In NYC? Go to Nix
Eating vegetarian or vegan should feel more celebration than sacrifice according to Michelin-starred chef John Fraser and James Truman (the former editorial director of Conde Nast), of Nix restaurant fame. With a focus on flavor, Nix, in Greenwich Village, uses seasonal fruits and vegetables to deliver perfectly prepared dishes that simply taste incredible.
So how did Nix get its name? Good question. Nix was named in honor of the Supreme Court case, Nix v. Hedden in May of 1893 when the court unanimously upheld that the tomato be classified as a vegetable rather than a fruit:
Botanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in the common language of the people, all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and with, whether eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnip, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, and lettuce, usually served at dinner and not, like fruits generally, as dessert.”
The restaurant offers guests two menus: vegetarian and vegan, both of which provide a vast array of options. Although the menu changes seasonably, there are several very popular dishes that have stood the test of time including the Tandoor bread (which comes in both a vegan and vegetarian version so be sure to specify your preference), served piping hot with a drizzle of olive oil, with your choice of dips. The house hummus with zaatar is creamy and delicious but the Red Pepper and Walnut Dip has been known to cause more than a few diners to order another steaming hot Tandoor bread because the combination is just too good to leave any dip on the table.
Dishes are divided into “lighter” or “bolder” and are meant to be shared so order several for the table (many people find 3-4 dishes plus dessert a perfect meal). The Nix version (vegan) of the Cesear Salad with avocado, strawberries, fennel, and pink peppercorns is crispy and creamy with a slightly spicy but sweet flavor. But, the shredded kale salad tossed with almonds and rye berries in a light curry dressing can convince anyone that kale is truly king. And, the roasted carrots on a bed of black-eyed peas with a barbecue dressing and tiny pieces of sorghum popped corn is in all its simplicity (that’s a joke), just delicious.
Or, enjoy Nix’s version of Dim Sum: English Pea Dumplings with snap peas, ginger, and scallion oil. Don’t bypass the Bamboo Rice Stir-Fry with Lily Bulb (one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world) and Edamame – an Asian-inspired dish of moist rice and crispy vegetables, including carrots and snow peas. In fact, most dishes at Nix offer a contrast in flavors and textures, which is what makes the food so flavorful and adventurous. For vegetarians, one of my table mates swears by the creamy polenta with mushrooms (shiitake and morel) and green beans and orders this small casserole dish every time we visit (4 times and counting).
Save room for dessert because the options will blow you away. There is, of course, the show stopping grilled pineapple with “whipped cream” (vegan) and macadamia nuts that needs to be ordered early in your meal (because of the cooking time). Picture a fresh pineapple cut into quarters, grilled until the fruit is caramelized and then dressed to the nines and you get the picture.
But my favorite dessert is the Chocolate Mousse Cake (vegan) – a deeply rich moist dark chocolate cake without the heaviness of many desserts – served with a passion fruit puree. My vegetarian table mates devoured the Nun’s Puff’s: light, airy, hot donut-like puffs that are served with Mexican Chocolate and Apple Cider Dips. If you’re wondering about the name of this very popular French dessert, a nun’s puff is also known as a nun’s fart (pets-de-nonne) but Americans often refer to them as donut holes.
While many Michelin-starred restaurants come off as pretentious, there is nothing but warm hospitality at Nix where they truly want patrons (and not just vegetarians and vegans) to enjoy the dining experience in a relaxed environment. The staff is attentive but they don’t hover.
Nix is open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. Located at 72 University Place (between East 10th and 11th), Nix is not to be missed. Go to the website for more information or to make reservations (highly recommended).