It was time again for my high school crew and I to reunite over a dinner table to catch up, lament, laugh and console. We were down one since a big move to the west coast but her spirit is eternally with us. This meal would be a departure from our norm and came with a disclaimer that it would be a completely vegetarian, sometimes vegan, meal. We did not balk perhaps because the chef is Michelin-starred and probably knows what he is doing.
I arrived to the newly opened Nix (named after a famous lawsuit Nix v Hedden to determine if a tomato was a fruit or a vegetable) a little late for our 7pm reservation, the crew had begun with wine and cocktails and a few little…little…appetizers. The remnants of the house hummus with zaatar, spiced eggplant with cilantro and house made cottage cheese with broccoli leaf pesto lay there for me to try with the last piece of their tandoor bread. All were very flavorful and worked well together.
My acquired hunger pangs now subsided; I finally got to take in the beautiful modern white gallery-like space. Whitewashed exposed brick walls and polished poured concrete floors accented with an artful lighting scheme, wood and live plants allow patrons to create their own experience at Nix and with their food. The large window to the kitchen, an art piece unto itself, gave both transparency and intrigue with plantation style louvers tilted thirty degrees downward allowing you to see only glimpses of the hearth of Nix.
While my friends were enjoying a glass or two of wine I was struggling with my libation choice. Should I choose one of their sweet and savory sodas like plum and five spice or mango and paprika or from their brief craft cocktails menu? I finally settled on the Honey Bee with gin, sake, Thai basil and clover honey. It was a petite cocktail that would require a couple to do some damage, alas very tasty.
Now that we were all settled with drinks and appetizers we began the discussion of what interested us on the menu. Chefs John Fraser and Nicolas Farias created a menu for vegetarians and vegans alike. You will find both in the ‘lighter’, salads and small plates, and the ‘bolder’, entrees and large plates, sections. We ordered from both!
Most of the ‘lighter’ items we ordered were good. The jicama salad with fresno chili and blood oranges had all of the right textures, especially the crispy fried shallots, we just needed more of it. The spinach and dandelion pie was four delicious little tartlets topped with sorrel, oil cured olives and feta (we could have had another order of that). Great crust! This is a must order.
We didn’t understand the steamed avocado salad with carrots and kale-pistachio chimichurri. The cookery muddied the flavor and there was no brightness to the dish.
The ‘bolder’ menu items came to the table with a bang! These dishes were coming for our tastebuds with no apologies…Let’s start with the cauliflower tempura and steamed buns with house pickles. Baaaaaaabyyy, YASSS! Perfectly battered and fried cauliflower florets swathed in a tangy peppery sauce, nestled into a steamed bun gives you some bao-realness!
If you love a good traditional cacio e pepe you need to stick your face into Nix’s shiitake “cacio e pepe” with salsify and heirloom polenta with a quickness. It’s umami goodness on fleek! Just need more in the bowl please. Bong!
We were split on the tofu skin pockets with butternut squash and tomatillo-pepita salsa. I thought it had great texture and was filling, but not as filling and decadent as the Yukon potato fry bread where the description simply says “highly decorated”…and it is…
BOOM! This thing is coming for your stomach with a vengeance! Hot, crisp, tender and topped with sour cream, cheese, broccoli, green onions and radish. This is a meal unto itself. Order it for the table so you won’t feel like a glutton.
We decided that we wouldn’t get dessert but SO glad that we ultimately did. Just two of their five offerings, but the right ones, starting with the server recommended Nun’s puffs with goat’s milk caramel dip.
Damn, damn, damn…these sons-a-bitches have a thin crispy outer shell covering an eggy, tender and light interior. The tart caramel is a boon! Gone too soon…#RIP
The other dessert paid homage to my obsession with pannacotta and Nix’s maple custard with huckleberries, walnuts and cream hit all of the right notes and I think (think) it was vegan too. Creamy, but not heavy, not too sweet. A great way to end the meal.
Until next time…