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Jan 19, 2012 04:30 AM

The New Acme- a Delightful Meal which will make you smile and more ways than one.

When Acme, the laid back New Orleans style restaurant in NOHO closed last year, both my husband and I were upset. It’s not that they served the best food in NY but the atmosphere was fun, the waiters were awesome and the food was exactly what you would expect from a southern style place. So when I heard that Acme was reopening I was incredibly excited. However this new Acme is different. So different it may as well be the opposite of “exactly what you would expect”.

We walked in about 7:30 on Friday night and the entire front area was packed with people. Luckily we had made a reservation and got a nice table along the side wall. The first thing you can’t help but notice is the complete change in décor. The kitschy restaurant had been transformed into a dark, sultry place with exposed brick and candlelight. I started with the Smokin Thyme cocktail made with vodka, mezcal, raspberries and thyme. I really enjoyed the thyme flavor of my drink but it was nothing compared to the loveliness of his Graffeti green.

Made from gin, green bell pepper, lime and agave this drink was absolutely perfect. It was a great refreshing start to the meal but smooth enough to pair with each dish as well. After we ordered a nice basket of fluffy sour bread and butter arrived immediately to our table. Then it was time for the start of our courses with the Pearl barley and clams. Now I’ll be honest- I’m not a barley lover in the slightest but this little dish completely blew my mind. The creamy roasted sunflower broth, sweet fish and earthy grains just blended perfectly into an incredibly homey and savory dish.
It was amazing! There were some artichoke hearts in there as well which were a bit to crunchy for me with the broth. I was just in love with my bowl of barley. I would never expect so much flavor to come out of these ingredients. This was my little bowl of happiness. Our next course was the Sweet shrimp and bison with bitter lettuce and white walnuts.

I saw my husband make a very strange face when this course was placed in front of him but I was too busy enjoying my bowl of happiness to care. When I had a chance to try it I loved the zesty and bitter flavors combined on the plate. It wasn’t until I got home to look at my pictures that I realized uncanny resemblance to something else...something all of us women have. We shall move on…Our main course the Black cod with pickled green tomatoes, cardamom, vanilla and dandelion. The Black cod was cooked absolutely perfect. The middle was nice and moist with a salty top and a nice brine from the pickled green tomatoes. It wasn’t the best black cod I’ve ever had but it was certainly done well. For sides we enjoyed some Hay roasted sunchokes and Creamy potatoes. The sunchokes came topped with a New England gruyere and winter truffles which brought this veggie dish to such taste elevations it can only be described as umami. I would have been happy with eating just this and the barley dish on its own and calling it a day. But then I tired the Creamy Potatoes and had to cave into those as well. Topped with bacon vinaigrette and baby onion rings these may be the most unhealthy potatoes in the city but my they were quite darn tasty. They reminded me of Robuchon's a bit but his are still the best in my book.

You wouldn’t think we would have room for dessert after this but somehow we did. Unfortunately the Beer & bread porridge was a complete let down. I guess both of us were expecting something more along the lines of a bread pudding but this really was more like a soup. I guess we should have taken the “porridge” aspect more literal but it just didn’t have the texture or flavors to satisfy a dessert craving.On the other hand my Chocolate crisps with ganache and coffee ice cream was delicious. I loved shattering the flakes of crispy dark chocolate and mixing in the coffee and caramel. It was a perfect size and just the right salty and sweet end to my meal. The total damage for all of this- $182.92

Not bad at all considering the inventive, high quality food, delicious drinks and amazing atmosphere. I think I enjoyed the new Acme most because it was so different. I know all about the executive chef Mads Refslund (one of the founding partners from Noma in Copenhagen considered one of world’s top restaurants) and his take on New Nordic cooking. I don’t think what he’s doing here is exactly “New Nordic” but I do know his blend of textures and flavors is extremely unique. I was truly excited and interested in each dish that was brought out and it was fun to try and guess the elements of each one without looking at the menu. It’s also exciting to have such a great international chef amongst our midst in the middle of little NOHO. Acme is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Full review and photos are below.

9 Great Jones St, New York, NY 10012

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  1. Thanks for the detailed report! It sounds like he's following Claus Meyer's "New Nordic" Manifesto to some degree, but focusing on our local, Northeastern US fare - which has some overlap with common Scandi ingredients. Atlantic seafood, root veggies, etc, all figure pretty heavily into both. I'm looking forward to checking them out this weekend - will be posting my own thoughts soon enough.

    1. Glad to see Acme has another fan. I was there last Saturday and had a very well executed meal. Wine prices were reasonable ($40 - $60/bottle). I had the beet side (very filling), the duck in a jar, and oysters.

