After hearing that J.J. Johnson was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Restaurant Best New York City award, I was looking forward even more to sampling his quasi-African cuisine at Henry at the Life Hotel in NoMad. Pete Wells (NYTimes), credits J.J. Johnson with bringing the small restaurant back from the dead.
The chef’s pan-African cuisine (a blend of the flavors of Africa, the Caribbean and the American South) is evident as you taste each dish. We started with the shrimp and Portuguese sausage steamed dumplings in a curry sauce, garnished with a plantain chip ($16 for 4) and lamb kebabs ($18 for three) served skewered with housemade kimchi, za’atar seasoned yogurt and roti. We used that bread to sop up every drop of the perfectly seasoned sauce from the dumplings.
Soy-braised collard green, rice and peas accompanied the jerk-seasoned roasted chicken ($35). Be careful of the slivers of hot red peppers garnishing the dish! And, don’t miss the warm sweet potato salad with a light African peanut sauce, citrus section, red onion, watercress and pomegranate arils sprinkled with ricotta salata.
Having had dessert first at an event at Georgetown Cupcakes, we skipped dessert. I’ll have to go back to try that. This is one place I for sure will return. Worth the trip.