Posts Tagged With: Nishi

Nishi is Now Italian, But Still Momofuku

I pretty much declared it my new favorite Italian before my first visit to the new and improved La Cucina Fukina.  Improved?  It was more like wishing things stayed the same as much as possible.  It wasnt the first time I was disappointed to learn about a restaurant I really like turning strictly “Italian” overnight (Caicos Cafe in my adopted home of Turks and Caicos).  Turns out however, fears overblown again, but this time I expected it to be.

Momofuku Nishi seem to have an identity problem, but not so much a creativity problem.  When I talk about Momofuku during my tours, I often stumble upon the “What kind of cuisine is it” question.  “Its Momofuku cuisine” I often say.  A bunch of talented guys and gals in a lab making magic.  Asian influenced magic.  We often default stuff like this to “New American”.

As long as its still Momofuku and Joshua Pinski at the helm, Nishi can go Polish, Norwegian, or Ethiopian as far as I care and still deliver.  If not for the surprising announcement, I wouldnt even know there was a label change after my recent meals.  Nishi has been executing nifty pastas and crudos since they opened pretty much.  The identity flak mostly came from aging critics who didnt care for the space nor the noise.  A valid complaint, met with death ears by many once they tried those luscious spare ribs or the sick Capellini a la Fideos which is going through its third incarnation.Nishi Radish Bagna Cauda

The big change that meant closing Nishi for a few days was to the space.  No more community tables, and the chairs now got your back.  Its more comfortable now, which can be perceived as a little fancier as some pointed out on Yelp.  Another big change is the introduction of a Pasta tasting menu.  I’m not normally in favor of this kind of carb overload, but by the look of it, and having eaten some of this, it could be the new pasta tasting menu to beat in NYC.

And then there’s the Lobster Fra Diavolo.  Coincidentally, another thing in common with that Italian counterpart in TCI I mentioned earlier.  Here its a mammoth plate loaded with garlic, chili and XO infused spaghettoni, with the emphasis on the chili making it more Asian than Italian.  On top are chunks of 1.5 lb flash fried lobster coated with salt and pepper, cracked and ready to easily fish out that wonderful meat.  Its a $62 triumph!  One of the best things I’ve eaten all year

In the two recent visits I’ve enjoyed the walnut Bagna Cauda both times.  Once for lunch with radish, and for dinner with red endive.  This Piedmontese classic sauce is the perfect counter to the sharpness of Endives.  In Piedmont they use it as a dip for vegetables but I prefer it on top.  And the fact that the Striped Bass Carpaccio topped with thin slices of castelvetrano olives wasnt particularly memorable serves as a true testament to the rest of the lineup, because we didnt find anything particularly wrong with it.  The infamous Bucatini ceci e pepe is still on the menu.  And while I do recommend it, I’m not sure it cracks my top 3 pastas here.  The saucy, finger licking awesome BBQ Pork Ribs however can crack top 3 ribs in the city

The fine Lumache with spicy beef and mint is now part of the pasta tasting menu.  At lunch time its available in the form of Pappardelle.  And I presume those Capellini a la Fideos is still that same toasty, apple cider infused goodness.  The only thing missing from the menu is that sick Skate with brown butter I had last year.  More goodness on the dessert column.  Olive oil cake with candied fennel greatly enhanced by a zesty orange sauce, while people around us going gaga over the the Apple tart.

Ladies and gents, I’m giving out my first 4 Z’s.  Its essentially the equivalent of giving my virginity to that special someone at my age.  Big Mazal Tov to the Nishi family.  I expect to get invited to the party and see those silly Zagat Rated stickers on the window replaced with this Z rating in no time.

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Nishi
232 Eighth Avenue (22nd), Chelsea
Rating: Four Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Everything!

 

Nishi Scallops

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Categories: Chelsea, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why Nishi is the Best of 2016

nishi-jajangmyeonRecent update from the main Nishi post

When you finish the year with three meals in 9 days at the same place, it becomes quite apparent. I seriously need to learn how to cook  Nishi is my favorite newcomer of 2016 and I cant get enough of it.  One can very easily dismiss this place when Googling it and facing the cranky initial reviews, and that would be a grave mistake.  Grave I tell ya!  There’s a good place for food critics in our society, but they are often coerced to review too early, especially when faced with the buzz of a Momofuku.  Buzz and brand lead to certain expectations.  If Nishi opened last month with the current menu, and owned by a no-name, it would have gotten some major accolades right now.

