Intrepid Playfulness at Nudibranch | The New Yorker

Intrepid Playfulness at Nudibranch | The New Yorker

The compact East Village cafe Nudibranch is named for the comfortable-bodied gastropods, a classification of sea slugs, that Jeff Kim, a chef and co-founder, spied when diving off the coast of Indonesia. To Kim, a former Momofuku busser who achieved his co-founders at kitchens about New York, nudibranchs—of which there are much more than a few thousand species—slink alongside the ocean floor with the same pluck that meals institutions ought to harness when navigating the city’s brackish depths. “Sea slugs are vibrant and diverse and wonderful,” Kim explained. “That seemed symbolic when we started brainstorming about the variety of meals we required to develop.”

Nudibranchs can also be strange and are at times required to adapt in odd predicaments. When it comes to devising dishes for a submit-pandemic(ish) prix-fixe menu in a time when food stuff costs are high and buyer confidence is very low, the path can be perilous. That may well be why Kim and his companions supply as lots of as 5 selections in each individual of the menu’s a few sections. When questioned for suggestions, the phrase my waiter favored was “choose your individual adventure.” And fortune favors the daring. You may well be tempted to go with the hamachi or the scallop—both are plated with ample sculptural verve to evoke the restaurant’s namesake mollusk—but the frog leg is in which your voyage really should commence. I was briefly concerned that the legs, battered and fried to a golden crisp, would have the mundanity of a rooster cutlet. Luckily, the exterior crunch, aided by lemongrass-ginger paste and lime, heightened a journey to tenderness the morsels of meat had been both of those gentle and sublimely springy.

1 of the delights of Nudibranch is its intrepid playfulness. While the dishes are likely to be Asian-inflected (Kim and his partners are Asian American), Kim describes the menu’s influences as “crisscrossed New York.” Acquire the shrimp, which at 1st tastes like the Cantonese mainstay he tao xia (walnut shrimp). At Nudibranch, walnuts are swapped for jazzy gems of granola that get started off faintly sweet in advance of crackling into heat and funk, a counterbalance to the richness of the aioli-coated shrimp. Another winner is Nudibranch’s endeavor to build the “most cauliflowery of cauliflower dishes,” preparing the vegetable 3 ways—roasted, puréed, and pickled. The roasted cauliflower resembles dry-fried cauliflower, a Sichuan vintage, typically served in an iron wok about a chafing flame. The genius in this article is the substitution, for oversalted pork stomach in the standard recipe, of fat-gushing Chinese sausage augmented by Vietnamese fish sauce, the florets ripple with both tangy sweetness and earthy umami.

One dish that falls flat is the turkey neck, which originally thrilled me because of my predilection for Chinese chili-oil-slicked duck neck. Alas, the turkey neck, piled large with mole, crema, and sweet potato, was dry, stringy, and gamy. The night time I frequented with pals, 1 joked, “Do you imagine this is what nudibranch preferences like?” A different, who checked Google, uncovered that some of the mollusks could be edible when roasted or boiled, and read aloud nudibranch factoids, which include that their memorable colors and strange varieties occasionally enable them blend into their surroundings and other times do the precise reverse.

Prior to this could be reviewed more, dessert arrived. Of two options, neither of which is included with the prix fixe, go for the semifreddo: frozen coconut custard topped with a crumble of cranberry-and-black-pepper cookie. Kim advised me that he likes pairing pepper with fruit for the reason that it is a novel way of engineering a savory dessert, which would conventionally use salt. One diner voiced skepticism for the way that pinpricks of pepper riled up his taste buds instead than calming them, as he expected a dessert to do. His mate agreed her mouth was commencing to sense like it was dancing on tippy-toes. The verdict may possibly have contented a nudibranch: “I’m not sure if I like it, but I know I won’t neglect it.” (Prix-fixe meal $75.) ♦