Mar 11, 2015 Restaurants
Nomad needs to reorient itself towards simpler fare.
By Jesse Mulligan. Photo by Ken Downie.
5 Pt Chevalier Rd, Pt Chevalier.
Ph 815-9595. nomadrestaurant.co.nz
Monday to Friday 10am to late; Saturday and Sunday 8am to late.
Brunch $16; small plates $12-$18; large plates $26-$40; pizzas $23-$26; sweets $13.
Point Chevalier mall has long been a poor reflection on the nice, attractive, wealthy (but-not-too- wealthy) citizens of 21st-century Chev. You spend $1.4 million on an ex-state house in a decent school zone and what do you get for your trouble? A Countdown without tahini.
The newly renovated Nomad goes some way to beautifying the over-cobbled urchin depot that stretches along the western side of the mall opposite the library, but the restaurant is not as good as it looks. Oh well, at least it’s not a giant cock and balls.
The website, under “About Nomad”, has a 500-word essay which says nothing. It’s good preparation for the menu, which feels long but empty — 16 dishes listed under “Hunted” and “Gathered” and then 10 pizzas in a section which strictly should be called “Kneaded”. At lunchtime, there’s another menu with six extra dishes.
Deciding what to order doesn’t make you hungry with anticipation so much as sick with intellectual effort. The complimentary “bruschetta” doesn’t help — a toasted slice of supermarket baguette with a splodge of pasta sauce and mozzarella. You eat a bit and leave the crusts, which sit there next to you until you leave, despite major table space issues, which we’ll come to.
Without any guidance, the two of us ordered a couple of things that sounded like entrées, plus steak and fish of the day (we later overheard that everything’s designed to share). After about 10 minutes, everything arrived.
“Does the food always come out all at once?” I asked the waiter.
“It doesn’t come at once, actually,” he corrected me. “It’s a progression.”
I looked back down at the four plates he’d put in front of me, wondering exactly what it would take for him to admit they’d arrived at the same time. But then another guy arrived with a bowl filled with water and lemon slices.
“A fingerbowl for the ceviche,” he explained, and balanced the sixth piece of crockery on our small wobbly table (all the tables are wobbly, and all of them have small plastic discs under or near their legs which you can bend over and wedge back in during your meal to create stability).
The ceviche was in another bowl of liquid, with strips of beautifully fresh broadbill cured in a pretty good nam jim with fresh chilli and a bit too much palm sugar. Eating it took some work with a fork and no spoon but we managed and then, at the end, asked again about the fingerbowl.
Yes, it’s definitely for the ceviche… “You’re meant to eat it with your fingers.” I don’t know how we could have done that — the fish isn’t bite size, so what are you meant to do with the bit you haven’t torn off with your teeth. Hold onto it or drop it back into the liquid? And who wants to trawl for drenched clumps of wakame?
The cuisine is sort of “Mediterranean Plus” but the cheffy additions to classic dishes don’t often work. A decent margherita pizza shouldn’t need sundried and cherry tomatoes on top. A very good 24-hour ribeye wasn’t much improved by a scoop of horseradish mascarpone. A buffalo tartare may as well be beef when you’ve added (*intakes breath*) shallots, parmesan, olive oil pearls, mascarpone, mustard parfait, violet flowers and a freeze-dried blood orange.
If you can be bothered eating this, the good news is that all of the flavours do work together. Likewise with the fish of the day, “baked” (pan-fried actually, but whatevs) hapuku with another very long list of accompaniments — nonetheless it tasted good and I ate it all with pleasure.
The staff are nice people and you can forgive a lot because they try so hard. In the kitchen, I think trying hard is the main problem; you clearly have talent and a decent palate, so why are you wasting your time serving watermelon and rosewater sorbet with snap-crackle chocolate soil, mint-lemon meringue and freeze-dried white chocolate? It’s like a half-eaten staff dinner at the Wonka factory.
Sorry Point Chev, this isn’t your Engine Room. The good news is kids are welcome and they have, yes, another separate menu. So eat up and be grateful you’re spending your money on dinner, not a private school.
How we review
Every restaurant is visited at least twice and rated for what it is trying to do: a superb bistro and superb fine-dining place both get 5 spoons. We pay for our meals and if possible do not declare our presence.
We’d eat here if we had to – 1 Spoon
Good, but it really should be better – 2 Spoons
Very good – 3 Spoons
Extremely good – 4 Spoons
Superb: among the very best of its kind – 5 Spoons