Noble American Cookery Review: Garden Variety

Is a fresh-and-local menu enough to put Noble on the map?

The restaurant’s full name is “Noble American Cookery,” but Cameron has trouble defining those terms. According to him, it has something to do with the Great American Melting Pot, or his and his partners’ German-Irish-English-Scottish heritage. He describes his food as “rustic contemporary.” That sounds spiffy, but it doesn’t clear up the question raised by the restaurant’s name: What is American cookery?

Ultimately, like many other chefs, Cameron wants his food to be modern but not gimmicky; he wants it to appeal to today’s tastes but have strong roots in traditional cooking methods, like roasting and braising; and he wants it to be based on ethically sourced ingredients. These are “noble” goals, but they are shared by a lot of the restaurant community. Today, restaurants must go beyond the hackneyed fresh-local-sustainable mandates. Adhering to these established maxims is no longer enough to give a restaurant an identity.

Noble would be a triumph if it were another neighborhood BYOB. Even its most overplayed dishes (beet and goat-cheese salad, duck confit) taste good. But the restaurant obviously has bigger ambitions, and its diners, bigger expectations. Cameron is, after all, a recent James Beard contender. With a better-defined sense of itself, a more creative menu and more consistent execution, Noble could rise to meet its chef’s résumé — and its name.