EyeSwoon

Meet your new favorite guilt-free dining experience in NYC. I mean, can you think of a better time of year to get your full-flavored, beautifully-presented plant-based grub on? I speak of both flavor and aesthetics because while Nix’s food is exclusively veg-focused, soooooo gone are the days of bland and muted veggie dishes. Plant-based” may get branded a buzzword these days, but the real takeaway after eating John Frasers’ food at Nix is that it’s a wholly delicious meal you feel great about eating. I left with a happy belly…and also, burnt fingers ouch! But more on that later.

I stumbled upon this interesting tidbit: Plant-based eating has been lauded the new organic” by restaurant consultancy group Baum + Whiteman in New York. I prefer to not call it a trend, as they do, and instead consider it as a choice, a way of life. However, don’t get me wrong. I will not be dogmatic on this topic. I love veggies, but I also love protein of all kinds, including fish and meat. Everything in moderation. I strongly encourage you to get yourself to Nix not because you are on a strict vegetable diet, but because you want incredible food and a beautiful environment. At Nix you can dine on dishes that incorporate worldwide flavors, like tandoor bread with creamy Mediterranean dips and cauliflower tempura. The resto relies heavily on Greenmarket produce – the ever-changing menu is largely informed by what’s in season and by the steadfast relationships the kitchen team has developed with the farmers who grow the food. Frequenting the restaurant is practicing responsible eating all around!

Chef John Fraser, who I had the absolute pleasure of meeting and cooking together with at Nix, is at the helm of the kitchen. As the chef-owner of Dovetail, Narcissa, and most recently, The Loyal, John has long been known for his way with veggies. He personally adopted a vegetarian diet in 2011. Nevertheless, Nix, which he began with former Conde Nast editorial director James Truman, is his first full-fledged vegetarian operation and it’s already enjoying uncommon success. It was recently awarded a Michelin star, the only vegetarian outpost to receive such an honor in 2017.

John describes the eatery as a plant-based restaurant that is focused on an upbeat vibe and a food style that lets plants be themselves; we don’t try to make them act like animals.” Diners at Nix do a lot of sharing, so the swoon-worthy plates are designed to be communal. We like to keep the food seemingly simple, so your approach is in earnest,” John says. A mushroom looks and tastes like a mushroom, even though it may have gone through a few cheffy steps before it hits the plate.” John’s favorite menu item is also the simplest, hummus with the tandoor bread. This is also my fave, as I nibbled on it while in the kitchen…but at the same time, it’s also my arch nemesis. Cooking the tandoor bread scoured my fingers as I attempted, I repeat, attempted to make it in a scorching, like 900-degree, fire-hole oven, (also known as a tandoor). Not one, not two, not even three time did I fail. It took me a total of five attempts to get that dough to stick to the side of the fire hole with my bare hands. With no fingerprints left and an arm now bare of its hair, I was defeated and retreated, allowing the mega-pro to swoop in and show me how it’s done. In one try, to boot!

At that point I began grazing in the kitchen with ice on my newly-red fingertips. Tandoor bread, a dollop of the creamiest hummus, and a hard-boiled egg sprinkled with some za’atar became a meal unto itself. I couldn’t stop. It was soooooooo good. And that was just my pre-lunch smorgasbord, because we had more cookin’ to do! Moving on, we roasted sunchokes and spiralized the jicama. We really vegged out together.

When we were all done, we shared a meal at the vibrant blue tables which, by the way, happen to be brilliant backdrops to shoot the food upon. Here’s another interesting fact I stumbled upon: Plant-based dishes are some of the most photogenic and liked” food photos on Instagram. Well, the dishes we created at Nix certainly support that finding! We ate, we joked, we swooned, and I photo-bombed chef’s portrait, (yes, the energy was campy and silly). And I will point out that when I asked Chef John about food trends of 2018, plant-based meals were not exactly his answer. One he partakes in? I love a good snack menu.” One he wishes would go away? Sexual harassment and inequality.”

YESSSSSSS, all around YES. The food, the trend”, the energy get all of it at Nix!

