In 2021, one of New York City’s most luxurious institutions, the NoMad hotel, shut its doors. This followed the departure of acclaimed chef and Eleven Madison Park owner Daniel Humm, who had overseen the hotel’s Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning NoMad restaurant before breaking in 2020 with its then-owner, Sydell Group.
Earlier this summer, the NoMad’s former location, the historic Johnston Building, became home to the Ned NoMad, a hotel and private members’ club from the owners of the Soho House club group. This is the second location for the Ned concept, which originated in London in 2017.
While several of the hotel’s spaces will be exclusively for the Ned’s members—Ned’s Club Upstairs and the Dining Room, for instance—two restaurants will be open to the public and hotel guests, both overseen by Ned NoMad executive chef Brian Vandergast, food and beverage director Vittorio Viotti and head of bars Chris Moore, formerly of New York mainstay Dante.
“What excites us most about opening the Ned NoMad was transforming this building with rich history in all aspects, into our version of classic hospitality that feels very reminiscent of the Ned London, yet deeply and clearly rooted in New York,” Moore told Wine Spectator via email.
Northern Italian restaurant Cecconi’s will serve guests on the hotel’s first floor. This is the latest Cecconi’s location and the first in Manhattan, joining sibling restaurants in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Istanbul, Miami Beach, Mumbai and West Hollywood, as well as three in London, including a location at the Ned. (Cecconi’s has been a Soho House property since 2004.) Diners can expect dishes such as beef tartare with black truffle, chicken paillard with cherry tomatoes, filet mignon, wood-fired pizzas, diverse pastas and other Italian classics.
Alongside the menu is a growing, Italy-focused list of about 77 wines, overseen by Viotti. This includes Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo, Barbaresco, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and more. Picks from France, California and other regions bring additional diversity, including white Burgundy, Champagne, Sonoma Chardonnay and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. “We tried to curate a selection that will appeal to both the person trying to explore wine a bit more and learn, as well as the seasoned expert,” Moore explained. A 1,000-label, hotel-wide reserve wine list, largely focused on Burgundy, will premier later this year.
The Cecconi’s dining room is inspired by traditional Italian trattorias, with a terrazzo-mosaic floor, velvet banquettes and a polished wood bar. On its walls hang several pieces of contemporary art, part of a massive collection exhibited throughout the hotel.
The Ned NoMad will also soon be opening Little Ned, a restaurant exclusively for club members and hotel guests. (Club members will be able to access the restaurant’s mezzanine with Empire State Building views). Set in a 1920s-inspired dining room, Little Ned offers a smaller menu of traditional bar and club dishes, such as hamburgers, steak tartare and caviar.
The Ned is set to keep globetrotting. The Ned Doha launches in Qatar in late 2022, and another New York location, the Ned Exchange, is opening at the American Stock Exchange Building in 2024.—C.D.
A visit to the Pacific Northwest often comes with overcast weather, which can disappoint some, but locals embrace and cherish the moody climate. So has Ōkta, a new restaurant located within the Tributary Hotel in the Willamette Valley town of McMinnville. The boutique hotel, owned by Katie Jackson and Shaun Kajiwara of Jackson Family Wines, opened earlier this summer, and Ōkta debuted on July 13.
The restaurant takes its name from a meteorological measurement for cloud coverage, and the intimate dining room, which holds just 26 guests, evokes Oregon’s natural ambiance, with grays and greens, natural oak and stone. The nine tables encircle a massive basalt rock, a token of the Missoula floods, which flung boulders and cliff faces down through the Willamette Valley, sculpting the landscape and enriching the soils.
“We’re taking a lot of elements from the Pacific Northwest and trying to elicit that feel in the dining room,” said general manager Christine Langelier. Beneath the dining room is a cellar and lounge, which showcases rich, dark tones with natural leather and terracotta.
In the open kitchen with a large wood-burning hearth, chef Matthew Lightner, formerly at Atera in New York City, crafts ambitious, ever-changing tasting menus from the local bounty. The hearth is utilized throughout the courses, whether for a trace of smoke or a full char. A recent dish of caviar served with Ozette potatoes and orach (purple spinach) grown at Ōkta’s farm is a quintessential example of Lightner’s deft hand with using the hearth and playing with different textures, tastes and smells. Laminated brioche and barbecued honey accompany the dish, and the orach is slightly wilted from a kiss of the hearth’s flame.
“Chef is homing in on micro seasons in the valley,” explained Langelier, noting that some produce is only at its peak for a few days or weeks. The Ōkta farm will grow a significant portion of the restaurant’s produce, while other local purveyors, from fishermen to berry farms, will help tell the story of the region and its terroirs through food.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the tasting menu is $165 for 8 to 12 dishes, while the weekend offering is $260 for 18-plus dishes. Wine pairings start at $160. Beverage director Ron Acierto is enthusiastic about opening diners’ eyes to the diversity and breadth of Oregon wine. The cellar currently holds approximately 3,500 bottles from 250 wineries, with nearly half of the offerings from Oregon producers. Acierto places a hyper-focus on rare collections from Oregon pioneers such as Eyrie and Adelsheim, including less frequently grown varieties such as Gamay and Riesling. Acierto hopes to grow the list to between 4,000 and 5,000 bottles. There will also be a full bar, copious non-alcoholic offerings, cider and a number of sakes.—A.R.
Those who know Cheryl Wakerhauser, the Champagne fanatic, pastry whiz and author behind Portland’s exemplary Pix Pâtisserie and Bar Vivant, knew that there was an expiration date for the pastry shop and wine bar. That day is arriving, precisely 10 years to the day since opening. Pix and Bar Vivant will close its doors on Aug 22.
“The restaurant industry is unpredictable and a lot of work. You think when you do something for a while, it gets easier, but it doesn’t; it just changes with new and different problems,” said Wakerhauser, admitting that when she moved into Pix’s East Burnside location in 2012, she had already attempted to sell the business once. “I said, ‘If I’m going to put all this time and work in, then I’m only going to do it for 10 years.’”
Wakerhauser has dazzled Portland since 2001, selling her delectable French pastries at Portland’s Farmer’s Market before opening her first Pix location in Southeast Portland. When she moved to the current location, she added a tapas and wine bar, dubbed Bar Vivant, which offered a remarkable 1,700 wine selections, roughly half of them Champagne, as well as more than 150 Sherries. That impressive wine list earned her a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence every year since 2013.
Wakerhauser always aimed to make wine more fun and accessible. The restaurant was known for its events and parties, including Flamenco Fridays, Thursday night movies at dusk, Bastille Day fêtes and the Bubbly Spectacular, where sparkling wine flowed and sabering lessons were offered.
“It is satisfying to see a full patio and people enjoying themselves, but I’m tired. I opened at the age of 25. It’s time to do something else,” said Wakerhauser. A French pastry cooking school may be in the works, though Wakerhauser wants to take some time off to travel first. “I’ve seen a lot of culinary graduates that maybe didn’t learn as much as they should have,” she explained, adding that she’d like to offer personalized, one-on-one learning and perhaps some classes devoted to Sherry and Champagne. “I taught many people to saber,” she laughed.
Those craving creations from Pix can special order larger cakes for prearranged pick-ups and visit the location for grab-and-go items from the Pix-O-Matic vending machines, which Wakerhauser developed during the pandemic. She said her kitchen staff will fulfill orders and stock the machines for at least the next year to see how it goes. However, she’s quick to point out that she can’t sell wine from a vending machine.—A.R.