A ‘scene’ and some great food too! – we check out one of the Big Apple’s openings of the year’ and find it lives up to the hype!

Somewhat to our surprise, we manage to snag a table at the restaurant Eater.com called ‘the biggest [NYC] opening of 2012’. For 9pm on a Saturday night. On a couple of weeks’ notice. Cool, huh?

Why the excitement? Well, NoMad Restaurant is the dining room of the new NoMad Hotel in the area, North of Madison Park, called – you guessed – NoMad. The Hotel and Restaurant are the latest masterwork of Jacques Garcia, who is famous to fashionistas everywhere for his design of the magnificently decadent Costes – perhaps the sexiest hotel (and restaurant) in the City of Light.

Our initial impression was that Garcia’s New York creation – even if it doesn’t quite compare to the Parisian one for sheer ooh la la – is still impressive. It wasn’t the design, however, which won NoMad Restaurant ‘biggest opening’ status, but rather its parentage: the 120-seat restaurant is run by a duo who’ve made 11 Madison Park a worldwide foodie talking point – the ’10th best restaurant in the world’, according to the only internationally acknowledged annual enquiry on the subject.

Given the scale of the operation, could the offshoot really live up? That’s certainly been the local view – an immediate three out of the maximum possible four stars from the New York Times, for example. But what do they know?

To form our own view, we kicked off with a classic martini in the panelled, club-like bar. Very good it was and, thus fortified – and perhaps inspired by a setting that feels a bit like a brasserie for Belle Epoque plutocrats – we decided to kick off our meal with a plâteau de fruits de mer. What arrived looked not like a classic plâteau, piled with seafood, but more like a classic tray of oysters. But it wasn’t that either – each of these ‘oysters’ turned out to be a stunning seafood dish, perfect in itself, perhaps a raw scallop with pistachio and yuzu, or a king crab with avocado and lime or a sea urchin with green apple gelée.

This striking start – one of the nicest ’surprise’ dishes we can recall – was no flash in the pan, even if the other choices were all much more obviously in accordance with their forthright descriptions. Breast of duck, say, or chocolate tart with ice cream can clearly be acquitted of any great novelty, but they all achieved perfection in their simplicity. Even the espresso was excellent. The wine list was all-encompassing. And the service almost universally charming.

So, if not unique, NoMad turns out to be an establishment that’s as rare, we’d guess, in New York or Paris as it is in London – a ‘scene’ restaurant, where the scene turns out to be the least of the attractions.

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