Entries in Daniel Humm (5)


The NoMad

You’ve got to hand it to Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, chef and restaurateur of the city’s hottest new restaurant, The NoMad: they know how to make an entrance, whether it be the Goodfellas-inspired promo video, or the publicity machine that generated eleven Eater.com posts in a nine-day span.

Humm and Guidara are the team behind Eleven Madison Park, which Frank Bruni elevated to four stars in 2009. The pair later bought out restaurant’s former owner, Danny Meyer, after they signed onto the NoMad project without their boss in tow. Meyer no doubt recalled a similar split, when Tom Colicchio opened Craft without him, while remaining the absentee chef at Gramercy Tavern: it was bound not to work in the long run, and this time Meyer chose not to delay the inevitable.

It’s news whenever a four-star chef opens a new place, but I don’t recall anything quite like the breathless coverage here. One month in, The NoMad is packed every evening, at almost any hour. It sets up gargantuan expectations that the restaurant might struggle to meet in the long run, after the excitement dies down and the chef is once again spending most of his time at the mother ship.

The NoMad is a major opening, no question about it. Although it lacks tablecloths, everything about it screams luxury. One of its five rooms, the Atrium, is “inspired by the great courtyards of Europe.” Another, the Parlour, is a “stately room featuring dark oak furnishings, richly textured fabrics and over 100 pressed antique herbs.” Yet another is an “intimate cove [with] the original fireplace imported from a great French château.” Or if not there, the “fully curated, two-level library connected by an original spiral staircase imported from the South of France.”

The staff, dressed in crisply pressed suits, look the part. Under GM Jeffrey Tascarella’s direction, they put on a well-choreographed show. I should note that Mr. Tascarella recognized me as soon as I arrived. I’d like to assume they do the same for everyone, but I can’t vouch for that: a couple in front of me was quoted a 45-minute wait to be seated for drinks in the library, whereas they accommodated me immediately. (At the bar, revelers were stacked three deep.)

The house cocktails ($15) are outstanding, including two of the best drinks with brown spirits that I’ve had in a long time, the Satan’s Circus (rye, chili-infused aperol, cherry heering, lemon) and the Old Alhambra (Islay scotch, vermouth, sherry, creme de cacao).

Like many a hotel restaurant, The NoMad will be serving three meals a day, plus (I assume) room service, which gives the owners many more meals over which to amortize their investment. Nevertheless, dinner is expensive here, with snacks $8–16, appetizers $14–24 and entrées $22–39. Only the vegetarian mains are under $30: Eater has already made its share of jokes about the $22 carrot entrée.

Breads, baked in-house, change daily. A flat mini-bread fried with fingerling potatoes and spring onions was as good as anything of its kind that we’ve had in a restaurant this year.


We started with one of the snack items, a rich Beef Tartare ($16; above left) with cornichons and horseradish, with crisp slices of toasted brioche to spread it on.

The house sent out a “Grande Plateau des Fruits de Mer,” normally $24 per person. I didn’t note the components, but it was far more impressive than your usual seafood platter, in that most of the items were composed, and were not just raw shellfish on the halfshell.


The kitchen also sent out two mid-courses, which I think were variants on the two vegetarian entrées on the normal menu: asparagus with button mushrooms; carrots and parsnip. These were the two best dishes we had all evening.


A whole chicken for two ($78) is the restaurant’s signature dish, the only large-format item on the menu. The whole bird is presented tableside (above left), then sent back to the kitchen for plating (above right).

It’s an impressive technical achievement, with truffle, foie gras, and brioche under the near-blackened skin. But just like the duck for two at Eleven Madison Park, one can’t help feeling that what comes back is rather meager, especially at the price.

There’s a whole Chowhound thread about the inconsistencies in this dish, which I wish I’d read in advance, as I might not have been so keen to order it. I didn’t really taste much foie gras or truffle. The chicken itself wasn’t bad, but the accompanying fricassee of dark meat (above) was not very pleasant at all. A few days later, we had the fried chicken at Peels, a much more satisfying dish that costs only $21.75.

We dined in the luxurious Parlour, which struck me as a much nicer space than the other main dining room, the Atrium, which is louder, and in which the tables seem closer together. There is much on this menu that I’d love to try. The chicken was a disappointment, but also an anomaly, as we loved everything else we tried.

