A few weeks ago I traveled to the Berkshires to eat at a restaurant in Lenox, Massachusetts called Nudel. The Stockbridge, Great Barrington, Lenox and Lee area have A LOT of good restaurants. It’s nice because it’s a little over an hour drive from Hartford and is so far removed, like another world. Nudel was cool because it was way different than what everyone else is doing. Year to year you see all these restaurants competing and trying to best each other on certain plates. Everyone is doing heirloom vegetables when that’s in. Everyone was throwing watermelon in dishes where it wasn’t meant but for some reason it fit. Everyone is doing these common, well-received dishes that have a commonality through the regions but there was something a little different about Nudel. This was the first restaurant I ate at in a while that I almost didn’t want to dig my fork into the dish because it was that beautiful. That is not really like me, you can catch me on any given day downing poutine at Bear’s getting sauce all over my shirt, eating to eat and eating for flavor and to satisfy my hunger. Nudel brought me into a different frame of mind and I analyzed each dish a little more just because it was that good looking. The main mission of Nudel is “Seasonally Inspired.” The chef at Nudel is Bjorn Somlo. Here is a small excerpt taken straight from the Nudel Website that’s speaks of Bjorn’s history and the back-story on Nudel.
Nudel had a summer pre-fixe menu; you could order three, four or five courses. I choose the five course... two of them, shall we?
These were two perfect dishes to open the meal with, refreshing, served cold and light. Even though I am a meat eater at heart, I can appreciate smaller good-looking vegetable dishes like this. The textural differences in the green bean dish were impeccable. The crunch of the green bean, crispness of the potato and lightness of the sauce made for a dynamic flavor in such a small dish. The combination of savory and sweet in the beets was well executed and delicious. I could tell by these first two plates that the meal was off to a great start.
These two dishes were perfect, a food writers dream. They photographed so well mostly due to the perfect lighting in the restaurant and the fact that it was still light out when we dined. The shrimp were excellent even though there were only 3-4 pieces in the dish. That didn’t matter though; this was that good, bulbous, tasty rock shrimp. The corn with the cherry tomatoes really set this dish off. I can’t remember if that was mascarpone or crème fraiche but it mixed in well and made the dish a little creamier.
Now, I can safely say that I don’t mess with chicken liver, only because my only interactions with it were from southern restaurants or chicken shack places. There were two nice pieces on this dish. The first had a crisp hot wing feel to it and the second was a little mushy, yet still good. The ingredient that made this dish was the apricot puree and honey mustard. Two very different flavors clashing in a dish like this was perfect, I wanted more. I also need to say that this was the best looking dish out of the 10 I had.
More meat, I liked this. The haddock lay in a pool of pea puree. Its weird but I LOVE pea puree. The dish was sprinkled with pistachio and was seasoned with a little dill, totally perfect. This pork shoulder was perfect and it had a street corn feel to it. I don’t know if this was cotija or Chihuahua cheese but it was perfect. The actual piece of pork shoulder under it all was cooked to perfection and I may have downed it in one bite.
Next, two nice carby dishes came out to change it up. This risotto was different because I’ve never had risotto served over another sauce. Under the risotto was sort of lighter tomato sauce, almost the same color of a vodka sauce but this was made with tomato jam and Vermont butter. Cavatelli has become my favorite cut of pasta. This was a very earthy dish. The aged balsamic crumbles that topped this dish really made it stand out. I usually like cavatelli with a sausage of some sort but these ingredients stood out on their own.
I really love basil in dessert dishes. That is something that a pastry chef can easily over-do or fuck up. This panna cotta was the perfect size, and paired with an anise cookie and some cherries, you have a perfect dessert. Same went for the crumbled cornbread. There were blueberries and mascarpone in this dish but what made the contrast was the small streak of lime cream in the corner of the dish. Something so traditional as cream, berries and a bread, laced with a little bit of extremely tart lime is what I want in a dessert. Shake that shit up a little.
This was a great experience and excellent meal. Solid for the size of this small restaurant. I hereby give Nudel…
Next time you are in the area, check this place out, there are a lot of great restaurants in the Berkshires but if you are in Lenox, Nudel is the winner.
Tune in next Sunday when I review Coppa Enoteca, Boston Massachusetts!