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Acme – 9 Great Jones St.


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#1 weinoo

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 01:22 PM

What happens when a restaurant opens in New York City, and it’s informed by a cuisine with which you might know nothing about? In this case, go.

Acme, or Acme Bar and Grill, on Great Jones Street, was for many years a club slash bar that served up some “Southern food” as well as some mighty fine rock and roll shows down in the basement. The r & r was the extent of my familiarity with the joint, since I’d never eaten there, but shows by the likes of Alex Chilton and Roy Loney are probably why my hearing is not as good as it used to be.

Back to the new Acme. The executive chef is Mads Refslund, a Dane who was one of the founding partner/chefs (along with René Redzepi) of what many consider to be one of the world’s top restaurants: Noma, located in Copenhagen. Be that as it may, now he’s ours, at least for the time being. And that, from my experience so far, is a good thing.

Two meals over a couple of days allowed me to try a nice portion of the menu (as well as a few of the cocktails), which is divided, as so many menus are these days, into a number of categories: Raw; Cooked; Soil; Sides; Sea/Land; Desserts.

Mads, from everything I’ve read, is a promoter of the New Nordic Cuisine, and if I told you I was unfamiliar with that, it’s because I’ve yet to travel to the places where New Nordic Cuisine is being cooked and served. And, according to Mads, he’s not really cooking New Nordic Cuisine at Acme; what he’s cooking is in the style of and based on the philosophy of New Nordic Cuisine, which in this case means using as many local and seasonal ingredients as is possible, without mucking them up too much.

So for instance, a starter of “sweet shrimp and bison” might not have been foraged in Central Park, but the interplay of sweet/bitter and soft/crunchy just knocked us out. It looked good too…

2012_01_09 Acme Sweet Shrimp.jpg

"House-cured salmon" was another winner from the "Raw" section of the menu, and three of us fought over the last bites, even going so far as to mop up, with some excellent Sullivan Street Bakery bread, the last trace of buttermilk horseradish dressing. “Duck in a jar” was not quite confit and not quite rillettes. What it was was hunks of very tender duck tucked under a pile of pickled vegetables, the duck tender enough to be practically spread on the accompanying toast…

2012_01_06 Acme Duck.jpg

While the “Country toast” was merely good, “Pearl barley and clams” was a hit. Maybe my favorite dish of everything I’ve tried so far, the earthy barley and briny clams were drenched in a roasted sunflower broth with hunks of artichoke heart and baby scallops along for the ride. The worst part – I had to share. Barley – who’d have thunk it, though it did kind of sneakily remind me of a Sardinian specialty, fregola with clams.

I didn’t, though, have to share my “Pork chop,” cooked just enough for my liking (though if you don’t like pork rare, ask for it medium or more). Pork chops are on every menu in town, but most of them aren’t as good as this, accompanied as it was by parsnips, pears, cranberries and, I think, a pomegranate aril or two…

2012_01_09 Acme Pork.jpg

My buddy’s “Arctic char” was another simple dish – just cooked and seasoned perfectly, all crisp skin and rare flesh punched up with capers and sherry vinegar, two of my favorite puckery things…

2012_01_09 Acme Char.jpg

I can’t not mention the “Hay roasted sunchokes,” earthy from both gruyere and black winter truffles, and the “Black cod,” a fish I happen to love because in another guise, it’s called smoked sable, and is one of my favorite things to put on a bagel. Here once again, the fish was perfectly cooked, just past the point of rare, which with a fish like cod makes all the difference in the world. Not cooked enough – it sucks. Cooked too much – it sucks.

The only dessert we tried was a knockout. Called simply “Chocolate crisps,” brittle tuile-like bitter chocolate is served on a bed of intense ganache alongside coffee ice cream. This touched all my buttons, because I love chocolate and I love coffee. It was great.

You know, dining out can sometimes be a learning experience, and two meals at Acme have taught me quite a bit. Certainly a bit about the philosophy of the New Nordic Cuisine, and how the use of bitter and sour components is as important as the use of sweet and salty. They open the palate. Raw, crunchy things on a plate are good and can serve to heighten the flavor and texture of the other components. Excellent ingredients are important, but hey, that’s a given…respecting them and treating them properly should be a given too, but often that’s not the case; here at Acme, it mostly is.

The latest news from the Acme front is that downstairs, that great old room that saw a lot of loud music, will be a club with a DJ, open unti 4 AM. What that means for the upstairs, for a restaurant that a mere one week into its existence is turning out some fine food, is altogether another. Go soon – who knows how long Mads will be at the stove.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#2 KennethT

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 03:24 PM

Wow.. sounds like quite a difference from the old Acme!!! Even more of a transformation than EMP...

BTW - what were the prices like, on average?

Edited by KennethT, 10 January 2012 - 03:57 PM.


#3 weinoo

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 05:00 PM

The latest news from the Acme front is that downstairs, that great old room that saw a lot of loud music, will be a club with a DJ, open unti 4 AM. What that means for the upstairs, for a restaurant that a mere one week into its existence is turning out some fine food, is altogether another. Go soon – who knows how long Mads will be at the stove.

I don't know where this weinoo character got that rumor from (ummm, perhaps here on Eater);

The relaunched project from the Indochine folks—which was once rumoured to become a dance club by the Mike's Apartment guys and Paul Sevigny—will have a swank basement lounge that will offer a DJ and dancing until 4 AM.


But the Acme management would like to clarify this, via Grub Street:

"The downstairs will 100 percent not be a dance club. We have NO idea where anyone got that," a manager tells Grub.


