umeboshi puree was a perfect complement to foie-tuile sandwich.  The best foie dish I have ever tasted, as far as I remember.

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6th: CARROT: Tartare with Rye Bread and Condiments (5/5)

Carrot from Upstate New York is put through an old-school meat grinder, a tribute to the steak tartare in New York steakhouses [1]. The carrot was moist and provided a good base for the seasonings – the combination with quails egg, salt, carrot vinaigrette, bluefish shavings (etc.) great. Reminiscent of some of the best steak tartare I’ve had in Prague.

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Foreshadowing: Butternut Squash pasted with butter and herbs within. A sourdough ring is pasted on the squash to keep the aromatics in.

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7th: LOBSTER: Poached with Brussel Sprouts and Guanciale (4.25/5)

Guanciale is an unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig’s jowl or cheeks. Draped on a lobster, with brussel sprout puree, roasted leaves of brussel sprout, brussel sprout crumble, and roasted whole brussel sprouts. My companion and I both enjoyed the myriad ways of preparing the humble brussel sprout, but agreed that the lobster was a tad stringy and overcooked.

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Guanciale

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8th: SQUASH: Roasted with Cranberries, Pumpkin Seeds and Sourdough (4.75/5)

Squash is ubiquitous during Fall in New England, and what better way to celebrate Halloween and the coming Thanksgiving later this month than with cranberries and squash? The highlight of the dish were the perfectly roasted pumpkin seeds, coated in a thin crisp glaze. Chanterelle mushroom puree and chicken jus made this dish, the epitome of fall, earthy.

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Earlier, we were given a choice of venison or duck for our main course. We plumped for the venison, and were treated to a natural-sous-vide method of preparing the meat. I think we were told the black thing encasing the venison was bread, but I’m not 100% sure.

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9th Part One: VENISON: Grilled with Pearl Onions and Chanterelles (3.5/5)

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9th Part Two: VENISON: Roasted with Pears and Sunchokes (4.75/5)

Another two part dish. We were directed to grill the kebabs (part one) one minute (timed on my iPhone). The taste wasn’t bad, but it was fairly simple. I enjoyed the venison greatly. The natural sous-vide bag had rendered it perfectly succulent, and it was garnished with the aromatic black trumpet mushroom, which can only be foraged. It was a dish reminiscent of an autumnal hunt in the forest, playing again to the fall theme. Again, I enjoyed the complicated two-part plating of this dish.

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10th: GREENSWARD: Pretzel, Mustard, and Champagne Grapes (4.5/5)

Jasper Hill soft rind cheese from Vermont, washed with Ale specially bottled for EMP, and aged for 3 weeks in Bleecker Caves. Violet Wasabi jam. Very sweet grapes with skins so soft they’re almost vestigial – Baby Thompson grapes, served as if we were going out for a Picnic. An ingenious serving trick, the picnic basket amused both of us.

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11th: MALT: Egg Cream with Vanilla and Seltzer. (4.5/5)

“and Seltzer water, from the Bronx.” Our server emphasised.

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INTERMEZZO: The Manhattan Cart

At this point, we decided to order a Manhattan, made with rye. So we got a second cart service. Whee!

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12th: APPLE: Sorbet with Bay Leaf, Creme Brulee and Hibiscus (4.75/5)

A croissant ring around a honey creme brulee, where the creme brulee was somehow hardened on both sides without blowtorching the croissant ring into oblivion. Excellent technique, with the sourness of the hibiscus sorbet as counterpoint.

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13th: SWEET POTATO: Cheesecake with Honey and Chestnut (4.75/5)

Cheesecake in sorbet form, good. Sweet potato went very well with the cheesecake. As you can see, our 4 hour extravaganza is nearing its end – night is already falling at about 4pm, some of the servers are resetting the tables for the dinner service later tonight.

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14th: PRETZEL: Chocolate Covered with Sea Salt (5/5)

15th: CHOCOLATE: Sweet Black and White Cookie with Cinnamon [in the box]

Our post-meal snacks takes us full-circle to the beginning of the meal. Black and white cookies are served straight up this time, in a sweet form. The pretzels were very good – that makes it two New York restaurants with chocolate pretzel finishes. (the other is atera).

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To ensure you don’t starve, EMP gives you some 3 Michelin Star granola to eat for tomorrow’s breakfast. A nice touch.

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Looking back on the meal, Eleven Madison Park’s menu succeeds admirably in its goal of evoking all things New York. The restaurant’s love for New York and its history is apparent in the food, the plating, the props and the service. I was very lucky to be able to experience this with my dining companion. To be honest, many of the dishes in themselves were polished to an extremely high level, but there were comparatively few wow-dishes purely in food terms (the notable wows were the carrot tartare, and the foie gras terrine). Instead, what makes EMP unique is the sheer ingenuity of this menu’s presentation – cloches, picnic baskets, grinders, carts – which evoked my own love of the City. The presentation is half the substance at EMP. I do wonder how a repeat diner might take this – once was magical, but I’m not sure about twice.

Today’s visit: My favorite New York restaurant experience, ever.

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Rating: 18.5/20

Memory: Foie gras terrine sandwiched with sweet tuile & umeboshi puree, Carrot tartare.

Other significant write-ups

  1. NYTimes announcement of Eleven Madison Park’s 2012 menu change.
  2. Pete Wells’s critical look at the incipient months of the New York menu.
  3. Beautiful photography from Tina Wong on a 2011 visit.
  4. Review by the Ulterior Epicure in 2009. Choice quote:

“I like the service at Eleven Madison Park.  Whereas eating at per se is like attending Her Majesty’s Privy Council meeting, Daniel like attending mass (in Latin), and masa like attending an open heart surgery, I’m not sure I can object to four-star service with a smile and a wink.”