The next evening, we dined at Café Boulud, which like The NoMad, is the next peg down the scale, below a four-star chef’s flagship. But whereas the former is small, quiet and understated, The NoMad is massive, brash, and a little exhausting. Messrs. Humm and Guidara must, of course, choose their own path, but it will be interesting to see if all of this excitement is sustainable.

The NoMad (1170 Broadway at 28th Street, NoMad)

Food: A focused Euro-American menu, just a notch below luxurious
Service: Crisp, correct, and attentive
Ambiance: An over-the-top dining palace, without the tablecloths

Rating: ★★
Why? Humm is a great chef, and there’s nothing in NYC quite like The NoMad


The Humm Dog

A couple of years ago, the East Village speakeasy bar Please Don’t Tell began to offer hot dogs inspired by local chefs, such as the Chang Dog and the Wylie Dog. (PDT’s adjoining sister joint, Crif Dogs, probably makes the city’s best hot dogs—the best we’ve tasted, at any rate.)

Last year, they added a Humm Dog, inspired by Eleven Madison Park chef Daniel Humm. It was dropped after a couple of months, as the $6 selling price wasn’t sufficient to recover the cost of the truffle mayo in the recipe. (A “daintier, pricer” version of it was briefly offered at EMP itself.)

The Humm Dog (pronounced whom dog) has returned, but only for the month of December. It’s still $6.

As before, it’s a bacon-wrapped deep-fried hot dog with celery relish, melted Gruyère cheese, and truffle mayo. I shot the best photo I could in PDT’s dim light; the websites I linked show it in much better light.

A bit messy to eat, it’s nevertheless fetchingly delicious, and really a bargain at $6. We saw more of those coming out than any other hot dog they sell.

Most of PDT’s cocktails, on the other hand, are $15, so the evening gets expensive before you know it.

Please Don’t Tell (113 St. Marks Pl. btwn 1st Ave. & Ave. A, East Village)


Review Previews: DBGB, Marea, Eleven Madison Park

Record to date: 8–3

We’ll be away for the next two weeks, and most likely will not be able to post our Review Previews in real time, so we’re posting them now.

Bruni has three reviews remaining. What will they be?

  1. Marea is a definite: there’s no way Bruni would pass up an upscale Italian place that opened on his watch.
  2. Eater.com reported that Bruni has been spoted three times recently at Eleven Madison Park. He wouldn’t be there so often in the twilight of his tenure unless he’s working up a re-review.
  3. The last one’s something of a wild card, but among places that must be reviewed (and a Boulud restaurant clearly fits this description), we are fairly certain that DBGB is the oldest outstanding.

Bruni has already reviewed Eleven Madison Park twice (two stars; 2/23/2005 and three stars; 1/10/2007). A promotion to four is the only conceivable reason to review it again. He has not named a new four-star restaurant since Masa in December 2004. The 4½-year gap is the longest in Times history, a record he set in the middle of last year. We and others believe that he’s itching to crown one more.

Unfortunately, that will leave poor Marea with three stars, as Bruni isn’t going to canonize two restaurants in under a month, when in almost five years he found none at all. We don’t think Marea is a four-star restaurant in any event, but given Bruni’s love-affair with Italian cuisine we thought he just might pull the trigger until we heard he was taking another hard look at Eleven Madison. (If the 11MP review doesn’t come through, then Mike White and Chris Cannon could still have a chance.)

Finally, DBGB: Most reviews we’ve seen (including our own) have been slightly less enthusiastic about this place than Bar Boulud at Lincoln Center, where Bruni awarded two stars. We therefore believe that DBGB will be rated a notch lower, at one star.

In summary, our predictions are: one star for DBGB, three stars for Marea, and four stars for Eleven Madison Park. Obviously, it’s possible that Bruni’s final reviews will include one or two other places, but we’re positive that Marea will be among the three.


Eleven Madison Park

We had an excellent meal at Eleven Madison Park in early August. I didn’t note every dish, and it’s obviously too late to remember them all, so I’ll keep this brief.