So I’ve now tried all the pastas on the menu.  Love them all except the Chili Squid.  I think I prefer XO (spicy seafood sauce) on meat dishes, rather than seafood.  The Butter Noodle is still a revelation.  The Spicy Beef is a delicious combination of pasta shells, beef, mint, fried shallots, with a nice kick.  Love the Jajangmyeon with the biggest fried egg you will ever see covering the entire plate, and more joy to the spicy lovers.  But my favorite is still probably the Toasted Noodles (formerly Clams Grand Lisboa).  Eating this is like listening to an entire Ariana Grande song by accident in the car.  Lost in the moment, which can be dangerous when wife is giving you important weekend instructions.  I think I have to drive someone to the airport, but I’m not entirely sure who and which airport.

I will update the bottom line with my favorite dishes which is getting too long, but it will include the delicate Mackerel Tataki, and the BBQ Pork Rib with sweet and sour sauce which is a spare ribs game changer.  The Ko-esque Roast Pork is still quite good, but the best thing on the large section right now may be the fish.  A very shareable Skate Wing with bits of toasty Cauliflower, topped with this beautiful buttery light gravy.  Freakishly good stuff!

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Nishi – La Cucina Fukina

nishi-jajangmyeonJanuary 9, 2017 Update:

When you finish the year with three meals in 9 days at the same place, it becomes quite apparent. I seriously need to learn how to cook  Nishi is my favorite newcomer of 2016 and I cant get enough of it.  One can very easily dismiss this place when Googling it and facing the cranky initial reviews, and that would be a grave mistake.  Grave I tell ya!  There’s a good place for food critics in our society, but they are often coerced to review too early, especially when faced with the buzz of a Momofuku.  Buzz and brand lead to certain expectations.  If Nishi opened last month with the current menu, and owned by a no-name, it would have gotten some major accolades right now.

So I’ve now tried all the pastas on the menu.  Love them all except the Chili Squid.  I think I prefer XO (spicy seafood sauce) on meat dishes, rather than seafood.  The Butter Noodle is still a revelation.  The Spicy Beef is a delicious combination of pasta shells, beef, mint, fried shallots, with a nice kick.  Love the Jajangmyeon with the biggest fried egg you will ever see covering the entire plate, and more joy to the spicy lovers.  But my favorite is still probably the Toasted Noodles (formerly Clams Grand Lisboa).  Eating this is like listening to an entire Ariana Grande song by accident in the car.  Lost in the moment, which can be dangerous when wife is giving you important weekend instructions.  I think I have to drive someone to the airport, but I’m not entirely sure who and which airport.

I will update the bottom line with my favorite dishes which is getting too long, but it will include the delicate Mackerel Tataki, and the BBQ Pork Rib with sweet and sour sauce which is a spare ribs game changer.  The Ko-esque Roast Pork is still quite good, but the best thing on the large section right now may be the fish.  A very shareable Skate Wing with bits of toasty Cauliflower, topped with this beautiful buttery light gravy.  Freakishly good stuff!

June 19, 2016 Update:

Happy Father’s Day to all the foodie dads out there!!

Nishi is quickly becoming my favorite Momofuku in the city.  Wait a minute… this just in… it just did.  See how quick it was?  I will most likely replace Ma Peche with Nishi on the next Z-List update.  Other than the Habanero, I’m simply running out of reasons to schlep there.  Every thing that I like are taken out of the menu, starting with the rice cakes w/pork, and ending with chef’s Paul’s sensational jerk wings.

There’s somewhat of an identity crisis I feel with Nishi.  Nothing outrageous, but more like “am I an Ox or a cow?” type of an identity.  They started with a No Tipping policy which got axed recently (New Yorkers may not be ready for it quite yet).  The much buzzed Ceci e Pepe is now Butter Noodle as they may be trying to get away from the Cucina Fukina Italiano tag.  Nishi Scallops

But what remains constant is all the goodness that comes out of that kitchen courtesy of Josh Pinsky, the man behind the best meal I ever had (bearded dude in one of the pics).  A very Ko-like Diver Scallops come floating on a citrusy Peruvian inspired Tiger’s Milk and topped with Shio Kombu to give the scallops a nice crunch and flavor.  If you going to serve scallops raw, this is the way to do it (I’m, looking at you Grand Banks).

