Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nomiya @ ArtHome

When I think of Electrolux, I think of an old-style vacuum cleaner from the 60's. At no point would I have imagined Electrolux to be on the cutting edge of design and restaurant trendiness until I discovered Nomiya @ ArtHome. Electrolux and the Palais de Tokyo teamed up to open a concept restaurant on the roof of the latter's museum. A temporary dining capsule if you will, installed for a one-year duration.

There is a marketing genius behind this -- not sure about the chef -- more on that later. So, first of all, a restaurant on the roof of a very trendy museum, opposite the Eiffel Tower, with jaw-dropping views is not bad in and of itself. Then make it so there are only 12 seats at lunch and dinner and build a reservation system where you must be at the ready to do some fast clicking at 9:59am exactly one month prior to the date you hope to book. Get a bunch of press (not hard when you drop a restaurant on a roof by crane) and off you go -- people are now lobbying to get this in their city next when it leaves Paris.

When you arrive, the anticipation is high. I'll admit, I was certanily walking around the outside snapping photos of our table in the air. You enter the museum and there is a host table for the restaurant. Everyone is told they will go up as a group at 8pm. You climb lots of stairs - pass the rather appropriate Man on the Moon exhibit and then through a back door, up some stairs where you reach a lovely garden terrace before climbing more scaffolding to get to the top. And then, you have a "wow" moment. The scene really is spectacular. It's worth it just for this moment.

Everyone is snapping photos and taking in the views. A glass of champagne is offered and two amuse bouche are passed around. Both were based on fish eggs. They were good, not great. After taking in the atmosphere and drinking your champagne, everyone takes their seats at the communal table. If you are not social, this is not the place for you! The first course is served and here's where I start to really wonder. I've yet to seen any negative reviews. They change the menus daily according to the chef's inspiration. It's got to be good right? We were being served a dish described as a mix between 17th century and today. A terrine of veal's foot in aspic with braised leeks. I would never order anything "foot" off any menu but it's time s like these where you learn to appreciate or even love new foods -- happened to me with
ris de veau (sweetbreads) -- did not happen to me with veal's feet. I hate leaving food on my plate but after three tries I just couldn't take it anymore.

OK fine, so you can't always get everything right. Surely there would be a recovery here. The main course arrived. A
blanquette de veau (no idea on the translation) but this is a traditional veal dish with a cream sauce your French grandmother might make. It was fine -- but I could have been anywhere -- and I wasn't just anywhere now was I? Cheese comes next -- one piece of sliced compte with a few drops of I forget. This could have been the comte my French wife buys from the supermarket -- plain.

By now, I'm just enjoying the view and trying to get a perfect shot of the Eiffel Tower with it's flashing lights on the hour. I don't have much hope left in me for the food. Dessert arrives and again, it's not bad, but certainly not remarkable. It was a slice of cake, well, it was a marbled
financier half soaked in raspberries accompanied by a pistachio creme anglaise but at this point, you could have given me a Magnum and I think I would have been happier with the dessert. After coffee or tea (no decaf at 11:30p) the parting marshmellow (licorice flavor) was given to all the guests.

I want to believe the chef had an off night. None of the other reviews I read had anything bad to say. Seems like everyone enjoyed their meals. I wouldn't have expected to be blown out of the water, but I was expecting something more refined. Am I glad I went? Yes, definitely. Would I go back. No.

What did I learn? It's ok to spend a bit of cash on an experience...even if it's not 100% up to your expectations. Electrolux has changed and can now be considered cool. I should have booked a night in the hotel that sat in the same location as the restaurant for two years and brought my own sandwiches.