This is a controversial restaurant. In May of this year, Danyelle Freeman gave it five stars in the Daily News (the only restaurant so honored during her brief tenure there). And Frank Bruni said that the new restaurant Corton “joins the constantly improving Eleven Madison Park as a restaurant hovering just below the very summit of fine dining in New York.” If Bruni promotes any restaurant to four stars in 2009, as I believe he is itching to do, I have to think EMP is one of the few real candidates.

But Eleven Madison Park has no Michelin stars, probably the most glaring omission from the French guide’s otherwise very sensible advice. Michelin skeptics cite the snub as evidence that the guide should be disregarded. Still, it’s a fact that this restaurant lacks the near-universal acclaim of, say, Le Bernardin or Jean Georges. Even Bruni, in a year-end blog post, noted that he had an uneven meal there in the fall.

Public adoration seems to be undimmed. Eleven Madison is one of the few restaurants that has continued to raise prices, and get away with it. The prix fixe is now $88 for three courses, and the two tasting menus are now $125 and $175, the latter being one of the most expensive of its kind in the city.

You can count us as fans of Eleven Madison Park. After three visits, we have never yet been disappointed. In August, we had the prix fixe. I was especially eager to try the duck for two. It was wonderful, but I do prefer to have it carved tableside, as they did at Le Périgord. When they whisk it away to the kitchen, the plates that come back never quite seem to add up to a whole bird.

As our meal was five months ago, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Canapés (left); Amuse-bouche (center); Burgundy (right)


The duck as presented (left), and served (center), with leg confit on the side (right)

Cheese course

Palate cleanser and petits-fours

Eleven Madison Park (11 Madison Avenue at 24th Street, Flatiron District)

Food: ***½
Service: ***½
Ambiance: ***½
Overall: ***½


Eleven Madison Park

Note: Click here for a more recent visit to Eleven Madison Park.

In 1998, Danny Meyer did the absurd. Within a month’s time, he opened two contrasting luxury restaurants in a neighborhood not then known for fine dining. The location, a landmarked Art Deco building, ought to have been perfect, but it adjoined the dilapidated Madison Park, better known at the time for drug dealers, broken fences, and crumbling asphalt. The park was eventually rebuilt (Meyer himself contributed $60,000), and both restaurants were hits.

emp_logo.jpgApparently, Meyer’s original intention was to open just one restaurant on the ground floor of the old Met Life building, but the wall separating two dining rooms had landmark status, and couldn’t be removed. So in the smaller of the two spaces, he opened the Indian-fusion restaurant Tabla; and in the spectacular former Assembly Hall, he opened Eleven Madison Park.

Though both restaurants were a success, Ruth Reichl in the Times found Tabla more impressive, awarding three stars. To Eleven Madison Park, she awarded only two in a 1999 review, finding chef Kerry Heffernan’s main courses “disappointingly uneven.” Six years later, for no apparent reason, Frank Bruni re-reviewed Eleven Madison Park, again awarding two stars, finding “much of his food…unremarkable” and “some of it…poorly executed.”

My only visit to Eleven Madison Park under Chef Heffernan was on Mother’s Day in 2005. I was impressed with a five-course tasting menu, especially bearing in mind that most restaurants under-perform on major holidays. But most observers didn’t share my three-star assessment. By the end of the year, Chef Heffernan had departed, replaced by wunderkind Daniel Humm. Suddenly, the food community was buzzing that Eleven Madison Park was practically a new restaurant.

The Gourmand Tasting Menu
Frank Bruni took notice, issuing using the first self-re-review of his tenure to elevate Eleven Madison Park to three stars. (He then managed the peculiar feat of insulting the restaurant by absurdly awarding another three stars to the casual Bar Room at The Modern in the same review—in the process dissing the best restaurant in Danny Meyer’s empire, the main dining room at The Modern.)

Last week, my girlfriend and I returned to Eleven Madison Park, our first visit since Chef Humm took over. Nowadays, the restaurant offers a three-course prix fixe at $82, a four-course prix fixe at $96, or a Gourmand tasting menu, which we ordered, at $155. Counting hors d’oeuvres and petits-fours, that tasting menu weighs in at 13 courses, making it one of the city’s more ambitious of its kind.