Another great discovery is the Clams Grand Lisboa, one of the few staples on the menu from day one.  The clams are dressed with Oregano based sauce, sitting on top fried Chow Mein noodles and cabbage.  Calling this Cho Mein almost sounds like an insult to this dish.  Its cooked with apple sauce that give it this sweet richness, like no Chow Mein you’ve had before.  A newish Roast Pork with asparagus that is quite similar to what I’ve had in Ko is another winner.  I was so excited to get reunited with this dish, that I forgot to take a picture on time.  Go!     nishi-toasted-noodles-clams

February 3rd. 2016 Post:

Yesterday I blew the dust off of Fred Plotkin’s Italy For the Gourmet Traveler to brush up on my Sicily food scene.  The book was published in 1996 and is still a good resource for everything Italy foodstuff, since not much really ever change there.  In Venice, people continue to eat canal seafood.  In Piedmont they will continue to munch on Vitello Tonnato and Carne Cruda.  And in Rome they will continue honoring the Cucina Povera (simple food of the poor) for what seems like indefinitely.  You dont come to Bologna and ask what people are eating these days.  Its the same cuisine they’ve been enjoying for centuries.  New York City on the other hand is a totally different beast.  A Plotkin book on NYC would get stale after about a year.  Bagel, pastrami, egg cream, hot dog, steak…  those seeking what New York is known for are missing out in a big way.  New York is known for everything and nothing.  The only constant here is change, and the new Italianish Momofuku Nishi is perhaps the poster child of that NYC ever changing dining scene right now.

The answer to what is the hottest restaurant in NYC right now has never been clearer.  Franklin Barbecue, Noma, a psychic in New Orleans, a call girl in Stuttgart…  Just some of the things that come mind that are more difficult to snatch than a table at Nishi at the moment.  Those lucky enough to make it, got the bragging rights of a Taylor Swift posse member.  The other day they announced that they now accept reservations two weeks out.  That will improve your chance of getting a table by roughly .04%.

But as long as there’s no physical harm involved, I’m game with this modern “text me when my table is ready” wait.  Arrived at 5:45 on a Saturday, 15 mins after they opened, with a disturbing looking line around the block.  But things move fast, as after only 20 minutes I was having the much anticipated meeting with the hostess.  “Next available table is… looking like… ooh, I can sit you on Wednesday, 10:30” was going through my mind as I was expecting the worst (ok, slight exaggeration).  But instead I got “Two and half hours”.  No biggie, as I was planning to take the opportunity to show our visitors (from Staten Island!) Chelsea Market.  I get a text an hour and 45 minutes later, and off we go

Stylish wooden communal tables, extremely loud, supportless seats unless you count the occasional waiter bumping behind.  Essentially a typical NY establishment these days.  No complaints from me as long as the inventive menu delivers (spoiler alert:  It does).  Although the Asian Italian mashup isnt necessarily new to NYC (Piora, All’onda), Momofuku almost makes it look like brand new.

Ceci e Pepe – The early reports signature is what I call a grower.  A play on the Roman Cacio e Pepe but instead of Pecorino, it’s swirled with chickpea hozon which Ssam bar has been toying with for a while now.  The result is a subtle sweeter version.  While I couldnt quite make up my mind if I prefer this over the classic, by the time I finished I found myself “Scarpettaing” the plate with my middle finger.

Nishi Ceci e peppe

Beef Crudo – One of the more complex, and beautiful raw beef dishes out there.  Topped with watermelon radishes (think daikan), ponzu, dashi and scallions.  All combined produces a very nice bite.  And for only $48 extra you can get a decent shaving of winter Black Truffles on top,  Its about $24-30 more than I’m willing to pay for Black, and $10 more than I’m willing to pay for white in the fall.

Nishi Beef Carpaccio

Chicken and Dumplings – Another great dish.  A riff on the Korean Sujebi, with Chicken, bread dumplings and plenty of delicious shiitake along with an excellent rich broth.  Mrs Ziggy especially appreciates a good soup and this was her favorite dish

Nishi Chicken Dumplings

Spicy Beef Sichuan – Perhaps the top pasta of the night.  This is where they take a classic Italian dish like Pappardelle with meat ragu, and applying bold Sichuan flavors like Yacai (preserved mustard greens), fermented chili paste and tofu.  Like Pappardelle with ragu, and Dan Dan noodles gave birth to a baby named Roger.

Nishi Spicy Sichuan

Chitarra with Squid – The only miss of the night.  Should have gone with the clams Grand Lisboa.  This was sort of one note, with fishy XO sauce that doesnt quite go well with this pasta for me (emphasis on “for me”.  How dare I question the king).  And then there’s the squid that sort of gets lost in the shuffle.  I like the use of XO in heavier pastas like the Agnolotti in All’onda.  Add the odd price of $36 (why?), and its an easy skip IMO.

