I’m the ugliest person at The NoMad, maybe the poorest, but I’ve been here twice before, and my girl more than bends the bell-curve in beauty’s favor – so pack away the world’s smallest violin you weren’t even pretending to play.
Still, I’m not Lenny Kravitz, or that other celebrity whose name eludes me (spotted in the hotel/restaurant lobby). They fit in perfectly here – as do the gaggle of girls slow-jamming today’s drama into cellphones, lazily swaying boutique bags from rubbery wrists.
Together, my girlfriend and I create the perfect storm for judging these books by their covers – leaving a giant red X on the dust jackets of anyone outside our tacitly accepted parameters.
After a day out-and-about we’re ready for some drinks. My go to is the Dirty Martini, but when I’m here I keep to a steady regimen of “Start Me Ups;” bourbon, rum, strega (Italian herbal liqueur), honey, ginger, lemon and orange bitters. Sounds like too much going on, but it’s decidedly focused (if a little sweet) and whether it pairs or not becomes irrelevant once you’ve had a few.
My girl orders the Sons of Liberty; bourbon, apple brandy, early grey, lemon, bitters, some black pepper and egg whites.
“This is going right to my head,” she says.
“Good,” I say, then spot a couple a few tables down where I swear the lady is checking me out.
“Popsicle, this lady digs your boy,” I say, but it turns out she was curious about the Sons of Liberty and eventually asked us how it was. Still, they stuck with wine. Was she just making an excuse to talk to me? The answer may surprise you. *
The bread hits the table and that earthy fragrance of rosemary wraps smiles across our judgmental faces. “You got your pills?” I ask, just as she places them next to the bread. “Fucking gluten,” she no-doubt thinks to herself.
The foie terrine arrives with a tiny peeled, possibly stewed apple aside two slabs of smoked terrine, some raw apple and roasted sunflower seeds. Spread on brioche it was creamy smokey crunchy bliss. I’ve had foie every which way, but smoked was new for me. Me want again.
Earlier in the day as the curtain rose on Godot, I started thinking about the slow cooked egg I had here last time. “That’s a given,” I thought to myself. But alas, they changed it up tonight – served with mushrooms, black garlic and crispy kale instead of the quinoa and asparagus/foam from my earlier visits. That previous incarnation sent me to the moon, while this was a series of astronomical units lower. Comparisons are a bitch.
Instead of their amazing chicken dish, which I’ve had twice, we went with the lobster and beef entrees – polishing off the lobster entirely before even looking at the beef. Gracefully poached lobster with salsify and a brown butter bisque. Not a missed note on the plate. My girl knew all about salsify, I’d never heard of it.
The roasted beef with sweet potatoes, smoked swiss chard and bone marrow sounded better than the executed version. If you’re gonna promise bone marrow, you’d better deliver that flavor somewhere on the plate. Still, by any standards, a solid dish if you got all the flavors on one fork.
We ordered two desserts because I’m fat. I was already familiar with the Milk & Honey and wanted to experience it again. You would, too. Shortbread and brittle with ice cream and honey? Just pour it straight down the front of my pants, please. Kudos on the more complex honey used this outing – it’s sweet smoothness balances the brittle and shortbread textures perfectly.
“The brioche itself is amazing. What is that on the bottom?” I asked.
“Mmmm. Wonderful,” I say. “The tropical sorbet on top of the flavored ice is perfect, too, but the ice itself is super-sour. Too sour.”
He smiled and walked away, butt-cheeks clenched.
* No, she wasn’t.
We strolled leisurely down 11th, avoiding the tourist-infused High Line, toward a chef’s counter reservation at Toro where we happily ordered a step beyond what might be considered reasonable.
We also found the Hell’s Bell Pepper to be just the right amount of savory – tequila, mezcal, yellow bell pepper, agave and bird’s eye chili.
Now we’re diving headfirst into an expensive plate of Paleta Iberico De Cinco Jotas – a dry cured boneless Iberian ham that delights and is gone before you can say “twenty eight dollars.”
Some addictive Maiz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija followed – a dangerously convenient version of grilled street corn, and a nice foil for the Setas, a bowl of deliciously unctuous mushrooms set beneath a sexy chivy yolk.
Then things got heavy – in a good way. Unable to choose between bone marrow and foie gras, we picked both. I’m more of a purist when it comes to bone marrow, so the Asado De Hueso with guajillo and chorizo XO, Brussels sprouts and escargot – perhaps has a little too much going on. Yet I ate it happily.
We opted for the Foie Gras Tonkatsu – a crispy foie sandwich with strawberry tomato jam and pickled daikon. Kinda perfect bar food if you’re OK with foie taking second billing. Nice marriage of textures, too.
“Hey man, that’s probably delicious, right?” asked a stranger at the bar – flanked by two liquored up and leathery ladies of a certain age. I smiled and snapped a picture of his seared foie.
For dessert we had hamburgers.
Ok, not dessert per se, but our last course were a pair of delectable Hamburguesas, mini dry-aged burgers with a spicy kick on a potato bun.
In a nutshell, Toro is the perfect place for you and your overpaid friends to meet up, get buzzed, and eat decadent small plates while ignoring a world gone mad.
Prospect Heights restaurant from chef-owner Greg Baxtrom packs them in for dinner and recently rolled out brunch. Expect twists and turns, like a breakfast of Carrot Kathi Rolls (Carrot Pulp Falafel, Cilantro Stem Raita) or the Duck Duo, crispy duck sausage with scrambled egg and maple flatbread. And don’t leave without trying their bacon, egg, and cheese Egg Rolls, as delicious as they are adorable.
The tight and thoughtful dinner menu includes a scrumptious Duck Liver Mouse, a clever Beef Tartare, Heritage Pork with Raclette, and other seasonal curve-balls. Toss in a playful cocktail menu and you’ve found the perfect spot for those who like a dash of quirkiness on the plate.
What To Do: Paris
On your fourth trip to Paris, you take less pictures and enjoy more actual moments. Best to live like a local. We rent an apartment and stock up on breads from Poilâne, french butter, various cheeses, some fromage de tête. Good coffee. And the inevitable bottle of Orangina.
The Google Map below has more restaurants than you could see in any one trip. I wound up having super memorable tasting menus at Frenchie and Ellsworth, and a nice meal at Ore in Versailles. But we also had excellent low key bistro meals, enjoyed Pizzeria Popolare, and some cocktails and charcuterie at aveK.
There’s always next time.
Between the historic sites, architecture, museums, churches, parks, and restaurants… there’s a whole hell of a lot to do in and around Paris. Check out our Google Map for some ideas.
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