It's not often that I step into a restaurant in New York City and find that after the first bite, I feel transported to another country. But that’s what happened to me the other night when I had dinner at a very recently renovated restaurant on the Lower East Side.
Nomad, a restaurant specializing in North African cuisine, still retains a North African theme with its murals, lamps, naturally-sculpted rose stone pieces and other embellishments. But now that it has Portuguese chef, Luisa Fernandes, as its executive chef, the restaurant has taken on a whole new life.
Luisa conjures up some magical Mediterranean fare that include elements from Spain, Italy, Greece, France, North Africa, and her native, Portugal. Portugal is one of my specialties and every dish that came out of the kitchen harkened back to my travels across that country. But each also had a little twist that made it approachable to the American palate.
The fresh sardines came topped with pickled onions. Perfected grilled baby octopus was nestled in amongst chickpeas that were nicely flavored with bits of lamb sausage. A stuffed quail was dressed with a tangy pomegranate sauce and served with couscous, onions and raisins.
I ordered a balanced Trajadura wine from Monho, Portugal to accompany the meal. And I couldn’t get enough of the freshly-baked garlic and herb flatbread. (Many of the dishes are cooked in the brand new wood burning brick oven set into the wall in the dining room. And it’s the maple and cherry woods Luisa uses here that lend to the aromatic flavors.)
The interior of the restaurant couldn’t be more romantic, with flickering candles and a soon-to-open garden courtyard.
If you want to dine in a restaurant where the chef -- who, by the way, was the 2009 champion on the Food Network's cooking competition show, Chopped -- has a supreme passion for cooking, then I’d run right down to Nomad if you live in New York. And, if you don’t, I’d put it on my list of places to dine when you're next in town.