Unless, of course, that's just a rumor.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
mweinstein@eGstaff.org
Tasty Travails - My Blog
My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs
Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

#4 gastrodamus

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 09:36 PM

Dined here tonight, thanks to your report and photos. For a restaurant that's been open for about a week, it's surprisingly well-oiled. Unique menu, perfectly-cooked dishes, well-balanced flavors, great service, revamped space; the place is going to get really busy soon.

#5 weinoo

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 04:43 PM

A third dinner this past weekend only confirmed what I already knew - this probably will be my favorite restaurant opening of 2012.

With 3 dinners, I've had the chance to try most of the menu, and there isn't much I don't like, though the NY strip loin is pretty unexciting, and you can do better with the rest of the menu. I wish I could have the "pearl barley and clams" at every meal, it's that good...

2012_01_13 Acme Pearl Barley.jpg

For the first time, I got to try the "chicken and eggs," simply braised chicken, nice and moist, over fingerling potatoes and topped with a pair of fried eggs...

2012_01_13 Acme Chicken.jpg

The lobster dish was tasty, earthy from mushrooms and cooked as well as any lobster around...

2012_01_13 Acme Lobster.jpg

And the turbot (iirc - it wasn't my entree) was served with braised fennel...

2012_01_13 Acme Fish.jpg

I was forced into ordering the chocolate dessert again, with that most excellent coffee ice cream...

2012_01_13 Acme Ice Cream.jpg

I wish the wine list had more offerings under $50, and more by the glass choices, but that won't keep me away; after all, I can always stick to the cocktails.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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Tasty Travails - My Blog
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Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

#6 weinoo

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 06:37 AM

I don't know if this is a new development, but the gentleman formerly from Il Buco (Craig Atlas) is evidently now heading up the wine "program," and perhaps the front of the house as well.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#7 Sneakeater

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 10:58 AM

If anyone is paying attention to their wine "program", that's a new development.

#8 KennethT

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 09:53 AM

Had a chance to go last night. Excellent - not much to add that hasn't been said already, other than the fact that they said they're planning on turning the downstairs into a cocktail lounge with small plates. Also, I think one of the dishes referred to above as"black cod" is actually black bass (unless there's a black cod on the menu as well that I didn't notice) - a fish I love but is typically overlooked. This one was great.

#9 Sneakeater

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 10:05 AM

They switched it from black cod to black bass a couple of weeks ago.

#10 KennethT

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 10:39 AM

whoops... in my last post, I meant that black bass is typically overcooked not overlooked... but it was perfect the other night - good crust but still really moist.

#11 mxkupc

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 07:44 PM

I had a chance to go tonight and love the space. I had the salmon and the chicken that others have described far better than I could! Loved both but my chicken arrived when I was half way through the salmon. Consequently it was almost cold by the time I began eating it. I will be back but hope the kitchen can work on the timing issues.

#12 KennethT

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 07:54 PM

Another great evening... tried some new things... cured ham x 2... heirloom carrots with lardo... a special not on the menu: langoustine tartare with raw foie gras... unctuous pork cheeks with barely cooked chard spiked with sherry (I think?) vinegar. All awesome... service was great too - knowledgeable about food and cocktails and paced things just right.

#13 weinoo

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 05:58 AM

Another great evening... tried some new things... cured ham x 2... heirloom carrots with lardo... a special not on the menu: langoustine tartare with raw foie gras... unctuous pork cheeks with barely cooked chard spiked with sherry (I think?) vinegar. All awesome... service was great too - knowledgeable about food and cocktails and paced things just right.

Now this is good to hear...specials were not really happening for the first few weeks.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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Tasty Travails - My Blog
My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs
Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

#14 weinoo

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 08:30 AM

So it looks like the pork cheeks have actually replaced the pork chop on the menu. They were as delicious as described above. And my dining companion had the bass and devoured every last bite while especially enjoying the charred pickled tomatoes.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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Tasty Travails - My Blog
My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs
Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

#15 weinoo

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 07:01 AM

Pete Wells gets one right...

NY Times review.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#16 KennethT

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 11:02 AM

damn... and it was getting hard to get into before... now it'll be impossible!

#17 weinoo

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 11:22 AM

I'll still deal with it, and will keep going early.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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Tasty Travails - My Blog
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Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

#18 patrickamory

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 05:54 PM

I thought it was superb, really glad this thread gave me the headsup before the review! And even so it was almost impossible to get a reservation, even for 6:45.

House-cured salmon, sunchokes in hay, salted caramel ice cream, a great wine list and terrific prices - wow.

(My only complaint is that is that it's a little scene-y in both the clientele and the waitstaff - very beautiful people. I guess that comes from the Indochine connection. Still absolutely lovely place to dine, and the vintage wallpaper in the men's room rules.)

Hilarious that they left the original Acme awning up - Southwestern & Cajun Cusine. Man, did I have many a deserted & disappointing lunch there over the years.

#19 KennethT

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 08:26 PM

I'll still deal with it, and will keep going early.

Likewise... Actually have a resy for next Sat at 6 - taking some friends who haven't been yet.

#20 KennethT

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 08:33 PM

(My only complaint is that is that it's a little scene-y in both the clientele and the waitstaff - very beautiful people. I guess that comes from the Indochine connection. Still absolutely lovely place to dine, and the vintage wallpaper in the men's room rules.)

True - but I thought the service has been excellent each time. The courses were spaced really well, and I've found the staff to be welcoming and knowledgable, despite the "cool" appearance, and I've never felt rushed like they were trying to turn the table like what happens at so many popular places... Definitely have to check out the men's room now though!

#21 weinoo

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 11:29 AM

On or about their first anniversary, and Acme is, imo, better than ever before. New dishes, old favorites - all pretty darn good...

Happy Birthday To...Acme
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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Tasty Travails - My Blog
My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs
Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?