[all photos by Conor Rose]
A new fine dining destination has landed in NoMad, and Hortus is not to be missed. Run by Suhum Jang (General Manager/Partner, formerly of Per Se and Daniel) and Seungjoon Choi (Executive Chef, formerly of Blanca and Marea), Hortus embodies a perspective on dining that is both elegant and fresh, both in presentation and taste – truly a place to bring someone to impress. Handsomely decorated, the space is sprawling by New York standards and carries a garden theme throughout the restaurant, with two floors featuring a bar area with an open kitchen, an upstairs lounge area, a main dining room, and an outdoor patio.
Though described by others (mostly those on Yelp) as Asian fusion, the menu does not force itself into putting an Asian twist into every single menu item, and manages to adventure into other cuisines without placing itself in a box. Dishes are meant to be shared here – the menu opens with a raw bar and charcuterie offering, then rolls out to tapas-style plates, then larger plates. The starter dishes set the tone with a bang – we declared the Ssamjang Hummus as our favorite dish before we had even tried any of the others. Savory, a tiny bit sweet, with a hint of miso and topped with crunchy roasted chickpeas, it was served with beautiful presentation of vegetables arranged like brilliant jewels on ice – but the hummus stood on its own even when eating it straight out of the bowl with a spoon. Hortus, if you jar and sell these, we’ll be your first hummus customer. Since you can never go wrong with melted cheese, we also opted for the Oaxaca Cheese, a gooey, bubbling mixture served in a cast-iron skillet and embedded with strips of smoky chorizo, poblano peppers, and oregano, served with bacon tortillas (which also paired well with the hummus if you’re looking for more excuses for hummus vehicles).
The sharing plates are larger and consist chicken, beef, pork or seafood. Depending on how many are dining with you, you may want to get a few. The sharing plate of chicken is reminiscent of a Korean chicken stew, with grilled, tender, spicy chicken on the bone, served with smoky cabbage and shishito peppers – plenty for two to share, and paired well with the additional sides of housemade and seasonal kimchi and pickled vegetables.
As the sole dessert option, a delicate bowl of rice pudding ended the meal, topped with mango and drizzled with condensed milk, a balance of tart and sweet flavors. If you’re so inclined, the bar menu leans heavily on wine, sake, and Asian beer. Also offered are also two carefully crafted soju based cocktails to offer – the H, with grapefruit tonic and orange segments, and the 5th Ave, with tonic, thyme, and lime – both simple, light, and refreshing on the hot, sticky late summer evening.
Though the menu can be on the pricey side for regular dining, Hortus is a safe bet for a special occasion, but you could easily make your visit reasonably affordable with a drink and a plate or few of the starter plates at the bar. Either way, you’d be hard-pressed to find an excuse to pass up a reason to stop by.
You can visit Hortus at 271 5th Avenue in Manhattan. This meal was provided by Hortus, however all opinions are our own.