Early Look: The Cool Vegetables and Paper Flowers at Nix
At his new restaurant, Nix, James Truman and chef John Fraser are going for something different than the omnipresent Brooklyn environment: A place with a super-cool, '70s vibe and an inspired vegetarian menu.
If you think all restaurants look the same these days, James Truman is with you. "So many places feel like Brooklyn," says the former editorial director of Conde Nast turned restaurateur. "Kind of masculine, distressed wood and so on." At his brand new Greenwich Village spot, Nix, he and chef John Fraser went for something different: A cool, '70s vibe. "These aren't my '70s," says Truman. "That would be punk rock and David Bowie." Instead they went for a California '70s atmosphere that's more stylish than almost anything from the actual decade. Nix is outfitted with cork lampshades, blinds on the window looking into the kitchen, and lamps fashioned from thick, twisted roots. There are pretty flowers in pots: And surprise, they're made of paper. "It's a waste of farmland and resources to ship flowers that last for two days," says Truman. Instead he's sourcing not-real blooms like lily whites and changing them seasonally. The bar specializes in sparkling wine, plus some gorgeous sodas, like blackberry with juniper (that can be spiked), served with an eco-friendly compostable straw.
Likewise, Fraser's menu features another hallmark of the 70s: vegetarian food. He inherited a tandoor oven from the previous tenant, the Indian restaurant Jackson Diner. So he's become very good at making charred, irregularly shaped breads, which come with dips like avocado with curry; and cottage cheese (the '70s!) with broccoli leaf pesto. The rest of the menu is divided into two parts: Lighter and bolder (aka indulgent). So you can feel pretty virtuous with an order of wok-roasted cucumbers with jerk spices, or jicama ribbons with fresno chiles.
But Fraser and Truman were determined that Nix wouldn't be too virtuous of a restaurant. So the bolder side of the menu features dishes like tender shiitake mushrooms with cacio e pepe dressing, and, best of all, highly decorated potato fry bread, a savory doughnut of a snack, stuffed with cheddar, slathered with sour cream, and topped with broccoli. Fraser describes it as a giant, fully loaded French fry. It sounds a little like a stoner dish from a Brooklyn restaurant, if you're already nostalgic for that.