If one had unlimited funds, Restaurant Nicholas would be one of half a dozen restaurants worth frequenting on a regular basis.
It is now six years since Nicholas and Melissa Harary created their wondrous establishment. To retain four stars is harder than earning them in the first place, requiring constant tweaking and vigilance. Restaurant Nicholas comes through with flying colors.
The restaurant has expanded to include more tables and a chic, modern bar where you can order smaller, lower-priced portions of the dishes on the regular menu. Nicholas Harary spends most of his time in the kitchen, occasionally emerging in his chef’s whites to visit the dining room, while Melissa Harary handles the front of the house with charm and competence.
The menu has retained the same format since the beginning: prix-fixe menus of three or six courses, plus a four-course vegetarian menu.
The food is attractively presented but a little less adventurous than it used to be. It is comforting to know that your meal is always going to be superb, though one occasionally misses the excitement that comes from discovering something wonderful and totally different.
During a recent visit, the three-course menu included appetizers like paper-thin raw tuna with a salad of tiny green beans and cashew nuts with soy-sesame vinaigrette, plus a beautifully seared scallop appetizer cut with tart pickled plums and toasted almond vinaigrette. Veal sweetbreads braised and sliced on top of carrot purée with mango and licorice dust; little gnocchi with crisp, tender artichokes and Parmesan cheese; and intense seared foie gras garnished with a quenelle-shaped fig pâté and candied pistachios are all excellent. Since they are not overpowered by sauce and haven’t been frozen for too long, poached shrimp actually taste like shrimp and are arranged in a chilled tomato and horseradish consommé with tiny, crunchy cucumber pearls for contrast. The chilled, white-almond gazpacho with grilled octopus and marinated oysters offers a delicious contrast in textures and flavors.
Chef Harary is still capable of surprises. Poached lobster sous-vide, for instance, is tender and buttery, yet it retains all the essential lobster flavor that is often diminished with regular poaching. Seared wild salmon—crisp outside, tender and barely cooked inside—comes with a corn succotash and tomato-basil vinaigrette; meaty, crisp halibut with cauliflower purée, wild mushrooms, and fava beans is given the surprise touch of a sharp lemon caper sauce that cuts the richness. The pearly centered, pan-roasted cod with toasted Israeli couscous is marvelous, but the spiced watermelon broth served with it detracts from the fish. But the roasted rack of lamb with caramelized onion, haricots verts, and goat cheese and potato is improved with the black-olive jus that accompanies it, and the pan-roasted ribeye steak with parsleyed chateau potatoes and Portobello mushroom slices is tender, juicy, and beefy. The braised, pulled suckling pig—pulled pork formed into a cake and cooked so that the top is crisp like crackling—is just as good as remembered from previous visits.
Consider supplementing the three-course menu with an extra course of the fabulous selection of cheese with dried fruit before moving on to the desserts, which include excellent individual servings of warm gingerbread with apple compote; individual chocolate cakes with homemade vanilla ice cream; a very light, toasted coconut soufflé garnished with a macadamia nut torte and tropical fruit sorbet; individual fig tarts with port wine reduction and rich, toasted-walnut ice cream and three small dishes of crème brûlée—vanilla, rum, and dulce de leche. This last is by far the best, although the mango fruit jelly with cream foam is also delicious.
Reviewed in: December 2006Click here to leave a comment
Cuisine Type:American - Modern
Ambience:Chic, modern, calm