Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Nico Osteria

When Paul Kahan opens a new restaurant, it's news.  The celebrity chef and restauranteur has opened eight restaurants and while I have been to several, I am a few restaurants behind.  I, and several of my friends were very excited when we heard that Nico Osteria, an Italian Seafood restaurant was opening in the Gold Coast and while I really wanted to go, we could never find a time that would work with me and someone else.  I finally decided that if I really wanted to go, I shouldn't let schedule conflicts with someone else stop me, and I made plans to go on my own.  Occupying the same space as the former Whiskey, the space is much more welcoming.  The space has a lounge feel with leather seats and window walls along the outer walls and muted lighting (but not dark as some restaurants are).  There is also a photo portrait of German model/singer, Nico.  The kitchen is open with a chef's counter along two sides.  Diners can sit and watch the kitchen staff cut fish and finish dishes before they are brought to the diners.  This is where I sat.  While it does have a limited list, they have an extensive liquor selection and I would imagine that if you wanted any common or classic drink, they could make a very good drink for you.  As one of Paul Kahan's restaurant group's places is Classic cocktail lounge, The Violet Hour, I imagine that they have a pretty good library of drinks that are not listed on the menu.  While I was looking over the food menu, I started things off with a drink called a Swan Dive.  It was Vanilla-infused George Dickel No. 8 Tennessee Whisky, Grilled Grapefruit Juice, Spices, and Smoked Salt on Crushed Ice.  This was a very good drink with a wealth of flavors.  It was sweet, smoky, and tart, with a salty finish and could go with a lot of foods.
Nico has a large menu divided into several sections.  The menu starts out with a listing of Crudo (raw fish) followed by Fettunta (bruschetta), Antipasti, Pasta, Whole Fish, and Piatti (Large plate courses) in addition to the dessert menu.  There were a lot of things on the menu that would make returning to explore some more extremely enjoyable, but I started with the Crudo.  There were 9 fish, ranging from Needlefish to Mackerel, two oysters, and scallops.  All of the fish had different accompaniments.  The fish that I chose was the Blue Marlin which was served with Seaweed Sott'olio (marinated in Truffle Oil), Star Grapefruit, and Scallions.  This was very good and flavorful.  The fish was some of the most tender fish that I have ever had.  The seaweed added salt and a subtle truffle funk, the grapefruit was tart, and it was all good.
 After the Crudo, I was brought a complimentary bread board.  The board had thick slices of Olive Bread, Wheat Bread, and Sourdough Bread and was served with a bowl of clarified butter for dipping.  They were all very good and were eaten before the next course arrived.  The olive bread was like a focaccia with a very airy texture and whole olives.  The texture was light and airy and the flavor was slightly salty.  The wheat bread was whole wheat with bits of the kernel interspersed throughout the dense bread providing a slightly nutty flavor to the sweetness of the bread.  The sourdough fell in the middle as far as texture was concerned and being sourdough, it was obviously somewhat sour.  The clarified butter was also good, but the bread was so good, it almost wasn't necessary. 
As this is nominally an Italian restaurant, I figured that it would be a sad thing not to have the pasta.  I went with the Paccheri with Calabrese Sausage, Zolfini Beans, and Hama Hama Clams.  Paccheri is a large tubed pasta like Ziti that originates around the Southern Italian states of Calabria and Campania.  It was perfectly cooked and lightly toothsome.  The Calabrese sausage, also from Calabria, was ground and had a nice spicy pork flavor.  I had never had (or heard of, for that matter) Zolfini Beans.  They are small white beans that are similar to Cannelini beans, but smaller.  Size and texturally, they actually reminded me of Bulghur Wheat.  I had also never heard of Hama Hama Clams.  They are clams that are farmed in the brackish water of the mouth of the Hamma Hamma River in Washington.  They were small and very good.  Overall, there were a lot of textures and flavors that went together very well and I really enjoyed it.
My dessert was amazing.  It was a spin on a Tiramisu served in a parfait form.  It contained Marsala Zabaglione (custard using a sweet wine), Aged Lady Finger Crunch, White Coffee, and Cocoa Powder.  It was a very nice creamy custard tasting of coffee and chocolate.  In the center of the custard were several stacked thin, round lady fingers.  It was very good and was a great finish for my dinner.
I thought my dessert was the finish for my dinner.  Actually, I was served a couple of petit fours.  A Dark Chocolate Truffle and a Raspberry Gelee.  These were sweet, very flavorful, and a great finish to my dinner.

I really enjoyed my dinner here and I was glad I went despite the fact that I was unable to coordinate with one of my friends.  The space was very nice, the staff was very friendly and very willing to answer questions.  I was even offered a taste of the Foie Gras Pastrami that one of the kitchen staff was cutting for service.  And the food was great.  The only problem was that there so many things that looked good and interesting that I will have to return to get a more complete idea of their food.


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