Today is the 5th anniversary of NYC Nom Nom! It has been a great 5 years. Thanks for reading! Now onto the review…
Mike got to talking with his foodie coworker about new restaurant openings. They were excited about all’onda, called the “biggest opening of ’14” by Eater. It is near Union Square and is from Chef Chris Jaeckle and Restaurateur Chris Cannon. Mike made the reservation on the day it opened in early January and the first Saturday reservation he could get was for February 8, a month later.
When we arrived, roughly 45 minutes before our reservation to grab an early drink, we were greeted by some bad news: they didn’t have our reservation. Mike had tried to make the reservation originally online, but it wasn’t working, so he called. But alas, they had no record of it. The manager came up to our group and very nicely and genuinely apologized, explaining that they first took reservations on paper and it appears that a number of them had been lost. He mentioned that this was not the first time he was making that speech, but that there was a table right near the bar where we could have the full menu. He said if something opened up upstairs, we would have first dibs, and he would buy us our first round of drinks.
Mistakes happen, but it’s truly about how someone handles it. This manager handled it beautifully and humbly, making us feel like honored guests, and it left us all with a very good feeling even though it wasn’t the best situation.
We were bummed, but we agreed to sit downstairs and hope, while we peered upstairs with a ping of jealousy.
The bar does open right up to the kitchen, however, which is always fun to steal a glance of.
We ordered rinks, including this lovely cocktail called Old Sal, which was made with Rittenhouse rye, rosemary infused cocchi americano, and cynar. It was very nicely mixed and I enjoyed the sip I tried.
I wound up ordering a phenomenal glass of wine: a 2009 Bianco di Custoza Superiore Monte Del Fra Veneto, described as 55 yr old vines, Garganega, Trebbiano etc. on limestone, complex mineral character, great value. Great value it was. Even at $14 for the glass, it tasted like a very expensive wine and I enjoyed drinking it all evening. The wine list really looked like a piece of paper made of wood.
And then just as we were resigned to the slightly chilly bar table near the door, we got some good news. A table had opened up, and we got to go upstairs.
They served lovely, crusty bread (that we kept refilling to dip in the great sauces all night) and a very thin cracker-like bread that had great flavor.
We started with the big recommendation: Arancini (fried risotto balls) with squid ink and sea urchin.
The squid ink inside was so dark, and so beautiful, it looked like magic inside.
A beautiful, delicious, luxurious black magic. The slightly salty, marine-tasting, soft uni on top perfectly complimented the crunch on the arancini which gave way to a very smooth risotto which had just the slightest al dente texture. Very, very nice start to the meal.
We decided to split a whole bunch of dishes amongst the 4 of us, including 3 of the homemade pastas.
First, a tortellini in parmesan dashi, tomato oil, and porcini. We were surprised to see it came in a broth, but what a broth it was! The tortellini themselves were fine, but it was the broth that really made this dish stand out. It was incredibly umami, with an earthy, rich flavor that we kept getting more and more bread to sop it all up.
We also tried the bucatini with smoked uni. It was supposed to come with spicy breadcrumbs, but due to my allergy, I couldn’t have that, so they did without. And you know what? I didn’t miss it at all. I am sure a little crunch on top would have been lovely, but I absolutely moaned as I ate this dish. The bucatini (hollow spaghetti) was perfectly cooked and the uni created such a creamy and rich sauce that had a true softness of flavor that was truly exquisite. It was like a Japanese spin on carbonara. My favorite of the pastas.
Our third pasta dish was a lumache with aged duck ragu, treviso, and chocolate. This was everyone else’s favorite, and it was obvious why. Each delicate piece of duck that was in the ragu just punched you in the tongue with flavor.
The chocolate is the brown sprinkled around the plate in this second picture. There was a rich and earthy nature to this dish and while you didn’t taste the chocolate directly, it complimented the dish beautifully.
For our entrees, we tried seafood, beef, and poultry.
First, the skate, which was veal glazed with beets and semolina dumpling. There was a touch of sweetness to the masterfully cooked skate, and the components around the skate added color, texture, and flavor without taking away from the delicate skate.
I am still not sure what the veal glaze was, but the entire dish was composed very well.
The New York Strip was with parmesan potatoes, mustard greens, and fonduta. The potatoes had a great outer crisp that gave way to a very tender and flavorful potato with a great parmesan flavor. The steak was cooked beautifully and had just the right amount of flake salt. But I was especially impressed with the mustard greens. They were so flavorful and a perfect texture for a green leaf. I was amused as I sampled all the bites around the table because I absolutely LOVE steak, but this was my least favorite part of the meal, not because it was bad, but just because everything else was so original and it stood out so much that it was hard to compare to perfectly cooked beef.
We also tried the guinea hen with parsnip, shio kombu, and foie gras sugo.
I was so impressed with this dish. The skin was perfectly crispy and the meat tasted so rich. I loved the parsnip puree and all the lovely jus.
We also got two sides, including the brussels sprouts with cider vinegar, honey, curry, and pistachios. We got it without the pistachios (and possibly the curry, unless it was very well hidden) because they included peppers (which I’m allergic to), but I can’t imagine this being any better. They were so perfectly cooked with a crispy char and a delicate sweetness.
Our other side was polenta with miso-cured egg yolk and wild mushrooms. Everything about this was awesome. Rich and earthy and awesome. I was with 3 self-proclaimed polenta haters, and every one of them loved this dish.
There was a very nice dessert wine list and I really loved my glass, nv Arneis Passito “Renesium” Malvira.
For dessert, we tried the olive oil cake with ricotta gelato, lemon, and basil. The cake was so moist and flavorful, and the ricotta ever so slightly sour but creamy and delightful, with (what I think were) tapioca pearls that resembled caviar. A really great dessert.
We also tried the chocolate tart with amaretto and soy gelato. I love love love love LOVED this dessert. The chocolate was so rich and so smooth. Impossibly smooth. And that soy gelato (I think it was soy sauce gelato) had an umami saltiness that I just could not get enough of.
Wow. An incredible meal from start to finish. It’s a bit hard to describe, but the closest I can come is to say that it was like Italian ingredients made with an Asian flare using a lot of great seafood. Each dish tasted differently from anything I had ever had before. A slight, indescribable twist on a flavor or a combination of ingredients that I had never tried before. Each dish stood on its own, but if I had to make you the perfect meal, I would go with the arancini, lumache (since it was the crowd favorite), the guinea hen, and the chocolate tart. But then again, we saw the short ribs (for two) go by a few times and each time we were jealous. First, it was huge (one of our dining companions compared it to a “clog,” yes, a giant shoe) and second, the smell wafted through the restaurant like a tease.
Call now and get a reservation, and maybe call up to check to make sure they have it the day before.
Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10