Acme, a slice of NOLA in NoHo for 25 years, has just swerved from south to north. Like way north. Closed since last spring, it’s reopened with a new executive chef, Mads Refslund, who cofounded New Nordic pioneer Noma in Copenhagen. The reinvented Acme remains an American restaurant, sgordon says, but one recast in a local, seasonal style that’s “filtered through a Scandinavian culinary philosophy.” The resulting cuisine relies heavily on ingredients shared by Scandinavia and the American Northeast, like root vegetables and Atlantic seafood. It’s relatively simple and light, with little extraneous fat; it strikes frequent tart and bitter notes; and it judiciously uses charring and caramelization as flavor elements.
All these threads come together in a terrific plate of heirloom carrots that are blackened on the outside, draped with lardo, set in a blood orange vinaigrette, and sprinkled with pine. “Naturally sweet, smoky with a touch of that wonderful char, a bit of richness from the lardo, the mild resiny flavor of the pine sneaking through every few bites,” sgordon says. Hay-roasted sunchokes, topped with black truffles and Gruyère foam, share some of these elements; their blackened outer edges enclose a nearly creamlike interior.
A sea bass entrée balances a full range of salty, tart, bitter, and sweet flavors, says sgordon: well-salted, perfectly cooked fish; pickled tomatillos; dandelion greens; and hints of vanilla, cardamom, and maybe anise. And a marvelous starter of pearl barley and clams, served with braised artichoke and sunflower broth, hits an entirely different note. “The creamy roasted sunflower broth, sweet fish, and earthy grains just blended perfectly into an incredibly homey and savory dish,” says roze (who also blogs about her dinner). “It was amazing! This was my little bowl of happiness.”
As restaurant makeovers go, Acme’s was extreme. Gone is the familiar N’awlins kitsch, replaced by candlelight, black wood, and leather. In place of Abita beer and Hurricanes are thoughtfully conceived cocktails like the Graffiti Green (gin, bell pepper, basil, lime, agave)—”absolutely perfect,” says roze, “a great refreshing start.” And the laid-back bons temps vibe has given way (at least at 10:45 p.m. on a Saturday) to “a scene with a capital ‘S,'” says sgordon, who describes Acme as “a hot spot out of the gate, this year’s Minetta Tavern or The Dutch.” Fortunately, its buzzing, well-turned-out throng is better behaved than those at some other popular joints. “No one’s shoving their way to the bar to get smashed on sour-apple kamikazes,” he observes.