New Yorkers, we had it rough this weekend. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, it was rough out there. It seemed like there was no sanctuary from the heat except for the great, air-conditioned indoors – along with everyone else. No matter how little we wore, we always hoped there was another layer to take off.
Me? I stayed indoors, for the most part. I ventured into the relative cool of Saturday night for some relatively cool beverages, but at the end of it all, I was not keen to stand in the muggy late night air, fighting with other party people for a taxi home. That’s when you start smiling hopefully at taxi drivers and making mad dashes in shoes that were not made for mad dashes. Or any variety of dashing.
Sunday was a little different. Sunday was brutal. It was only a short walk really, maybe 15 minutes total in full motion, but Paula and I were ready to collapse into tiny puddles of unsatisfied shopping misery. And we were hungry. And as we stood beside a halal truck, hot, meaty steam wafting over us, we couldn’t find a cab, no matter how enthusiastically we waved our arms. Have I give you a sense of the first world problems we were dealing with?
But this story gets better, at least, for the players involved. Forty-five minutes later, Paula, my uncle Medhat, Victoria, five-year-old rockstar Layla and I were seated in the cool atrium of the NoMad Hotel. Located in a 1900s French Renaissance style building on the corner of Broadway and 28th Street, the NoMad is the first LEED certified, renovated hotel in New York City. We ventured up to the rooftop bar a few minutes ahead of our 6pm dinner reservation. The small penthouse was cozy and the floors were lined with old Egyptian rugs. Outside, the terrace bar offers a stunning view of Manhattan, and a turret houses a private dining room large enough for you and a few guests.
But you don’t really care about any of that, do you? It’s about the food. The dining in the NoMad Hotel is a collaboration between executive chef Daniel Humm and General Manager William Guidara of Eleven Madison Park. Yeah, you know it’s going to be good.
Radishes (butter-dipped with fleur de sel) were a first for me. I’ve seen these on menus several times, but typically served with whipped butter. These were coated and cooled, like chocolate dipped strawberries. But salty and delicious.
Salmon (rilletes with sorrel and crème fraîche) was slathered on bread and served in perfect bites with love.
Trout (smoked, with cucumber and buttermilk) was savored slowly, each piece of roe scooped up by yours truly.
Foie gras (torchon with tête de cochon, radishes and nasturtium) was wonderfully creamy.
Sweetbreads (croustillant with pastry) for your intimate viewing pleasure. I’m rarely ever one for eating what my coworker refers to as the plumbing but this was so incredibly delicious. Like, melt in your mouth good.
And here we have it. The pièce de résistance. NoMad’s signature dish – chicken (whole roasted for 2, foie gras, black truffle, brioche). Victoria and I had seen pictures online before arriving and we had our hearts set on this golden beauty. The color on the skin, it’s just perfect! If I could produce a bird as beautiful, I might be tempted to turn off the oven, walk away and end my career in the kitchen on a short, but high note. Just look at it. It’s stunning! Heads turn and undecided diners quickly scan the menus clutched in their hands, looking for this piece of art that must surely be listed under a title more glorifying than “Chicken”. It’s no wonder the restaurant has sold more than 4,000 chickens in the past 6-7 weeks.
The chicken is first presented as it comes out of the oven and then taken back to kitchen to rest. After carving, the breast is split in two and served with a truffled potato purée and chanterelle mushrooms. But we all know what the star of the plate really is. The birds are all sourced directly from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania that sends their chickens to NoMad’s kitchen completely whole. That’s right kids, head and feet attached. This ensures the chicken skin is perfect and without tears. Why so fastidious, Humm? To allow for an under-skin stuffing of foie gras, black truffle and brioche, that’s why. Do you really need me to tell you how crisp the skin was? How happy I was to scoop up the little goodies on the side and wrap them up with leftover skin in my very special version of the NoMad burrito? Someone call Anthony Bourdain, this is a foie gras lover’s delight.
The dark meat is served to share after being finished in a sauté pan with melt butter, shallots, mushrooms (more chanterelles?) and reduced chicken stock. And then, just for a final attack on your escalating cholesterol count, a vin jaune hollaindaise is squirted on top, adding a concoction of eggs, clarified butter and reduced wine.
I could tell you about the desserts we shared (Milk & Honey and Chocolate) but I know you’re still thinking about the chicken. Hell, I don’t blame you at all. Peter Wells dedicated an article to the chicken alone.
I’m not one for this is a must or run don’t walk or what are you waiting for. We’re above those cliches here, darlings. Dinner at the NoMad Hotel was an amazing experience, one I can’t believe I almost passed up. I’ve offered unsolicited recommendations to at least 4 different friends and now, I’m offering it to you. There are several dining rooms to choose from, which I think means many roast chickens to come.
The NoMad Hotel can be found at 1170 Broadway, on the corner of 28th Street. There is an extensive cocktail menu with a treat for everyone, even a five-year-old (assuming she likes ginger). This is a must, so run, don’t walk. What are you waiting for?