Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, The NoMad opens up its rooftop for high priced dining under the stars in the shadow of the illuminated Empire State Building. It's a sick location and to be honest, you can't find better Eats with a View in NYC. For tourists who need to see the Empire State Building up close and personal, ignore everything I'm about to write below and raise this score to a 10.0. Save your energy and put your money into a leisurely meal at The NoMad Rooftop. Besides, that video camera from 1988 must weight a ton - there's no need to lug it up 1,576 stairs.
The NoMad Rooftop is a completely separate restaurant from The NoMad. To be granted access to the roof, one must nab a reservation online the day of, pre-pay exactly $163 (after tip and tax, not including drinks) per "ticket" and arrive ready to be completely underwhelmed by the one of the most disappointing and unexciting tasting menus you'll ever experience. Clearly, The NoMad Rooftop has all their eggs in the million dollar view basket, as they cut corners pretty much everywhere else.
Let's begin with the first impression rose named service. Menu-less and confused, it took at least fifteen minutes before anyone approached our table. Our awkward, unseasoned waiter never once explained to us what was happening. They could have pulled the guy off the street that day. Usually a restaurant with a $125 tasting menu will go into detail as to how the meal works, or at least offer up a menu to help explain. That never happened here. As you'll read below, the six course tasting menu left much to be desired. Even at half the price, it would have been suspect. I was shocked that there wasn't a single amuse bouche. Maybe Blue Hill Stone Barns has permanently f*cked up our expectations, but we've come to expect one or two tastes when spending big money. Apparently The NoMad Rooftop's palate cleanser is the Empire State Building. Additionally, they've squeezed as many tables as is humanly possible up there, so you're literally on top and in the middle of the conversation going on next to you. Speaking of the tables, the small marble tops aren't elegant at all. It's standard outdoor furniture from Grandma's house, most likely purchased on sale at Patio.com.
As you know, we eat out a lot. Honestly, we can't remember the last time we've been so bummed after a meal that we were so excited about. There's a level of service that one comes to expect when throwing down serious money on a Special Occasion tasting menu. You want to feel like you're in good hands, and the kitchen has got your back. The NoMad's Chef Daniel Humm knows this; he's done it for years at Eleven Madison Park alongside Danny Meyer, and delivered what many, including us, believe to be the best high end dining experience in Manhattan. Clearly, something's been lost in translation. Meyer would never let the disappointment that is The NoMad Rooftop fly. Maybe Humm needs to re-read Setting The Table. Judging by what's going on at The NoMad, we're officially concerned about the impending changes coming to Eleven Madison Park. Magic tricks? Seriously? That's scary.
Course 1: Clam, Cucumber & Melon Soup
A tiny cup of cold littleneck clam soup, summerfied with crisp cucumber and melon cubes, and finished with some smoked sturgeon. The soup was refreshing, but could have easily doubled as an introductory taste or amuse bouche.
Hopefully you like tomatoes, because that's what you're getting in all shapes and sizes in course number two. The bread is a throw in - the zucchini bread you get at the restaurant downstairs is better than this one, so it's not exactly special. The soda was gross. Who really wants to drink tomato soda? The tomato salad was good, but, as a course in a $125 tasting menu, we expected something with a little more wow factor.Course 3: Roasted Eggplant with Sausage
Underneath a forest of greens lies a nice slice of savory roasted eggplant and some churned up sausage. A solid dish, and one of our favorites of the night.Course 4: Bass with Asparagus and Black Peas
This dish was a total snooze. There just wasn't much to it. The flair came in the form of some dried out peas that were then drizzled over the fish like sand and the accompanying asparagus salad. To make matters worse, my dining companion doesn't eat fish, so the kitchen prepared an alternate dish for her as is customary at all fine dining tasting menu only establishments. Her addition? Another helping of asparagus. They literally brought out a double order of asparagus. That's f*cking pathetic.Course 5: Roasted Duck Breast with Apricot, Chamomile and Swiss Chard
Finally, a dish that belongs on a tasting menu. Still starving two hours and four rounds in, the duck couldn't have come fast enough. While the bird was well cooked, beautifully presented, and plenty delicious, there was one problem; It was lukewarm. It didn't phase me. Famished, I cleaned my plate in about two minutes. But it makes you wonder about the overall operation. Are they cooking the food on the ground floor kitchen and then shipping it all up to the roof via elevator? They must be. Furthermore, I noticed that even the tables who started before and after us were relegated to the same dinner service and got their food at precisely the same time. The kitchen must have been cooking ten duck dishes at the same time, no wonder why ours wasn't served at an optimal temperature. Course 6: Cherry Sorbet with Granola and Marscarpone Ice Cream and Shaved Ice
Token crazy dessert, step right up. Out from behind the curtains comes a steaming bowl of mismatched treats, including all kinds of differentiating frozen textures. No sh*t, "this was frozen with liquid nitrogen?" Crazy. We enjoyed the cherry sundae, and the palate cleansing shaved ice was a nice way to end the meal. Too little too late as far as we were concerned though. We're still hungry.