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Nudel Opens in Lenox With Seasonally Inspired Food

Rural Intelligence Food Section Image

Diners get to watch Bjorn Somlo cook in the open kitchen at Nudel in Lenox.

Remember when open kitchens were all the rage in restaurants? You don’t see many of them anymore, because professional kitchens are rarely pretty places, and chefs are under enough pressure without having to smile at customers who pepper them with questions and special requests while they cook. So the fact that you can sit on a stool at the bar at Nudel restaurant, which opened last week in Lenox, and watch chef/owner Bjorn Somlo prepare your fresh, delicious lunch is quite remarkable.

Somlo has strong opinions and a gentle disposition. There is nowhere for him to hide at Nudel, but the 29-year-old chef doesn’t mind because he belongs to a generation that believes in transparency. He is not calling Nudel a locavore restaurant even though he relies on local resources as much as he can. “This is a restaurant that showcases seasonal and regional foods—it’s seasonally-inspired food,” he says, “and if the food is not regional then it has to be highly ethical.”

Rural Intelligence FoodHe also wants the stylish, streamlined restaurant to be highly affordable, and he is proud that his grilled cheese sandwich (on Berkshire Mountain Bakery sourdough) and his penne with roasted tomatoes, Parmesan and Extra Virgin Olive Oil are both $6. “People have been ecstatic about the penne!” he says.  The emphasis on “nudels”—a German word he found during a Wikipedia search—is quite practical. “It’s a way of keeping prices down,” he says, explaining that pastas can be paired with fresh vegetables in summer and hearty ragus in winter.  The current menu has four other “nudel” dishes ($11 each) such as orecchiette with pancetta, oregano, ricotta and braised kale; and saffron Israeli couscous, calamari, fennel, orange and olive oil.  “We’re going to do a lot of grains as well as pastas,” he says.

Rural Intelligence FoodSomlo, who began his restaurant career as a dishwasher at Baba Louie’s when he was sixteen, has cooked at John Andrews and the late lamented Verdura,  and he strives for keeping flavors pure and distinct. A special salad of whole baby beets was garnished with only olive oil, pumpkin seeds and sea salt. “Anywhere else they would put it on a bed of greens,” he says. A special of marinatad baby carrots (left) has currants, grapefruit, baby bitter greens and olive oil. His knockout chicken liver pâté is served on toast with bacon and balsamic onions. His keep it simple philosophy extends to his suppliers. “Right now, almost everything fresh either comes from Laura Meister at Farm Girl Farm or Overmeade Gardens,” he says.

Having a restaurant with just 28 seats, he’s confident that he can keep his eye on everything that comes out of his kitchen, where he is being assisted for the moment by David Wurth, the founding chef at Local 111. “We’re hoping to start dinner this weekend, but the menu will change every night,” he says. Somlo knows all of Lenox will be literally watching him—besides the eight stools at the bar (which he and his father fashioned out of reclaimed church pew) the kitchen has a big plate glass window where passersby can watch him cook. “We’re going to keep it very clean,” he vows. “I want this to be a very nice place to eat.”
Rural Intelligence Food
Nudel
37 Church Street, Lenox, MA; 413.551.7183

Lunch: Monday - Saturday 11:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Dinner: Friday & Saturday 5 - 9:30 p.m.

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 09/02/09 at 01:04 PM • Permalink