ACME – NYC
9 Great Jones Street New York, NY 10012
Acme is characterized as a “downtown brasserie” that currently inhabits the old dingy Cajun spot which occupied the space for over 25 years. Of the four owners, two are downtown scene vets from classic spots Indochine and BondSt. These guys really knew what they were doing. While they kept the original sign at the entrance, the entire interior was revamped and is now a sexy, rustic space with high ceilings, warm lighting and lively clientele. Downstairs is a jazz bar that has a toned down 1920’s feel to it with cocktails like the Fair Lady which is a refreshing mix of aperol, gin, lemon, St Germain, honey, orange bitters, and champagne. I believe this part of the restaurant is what warrants the doorman at the top of the stairs.
The main attraction though is really Danish chef Mads Refslund who made his way to Acme via Copenhagen. Along with René Redzepi he helped to pioneer “forager cuisine” at the world’s best restaurant Noma which basically means ingredients found on the ground. He mastered the art of creating seasonal dishes out of local Nordic ingredients. His food is refined and sophisticated without being flashy. Overall I felt that the chef tried to honor the integrity of each ingredient by very lightly if perhaps under-seasoning many of the dishes. This is certainly a type of cuisine that has not really broken into NYC yet so the experience is new and interesting.
We began with an interesting dish of sweet shrimp and bison with bitter lettuce and green almonds. It was served as a tartare and is definitely an unusual mix of proteins. Surprisingly they went quite well together and the shrimp lightened up the texture and gaminess of the bison while adding a hint of sweetness (as one would expect from a sweet shrimp).
Next was the country toast which I believe changes regularly but this version was topped with creamy wild mushrooms. The only negative to this was the slightly over-charred toast and it was not the most attractive dish especially when compared to the artful presentation of the rest of the meal.
The pearl barley and clams was one of the best dishes I have had all year a rich broth created with butter, beer, and toasted sunflower seeds. The clams were lightly cooked and the shells filled with the pearl barley making it heartier but not heavy. The broth was light and had a rich flavor without overpowering the main ingredients.
The chicken and eggs I was told was a must order and it absolutely is. The chicken is served without the skin which surprised me but once I took a bite the subtle flavors of the incredibly tender meat really came through as if it had been cooked sous vide in a rich chicken broth. The dish is much more rustic looking, however, shredded chunks of meat are piled high in ceramic pot on top of fingerling potatoes and topped with runny egg which creates a sauce.
Alongside the chicken we had a special fluke with shaved wild mushrooms and the white asparagus which is doused in hollandaise, lemon and black pepper. While the fluke was incredibly beautiful, the tiny bit of almost flavorless sauce did not help to add much to the already pretty bland fluke and spongy raw mushrooms. Some sort of salt or seasoning would have saved this dish. The white asparagus on the other hand, while also being a fairly bland ingredient in its own right was covered in so much hollandaise that it almost formed a soup. Hollandaise soup? I’ll take it.
Our last entree was a black bass which was fresh and simply prepared with no fussiness. It was embellished with pretty dandelion greens and violet flowers.
I would highly recommend Acme for a very different take on “bistro” fare and I hope to see more restaurants like this one. It is perfect for a date especially with the lively vibe and accompanying jazz bar downstairs as well as having so many other fun bars in the surrounding Noho area. Acme has also just started serving brunch which I will definitely be checking out.