Narcissa is the long awaited restaurant from Andre Balazs’ The Standard East hotel on the Bowery in the East Village. Chef John Fraser from Dovetail is manning the kitchen and get this, using organic and seasonal produce from Balazs local Hudson Valley Farm…obvi. The colorful menu is marvelous with an overflowing list of vegetables and creative pairings in each dish. The dining room is separated in two, one with the open chef’s table and additional seating and one with the bar. It’s warm, cozy and spacious enough so that a party of 4 can enjoy your own booth without being bumped by waiters or overheard by other diners. The brown and shiny hughes create a relaxing atmosphere and one that you do not want to leave. It’s trendy without being as sceney as the Meatpacking location but just cool enough maybe cooler because it feels more real and less fake. Let’s just say I had already planned my second visit in my head upon first entrance based on the room’s attitude alone before I devoured my first dish.
Ok so you can basically eat any vegetable that you are craving here as it will be incorporated in some dish or another. Swooning over the appetizer list is not an option but an immediate reaction. Then you think maybe you should order mostly apps versus entrees because there are just too many you can’t miss. We started with the Rotisserie-Crisped Beets which are charred on the outside and meaty in the middle. The bed of bulgur salad it sits upon is a great texture combination although I didn’t seem to notice any apples in my dish. I liked the inside of the beets but the outside was a little too charred. The fact that the Long Island Fluke Crudo came atop a broccoli pesto with pine nuts and lemon sounded like a dream come true and also perplexing because why haven’t we seen broccoli pesto before? The sauce was not as rich as a typical pesto and the crudo was firm and tender and might have been able to use a little more citrus. My absolute favorite dish of the night was the Raw Tuna with cucumber-basil water, salsify and jalapeño relish. I wish I didn’t have to share this one. The crunch from the salsify mixed with the tuna and light vegetable water mixture is unreal. It’s to die for and a dish that is perfect for year round, so chef, please don’t take this off! The best part about these apps are that they are all pretty light and won’t weigh you down. Chef does a great job making magic with the vegetables and creating combinations that I’ve never seen before while using several ingredients in one dish. As a result, sometimes you’re not even sure what you are eating but hey, it all feels good.
My biggest regret at Narcissa is not trying the Bone-In Prime Ribeye which is slow-roasted. That hunk of meat, which sat behind me, looked perfectly cooked with pink throughout and juicy as ever. My spaghetti squash obsession lured me towards the scallops with beets and green garlic. The vegetables are gorgeous and look like turnips, and the scallops are cooked just right but lack a little flavor on their own. It’s still a fantastic light dish but after seeing the steak, I was jealous and going through orders remorse.
The Carrot Fries with Jalapeño-Tofu dipping sauce are adorable little cuties. The crunch, dip and carrot go with the flow and you definitely can’t overdose on these. Don’t worry even though they are breaded they will not put you in a coma like real french fries. Again, Chef Fraser is impressive and cooking up the type of food that I see all new restaurants leaning towards. He’s riding the vegetarian/paleo diet wave and providing unique and healthy dishes that emit meticulous thought and practice. Love Narcissa and love this space. When you want to entertain clients, friends, visitors and want to eat somewhere that won’t force you to feel guilty or unbutton your pants you are welcome here. Don’t miss it.