There’s a new kind of vegetarian restaurant in New York City, and frankly, it’s about time. First, we had Dirt Candy. Then, we got Avant Garden. Now, we have Nix. These are places where, instead of trying to convince you that a very sad piece of tempeh is “just as good as steak, trust me,” they take vegetables and do really, really good things with them. We’re all about it. Pete Wells is too. This week, he reviewed Nix, a new vegetarian restaurant from John Fraser who is responsible for the excellent vegetables at Narcissa and the famous tasting menu at Dovetail. He described the new place as being what you get when “you liberate vegetables from vegetarianism.” Because vegetables are good. And that’s why Nix is a happy, or as Wells puts it, sexy place.
Start with the tandoor bread, and get it with either the red pepper & walnut dip (“a wonderful take on muhammara”) or the avocado, mint, & curry dip (“fun because it looks like guacamole and isn’t”).
Then, move on to the section of the menu labeled “lighter.” Get the baby carrots en papillote with cracked bulgur and almonds, or the avocado a la plancha with tomato water and mozzarella, a dish Wells described as “entrancing.” The salad with Persian cucumbers is almost “too much” but stops before it gets quite there. Skip the ribbons of jicama.
From the “bolder” section of the menu, get the cauliflower tempura. “The fried cauliflower has been submerged in a sauce that tastes like spicy ketchup. Poppy seeds on top make a small but real contribution when one of these orange grenades of crunch and heat is stuffed, along with a pickle slice, into the soft, white half-moon of a steamed bun.” There are also “shiitake mushrooms sauced, very effectively, as if they were pasta cacio e pepe and spooned over creamy, rough-grained polenta,” and “a bowl of stir-fried brown rice that, once it’s stirred up with nori, chanterelles and a runny egg, reminds [him] of bibimbap.”
There were a few times Wells wished some of the vegetables could “relax.” “Artichokes shouldn’t have to compete with broccoli rabe, tomato sauce and ricotta. Puréed sweet potato gets the right sauce, a pumpkinseed mole, but the line of reasoning that led the kitchen to pack the purée into rubbery balloons of tofu skin should be re-examined.”
Dessert is excellent. You’ll need to order the roasted pineapple early on in the meal because it takes a while to cook, but it’s worth it. Also make sure to save room for the “the dark and tender chocolate cake that is wrapped, jelly-roll-style, around chocolate mousse.”
The decor is “low-key and simple,” and most of the bottles on the wine list are interesting and under $100. Servers, he described as being “poised, attentive, bright-eyed.”
Overall? Two stars.
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