A full description of 13 courses would extend this post to the length of a minor novel, so an impressionistic fly-by will have to suffice. The full menu is pictured above right (click for a larger image).

Hors d’oeuvres (left); Maine Diver Scallop with caviar (right)

The hors d’oeuvres were mind-blowingly good. From left to right, I believe they were a foie gras sandwich; a sweetbread; hamachi in a cucumber wrap; and sorry, I cannot recall the fourth.

I loved the first savory course, a diver scallop with caviar. My girlfriend doesn’t eat scallops, so they just gave her a version of the dish with the scallop omitted, which we thought was a rather unimaginative substitute.

California Celery, Cappuccino with Celery Root, and Black Truffles (left); Peekytoe Crab Cannelloni (right)

A celery and cappuccino puree with black truffles was topped with a fried quail egg. Peekytoe Crab Cannelloni was satisfactory, though it did not eclipse our memory of the crab salad we had at Daniel a couple of months ago.

Foie gras with Venezuelan Cocoa and Quince (left); Mediterranean Loup de Mer (right)

It’s hard to go wrong with foie gras, but the torchon here was particularly dreamy. The accompanying soft brioche was wonderful—but also, in a way, superfluous. Chef Humm has a delicate touch with fish, and the Loup de Mer was wonderful.

Scottish Langoustine (left); Four Story Hill “Boudin Blanc” (right)

The next couple of courses didn’t register as impressively. A Scottish Langoustine was slightly dull, as was the boudin (a kind of sausage), though I was a bit more fond of it than my girlfriend was.

Three variations of Vermont Farm Suckling Pig
Suckling pig is apparently Chef Humm’s signature dish. Frank Bruni raved about it. When he came out to greet diners late in our meal, he made sure to ask, “How about the pig?”

My girlfriend was transported, though I found it a bit too dry. We overheard diners at the next table, and their views were exactly reversed: it was the lady who thought hers was too dry. I’d love to come back and try the full entrée version of it.

My sense was that this is precisely the kind of dish that suffers from being served in a tasting menu portion. You need more of it, to give the fat room to spread out, to give alternating crisp and gooey textures the chance to shine.

Lynnhaven “Chèvre Frais” (left); Coconut sorbet with pear and parsnips (right)

The next two courses are perhaps best classified as palate-cleansers. Nothing stands out about them, and I present them (above) without comment.

Chocolate cake with Passion Fruit Bourbon Sour (left); Candied lollipops (right)

The main dessert course was a wonderful chocolate cake with a passion fruit bourbon sour for contrast. I only wish I had had enough appetite left to enjoy more of the candied lollipops.

Service throughout the evening was up the the standard you come to expect at a Danny Meyer restaurant. Given his success, I wonder why more restauranteurs don’t emulate him? When I arrived, the host offered immediately to show me to the table—rather than insisting I wait at the bar until my date arrived, as so many restaurants do these days.

The wine list is excellent, with a good selection of half-bottles. I was also pleased to see a decent selection below $60, an price level often not available at restaurants in this class. Our wine selection was unimaginative: a Barolo that I chose for no other reason than I was happy to find it at $89. The staff decanted it, a service few restaurants offer these days. Wine decanters are an Eleven Madison Park specialty, and you see them on display in a wide variety of shapes.

The bread service, too, was excellent, with nice soft butter in a silver serving dish, and several home-made breads to spread it on. The whole meal took around 3½ hour, and I was never conscious of it being either too fast or too slow.

The large space, with its soaring Art Deco ceilings, leave some people cold. We find it coolly elegant and understated, but it won’t be to all tastes. We were happy to find that those high ceilings gave ample room for the sound level to dissipate, but the restaurant wasn’t quite full, so we didn’t have the acid test. We were seated at a table that could normally accomodate four, so we had a bit more space to ourselves than we normally would.

A few of the courses on our Gourmand tasting menu misfired slightly, but I say this only in relation to the high expectations one has at a price level that puts Eleven Madison Park near the top of the heap in this already expensive city. Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I would be delighted to return.

Eleven Madison Park (11 Madison Avenue at 24th Street, Flatiron District)

Food: ***½
Service: ***½
Ambiance: ***
Overall: ***½