By Jeanine Zelkas
Chef/owner Wayne Nish revamped his popular high-end townhouse restaurant, March, as well as its menu, with an updated contemporary twist. With a rotating display of modern art adorning the otherwise plain white walls, the slightly more casual multilevel dining room’s understated elegance allows the exotic aromas and flavors of the dishes to prominently stand out.
At his new namesake restaurant, Chef Nish expands and evolves his talents with an intriguing menu of unique global fusion cuisine. Since many of the ingredients are so exotic and foreign to the average diner, the provided glossary with definitions of international components and culinary terms used within the menu proved to me to be a useful tool. It especially came in handy when translating the elements of the calf’s sweetbreads appetizer served with wild mushrooms, za’atar (a Lebanese spice mix), and basturma (Armenian-style spiced, cured and dried beef).
I loved the freshness and delicate textures of the trio of Japanese flounder sashimi, raw lobster, and barely seared bay scallops, as well as a soup of red shrimp lobster from Maine and cockles from New Zealand. The pure flavors of the shellfish stood out nicely against the subtly seasoned broth. At first bite, I found the heavy saltiness of littleneck clam ravioli with lop ch’ueng sausage and black beans to be a bit distracting, but with each subsequent sampling, this unique dish turned out to be one of my favorites of the evening, and paired beautifully with a sweet white wine. Co-owner Joseph Scalice takes charge of Nish’s excellent wine program, which focuses on well-priced French, American and Spanish varietals.
For many of the dishes I sampled, it was the fantastic sauces that wowed me the most. A great tarragon and fennel broth embraced and lightened black bass heavily coated with shiny black onion seeds - an Indian spice known as nigella. As far as the entrée of fricassée of lobster leaning against a large chunk of unadorned black cod, the standout of this dish was the richly delicious sweet cream and wine emulsion with hints of cumin with which it was served. Richly thick orzo with preserved and fermented Sichuan Chinese tofu, sage and wild mushrooms was a great match for the abundant serving of small medallions of beautifully-hued medium-rare Kobe hangar steak that sat atop it.
Straying from the menu design at March, Nish’s menu is all à la carte with the exception of an extremely flexible $59 four-course tasting menu wherein diners may select any four dishes from any section of the menu. A carefully selected group of exceptional raw milk cheeses is another one of Nish’s highlights. Imported weekly, all the cheeses continue to mature even after they arrive at the restaurant, and are served when ready. A full description of each cheese is provided within the menu.
Closing the highly regarded March restaurant and re-opening under a new name, new look, and completely different cuisine was a gutsy move for Wayne Nish who wanted to showcase his passion for international fusion cuisine. The result is a charming dining venue promising unique flavor combinations and a pleasing experience.
Nish 405 E. 58th St., 212-754-6272