Rooted in chef John Fraser’s “personal passion for cooking with vegetables” and belief that eating vegan/vegetarian should be fab not drab, Nix is dishing out flavorful, 5-a-day-forward fare seasonally attuned to Greenwich Village’s attractive, health-conscious crowd. With creative cocktails, sodas and an adventurous beverage list, Nix is a place you won’t want to nix from your dining list (pun intended).
What to order
To snack: Hummus, dumplings and the honey custard. To sip: Spiced pear with cardamom.
Disclaimer: I am not a vegetarian, and I’ve always been skeptical of the lifestyle. Whenever I’ve tried, I’ve failed, feeling dissatisfied after the meal. I recognize this sentiment in my husband. If the food I order doesn’t include meat (read: salads), he’s like, “Why did we go out?”
I learned to curb my dissatisfaction with meatless cuisine during a yoga retreat to Costa Rica with nothing but vegetarian food in sight. The irony of the situation: where we stayed (Nosara) is known for its cattle ranches. The first two days, I struggled to feel full without meat. Looking back, I think it wasn’t necessarily the fullness itself, but rather the feeling of being satisfied.
While I still enjoy a great cut of meat, I have found that dishes full of vegetables can have even more depth. Nix does not disappoint in that respect. The veggies might be the stars of the show, but the supporting roles of herbs, nuts and seeds, seasoning, the technique, and presentation are what makes it a one of my top five favorite vegetarian restaurants of all time.
Money Score: OK
Skip the cauliflower. It’s $20, and it could be organic or not? No, thanks. While I didn’t leave the restaurant hungry, I found the food to be slightly pricey, especially since they share zero details about sourcing, aside from sticking to the seasons.
Consciousness Score: OK
If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. While everything is brought over dish-by-dish, there is no mention of where they get their food verbally or anywhere on the menu. Explication: “Organic ingredients when possible.” That’s it.
However, there does appear to be glimmers of conscious communication on social media. On their Instagram, for example, they shared a photo featuring their farmers. While nice, I’d like to see this inside the restaurant and on the menu. It seems to me there was a time when it was popular to share where stuff came from. It seems to be still alive in Seattle; many menus mention when something is sourced from a farm one town over. However, I have not seen it done in NYC.
‘All the Feels’ Score: Excellent
As for ambiance, I loved the organic touches in the restaurant; even the linen, which looked to be artisan-stitched with decorative, blue-and-grey stitched lines, was a really nice touch. Fresh plants were perched along the white walls, and the skylight emitted nice, natural light into the space. It was a light and airy aesthetic without being overkill like walking into a refined Anthropologie or the Goop website. Wall decor screamed modern bohemian: black-and-white woven art that looks like what you would find in an American western. The bathrooms carried the same aesthetic with glowing, circular mirrors that resembled the windows of a cruise ship and dainty, white-and-blue polka dot pattern. I am unsure about sustainability in the fixings, but everything seemed sophisticated, yet eclectic and intelligently curated. While waiting for my food, I scoped out the room: mainly full of women, apparently a working crowd, but very few solo diners, such as myself.
Dishes were duly spaced, and I admired the seasonality. To begin, they had a good selection of non-alcoholic drinks and loved the fact they used fresh puree to stir up creative concoctions. The drink I had was a pear puree with cardamom—why can’t all restaurants do this? Fresh, familiar and exotic all in one. It was sooo good.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. There are a few dishes that require you ditch the silverware..
For example, I had three dips: avocado, hummus, and baba ganoush. And I don’t believe in cutting warm naan with a fork and knife, so quickly wrap your head around using your fingers. The hummus was laced with Zantaar and cumin. Thumbs up. The eggplant? Too smoky, slightly sweet. Not my thing, but that’s just my flavor-profile preference. The avocado with smoked crème fraiche and chili oil? Surprising, as it was a far cry from the standard, flavor-masking onions and tomatoes. This was extremely earthy, almost like eating raw artichokes. Don’t expect it to be guac because it’s a far cry from it.
The roasted Brussels sprouts with sugar pumpkin, sarvecchio and chestnuts were warm, soft, and slightly crunchy. There is a wall of squash purée, and you must have some of it with every bite, otherwise the Brussels sprouts can be too bitter. The crumbles of cheese on top did not do much for the flavor, but offered a pleasant color contrast.
The everything vegan salad with sherry vinaigrette and toasted garbanzos was so fresh and delicious like they took the herbs out of the garden a few minutes before serving, creating a rich complexity of different flavors. I believe it contained at least eight different types of herbs.
The Delicata and mushroom dumpling with kohlrabi, ginger, and scallion oil is the No. 1 dish ordered in the place, and it was just perfect: a soft, pillowy center with a bite of ginger and crunch of celery and radish. A colorful delight for the eyes, it was an artistic expression that worked for me. And it was not served too hot; it was warm and comforting. I’m not even a ginger fan, but I still liked it. Must-have!
The roasted sunchoke salad with living greens, everything seed, and tofu goddess dressing was flavorful, and also fresh. A lot of greens, and at the base, a heart full of golden sunchokes. Dig deep, so you can get a mouth full together.
The cauliflower tempura–seemingly topped with a shiny orange glaze–with steamed buns and glazed pickles looked more interesting than it tasted. It tasted like cauliflower. I wouldn’t advise it with the buns, radish, or basil sauce it came with, either. For someone who considers fried eggplants, fried cauliflower, and fried zucchini some of the finest foods on Earth, this was disappointing.
For dessert, the honey custard had a tart layer, a smooth one, a crunchy one, and a toasty one. At least three spoonfuls left an impression. Undoubtedly my other favorite. On the other hand, the chocolate mousse was a heavy cake, and I was thinking it would be fluffy, creamy chocolate heaven that would be comforting and decadent. Not so much. I advise finishing with well-rounded sugary goodness (I could spend hours talking about the honey custard), as this hardened, dry chocolate didn’t do it.