Nishi Chitarra

Leg of lamb – Truly exceptional piece of meat.  Arrives looking nothing like the legs you know and love.  So tender, so delicious, with white beans and sauce that would disappear much quicker if there was bread (no bread here and not really necessary.  I’m just being a little melodramatic)

Nishi lamb

Finished with the famous Korean dessert… Pistachio Bundt Cake.  Or is it Italian?  Either way, it was a proper finisher, pictured below with my friend Robert still pursuing his dream of becoming a hand model.  Some wine, some Limoncello slushies (about a drink each) added up to $320 for 4 (Note we ordered 2 of the Cecis as one is not enough for 4).  No tipping allowed.

Momofuku Nishi
232 Eighth Avenue (22/21), Chelsea
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Butter Noodle, Mackerel Tataki, Beef Crudo, Spicy Beef, Jajangmyeon, Roast Pork, Toasted Noodles, BBQ Ribs, Skate Wing, Roast Pork, Pistachio Bundt Cake

Nishi Bundt Cake

Momofuku_Nishi

Gabriele Stabile

 

Categories: Chelsea, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Top NYC Pastas

Lincoln StrozzapretiLast update: August 23, 2016

Just a quick note that some of these pastas are seasonal and arent on the menu the entire year, but worth mentioning anyway

Trenette Al Pesto Trapanese at Mercato.

From the port of Genoa sailors brought Trenette al Pesto to Trapani, Sicily where the dish was perfected even further with the addition of almonds.  Homemade chewy dried Trenette cooked to al dente perfection, with almonds, garlic, tomato and basil.  Its fresh, simple, and quite tasty.  I havent seen this dish anywhere else, and at $12, I feel like I negotiated something at the shuk with a simple stare

Mercato Trenette

Fusilli with Octopus and Bone Marrow at Marea

One of two NYC classics on the list, and perhaps the most celebrated pasta in NYC America.  Articles, blog posts, children books (Goodnight Fusilli with Octopus!) have been written about this clasic.  The twisted homemade Fusilli is tossed with the most addictive fresh red sauce you will ever taste, with Sangiovese braised octopus, and bone marrow being the culprits.  A no brainer on this list

Marea Fusilli

Strozzapreti Con Aragosta at Lincoln (top)

One of the best pastas I ever had is on, off, on in the seasonal Lincoln menu.  Calling it simply Strozzapreti with lobster should be punishable by Italian law.  The beautiful Strozzapreti, which most likely were invented when someone envisioned a pasta shape while witnessing a priest being strangled to death (Strozzapreti means priest chokers) are made with lobster coral hence giving them the orange look.  They are mixed with not only sweet chunks of lobster but also lobster and scallop sausages (my favorite part) which is like eating the most glorious chicken skin you can imagine.  The sauce is zesty, light, and the perfect compliment to this delicate dish.  A classic in the making.  Not always on the menu, and preparation may differ based on season.

Black Spaghetti at Babbo

A menu staple at a NYC staple.  How can one go wrong.  I’ve seen Babbo post a picture of this dish on Twitter one day, and the rest as they say, is history.  Squid ink Spaghetti, Rock Shrimp, Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chilies.  Its another good example of a fairly dry pasta, that is packed with wonderful flavor and texture.  The Spaghetti has that wonderful sweet inky richness, with that crunchy salami, shrimp, and occasional garlic, like the gift that keeps on giving.  This is one of those dishes that makes you Google recipes when you get home.  Until your mind get intercepted by more Kardashian news.  Apparently Kim already lost 80% of her baby fat.

Babbo Black Spaghetti

Malfadini at Lilia

Choosing a favorite pasta at Lilia is like choosing your favorite current presidential candidate.  But for opposite reasons.  The ‘imperfect’ conveyor belt-like Malfadini is essentially Cacio e Pepe on crack.  Take your average Cacio e Pepe, change the pasta to something with more texture, add sharper cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano, and pink peppercorns, and you essentially got Cacio e Perfect

Lilia Malfadini

Agnolotti del Plin at Pasquale Jones

I dont care if this wintery delicatessen is not on the menu as of this writing.  You should be eating pastas here regardless.  They do have a lovely sounding Tajarin with summer truffles which just adds to the impression that Tim Caspare just knows how to handle those Piedmontese classics.  This is the only del Plin in NYC that stays true to its origin, and would make any Piedmont nonna blush.  Buttery, pillowy, explosive little dumplings, packed with Guinea hen, sage and Pancetta.  PANCETTA!