      Service towards the end was a bit disappointing (some snafu with splitting the check between my group), but the manager did apologize and comp my friend's dinner. So a few minor kinks in the front of the house, but in the kitchen you'd never know they'd just opened.

      1. To celebrate, and also mourn, that I am now one year closer to death, we went to Acme for dinner, a restaurant I’ve had my eye on since it opened, because of the chef’s pedigree, and because the food is unusual. Acme is still very popular – almost every seat was full – but a good deal of the menu has changed since everyone and their publicist ate there and wrote about it a few months back. The prices have inched up, also, but we didn’t suffer any of the service lapses I’ve read about in other reports.

        I was pretty sure I knew what to expect from my spring pea soup, because I read the menu description and figured out how I’d make it, if I were making it: a smooth, chilled puree, topped with a swirl of yogurt, a thin slice of grilled cucumber, and some chopped toasted pistachios. I could not have been more wrong. The soup was actually thick and piping hot, such a vibrant green it almost glowed, and full of whole peas and (I think) pea leaves. There were large, charred chunks of cucumber, the pistachio was pistachio oil, and the yogurt was yogurt foam. It was very surprising, and very successful.

        I also tried to make a prediction about the raviolo, and here the dish I made up in my head was a little better than what I received, because I saw duck egg and pictured a nice runny yolk (nope, hard cooked). The pasta was pleasantly chewy but a bit too dry, and while the ricotta was very good, there wasn’t quite enough of it. Overall, this was on the austere side; I was hoping for something more luxurious.

        The pearl barley and clams was the only dish I’d gone in knowing for sure I would order (well, that and the sunchokes, but they’re gone). And it almost lived up to its reputation. The clams (which didn’t really assert themselves) and the barley (which is, let us not forget, just barley) were thoroughly outclassed by the scallops and the artichokes and the sunflower shoots, all at the top of their game. It was very enjoyable, and kind of weird, and also maybe misnamed, since the supporting players are clearly the stars.

        My companion had the arctic char, which he did not like, because it was almost raw and came with grilled squash in a very briny sauce involving capers. I wasn’t crazy about it either, and I like raw fish and brine (squash, not so much). This felt experimental for the sake of being experimental, and at the expense of being good.

        Our dessert, the beer and bread porridge with salted caramel ice cream, ended things on a decidedly upbeat note. It is humble. It is mush. It looks like a giant sunny side up egg in a bowl. It is also excellent. We finished it so fast the server may have thought she put down an empty plate by mistake.

        I had two cocktails, the Upstate Affair, which was pleasant enough but not all that special, and the Graffiti Green, which had a lot of personality and convinced me that green bell pepper pairs well with gin. Yesterday this idea would have struck me as completely insane. But today I am older, wiser, etc.

        7 Replies
        1. re: small h

          Happy birthday and thanks for the report!

          If you like experimenting with bell pepper cocktails at home, try the Shiso Delicious. Unfortunately no longer on the menu at PDT, but really, really delicious.

          1. re: kathryn

            Thanks! and thanks for that link. It really is high time for me to start giving more thought to what I drink when I'm at home, which this week is Modelo in cans.

          2. re: small h

            Any idea where I can view the new spring menu in full? I have a reservation for next Saturday...trying to decide between that and Gwynnett St. (any comments on that welcome as well). Also have a res to il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, but I think that's a distant third at the moment.

            1. re: serasyl

              I personally like the food at Acme a lot more than the food at Gwynnett Street. As for comparing the very-different ambiances of each restaurant, well that would strictly be a matter of taste.

              1. re: serasyl

                First: you will find quite a bit of consternation and tsk-tsking for double-booking (triple-booking in your case) here. It hurts both potential customers and the restaurants themselves, who might not be able to fill that table after you've cancelled it. Other potential customers might have already gone elsewhere. Certainly, if IBAV is a distant third, at least free that one up.

                As to the other two - they're very different. Acme is very rustic in terms of their presentation and technique, while Gwynnett is quite the opposite. Acme would likely provide the "heartier" meal, GS the more adventurous one... they're too different to really say one is better than the other, since they're both operating at a pretty high level on their own turfs. Just go with the menu that calls out to you, in terms of flavors.

                1. re: sgordon

                  Thanks. Not to further this line of discussion, but I should note I don't actually have a res at Gwynnett, they just seem incredibly open at the moment.

                  If anyone can point to a pic of a recent Acme menu or a recent thorough blog review, etc I'd appreciate it. I'll eventually go to both, so it's not a huge deal...just trying to decide which is the most urgent for me personally.

                2. re: serasyl

                  I had an incredible meal and Il Buco Alimentari a few weeks ago. The short rib dish is not to be missed. Easily one of the best dishes I've had this year.