Pasquale Jones Agnolotti

Uni Mushroom Ramen at Jun-men Ramen

Calling this one Ramen is like calling Maialino’s Cacio e Pepe, Ramen.  Its essentially a nicely crafted, rich, and gorgeous looking pasta.  Mushrooms, salty Pancetta, Porcini butter, truffle oil, noodles, and Uni that gets better and better in quality.  I keep returning to Jun-men for this.

Uni Jun-Men Ramen

Jun-men

Pasta with Crab at Ulivo

If you are scoring at home, or if you are alone (stupid old Baseball joke) we have more than 10 pastas this time.  Which is why I had to remove the “10” from the title.  And while you are alone, you should try this messy beauty by Mercato’s baby sister, otherwise you will find yourself alone in a hurry.  The sauce featuring spicy slow braised stone crab is worth the price alone.  Add an entire meaty stone crab to play with, and its party time.  No one that I know, makes this.

Ulivo Crab Pasta

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil at Scarpetta

Simple isnt it?  Well, why dont you try it, and invite me for a tasting.  Recipes are all over the internet.  Chances are unless you are Scott Conant reading this (sup man) you will not succeed in matching the flavors of this classic.  Its fresh, bright, and utilizes the highest quality raw material.  Scarpetta’s signature dish and the most celebrated Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Basil this side of wherever they make the best Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil.  Pure awesomeness on every bite.  The smell alone will cause shaky hands, and blurry pictures.  See?

Scarpetta - Spaghetti

Clams Grand Lisboa at Nishi

While polishing up on their policies, and any identity issues, one thing remains constant at Nishi.  Executive chef, Joshua Pinsky dishing out some of the most unique pastas in NYC.  The clams are dressed with Oregano based sauce, sitting on top fried Chow Mein noodles and cabbage.  Calling this Cho Mein almost sounds like an insult to this dish.  Its cooked with apple sauce which gives it this sweet deliciousness you wont find anywhere.  This is David Chang’s favorite dish here and I can see why

Nishi Grand Lisboa Clams

Agnolotti at All’onda

As of this latest update, not on the menu, but All’onda continues to make killa pastas.  This is a tricky one since its not even the most popular pasta at All’onda (that honor goes to the Bucatini or Garganelli), nor the second or third most popular actually.  But in this town, its more unique and interesting to me than the others.  Not your average Agnolotti, nor “Plin”.  They are Mortadella filled with pistachios, and a crazy tasting homemade XO sauce made with dried shrimp, scallops and soppressata.  XO is a sauce that Cognac laden Hong Kong chefs invented in the 80’s, except they forgot to add the key ingredient, Cognac.  This version of the sauce adds a funky aroma, and plenty of depth to otherwise just fine Agnolotti

All'onda Agnolotti

Tonnarelli a Cacio e Pepe at Maialino

Open the drawer in the kitchen where you keep the pens, ribbons and paper clips (just in case that paper clip emergency comes), take a pen and write the ingredients for Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe… Tonnarelli, Cacio, Pepe!  The Romans like to keep it simple (Carbonara, Gricia).  And when I was in Rome, in a way I was disappointed that I wasnt exactly blown away by all the wonderful Carbonaras and Cacio e Pepes because Maialino quite frankly spoiled it for me.  If you’ve never had this dish before perhaps because “pasta with cheese and pepper” doesnt sound very enticing, now is a good time to have it.

Maialino - Cacio e pepe

Stracci at Osteria Morini

From the one who knocks I bring to you the one dish that you will not find in Emilia Romagna out of that splendid ER inspired menu.  Wonderfully chewy wide ribbon pasta inherits the juices of the succulent braised mushrooms.  I would be happy with just the mushrooms.  It was love at first Stracci at one of my favorite Italians in town

Osteria Morini Stracci

Pasta with White Truffles At ??

Ok for this one you need to do a little bi of homework.  Its white truffle season at the (original) time of this writing and you can enjoy your Tagliatelle, risotto, scrambled eggs, pizza, car keys or anything else you desire with White Truffles from Alba, Tuscany or Umbria.  I know Lincoln, Maialino, Marta have it currently and last year The NoMad (below) offered it at cost.  Its a feast for all senses, especially the nose.  Me?  I’m not touching the stuff this season in this town, as I’m heading to the source, Alba white Truffle festival.  Buon Appetito!  Ciao, Ziggy

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