Nix

Chef John Fraser

  • Q&A

    • How would you describe the food you create at Nix? What is the core value represented in the food?
      Nix is a plant based restaurant that is focused on an upbeat vibe and a food style that lets plants be themselves; we don’t try to make them act like animals.
       
      Nix relies heavily on Greenmarket produce. How do you go about planning your menus?
      We are a few blocks from the largest urban greenmarket in nyc, we are largely informed by whats in season and our relationships with the people that grow the food.
       
      Nix is a vegetable-based restaurant. How is your approach to creating vegetarian dishes similar or different from your approach to creating protein-based dishes?
      I would say it’s very similar except that our guests at Nix do a lot of sharing, so we are careful to make sure that people can easily pass the dishes around the table. We like to keep the food seemingly simple, so your approach is in earnest, a mushroom looks and tastes like a mushroom, even though it may have gone through a few cheffy steps before it hits the plate.
       
      What inspired you to become a chef and what was the genesis to where you are today?
      I really like to work with my hands, it was a craft that I felt immediately at home with, and I like to solve problems, inherently that’s what cooking and running restaurants is. When I got into cooking chefs stayed in the kitchen and rarely met the guests. Now chefs are required to be more in the spotlight, that is still a challenge for me.
       
      What are some of the biggest lessons you learned early in your career in working with Thomas Keller at The French Laundry?
      Thomas led by example, that’s the major lesson. He was also not afraid to make mistakes, that courage rubbed off on me.
       
      Last life-changing, swoon-worthy food experience (at a restaurant, someone’s kitchen, etc.)?
      My time cooking in paris in a food obsessed city was my finishing school. I cant point to one moment that changes it all for me, I can point to those years though as a cook becoming a chef.
       
      Your favorite dish at Nix? Most popular?
      My fav is the simplest, hummus with the tandoor bread. The most popular is the cauliflower buns.
       
      Any kitchen trick for home chefs guaranteed to pack flavor into their dishes?
      With vegetables I like to use less salt, allow the veggies to sing and poke their out their heads.
       
      For someone looking to transition to a vegetable-based diet, what are some meals or recipes they should have in their cooking repertoire?
      Pulses, grains and beans are your protein- so get good with the rice cooker and be able to mix it up. Oh, and fall in love with French fries.
       
      Five ingredients you couldn’t live without?
      Four and water = pasta
      Sea salt
      Black pepper
      Good fruity olive oil
      Hot sauce
       
      The five local, go-to restaurants or cafes you frequent?
       
      Food trend you partake in? One you wish would go away?
      I love a good snack menu.
      Go away! Sexual harassment and inequality!

Sunchokes with Living Greens, Everything Seeds & Tofu Green Goddess Dressing

Chef John Fraser

  • Ingredients

    • Serves 2

      • 6 sunchokes
      • 4 cups of fresh greens
      • 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
      • 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds 
      • 1 teaspoon flax seeds
      • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds

      Green Goddess Dressing:

      • 6 oz silken tofu
      • 1/2 clove of garlic
      • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
      • 3 tablespoon dill
      • 3 tablespoon chives
      • 3 tablespoon chervil
      • 1 tablespoon olive oil
      • pinch of salt
       
      Sherry Vinaigrette:
      • 2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
      • 4 tablespoon olive oil
      • 1/2 a shallot, finely chopped
  • Method

    • Preheat an oven to 500 degrees.
      Lightly scrub, but do not peel, 6 sunchokes. Slice into 1 inch sections and toss lightly with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven. Cook for 12-15 minutes, ensuring they do not burn. Allow to cool.
       
      Prepare the seed mixture:
      Mix 1 teaspoon each of:
      white sesame seeds
      black sesame seeds 
      flax seeds
      poppy seeds
       
      Prepare the green goddess dressing:
       
      Place all of the ingredients in a blender, and blend at high speed until the dressing has a smooth texture and the herbs have been broken down.
       
      Prepare the sherry vinaigrette:
      Whisk all ingredients together until the mixture emulsifies.
       
      Assemble the salad:
      Using a rubber spatula, coat one side of two individual salad bowls with the green goddess dressing. Sprinkle the seed mixture on the dressing so that it adheres. Toss appoximately 4 cups of fresh greens with the sherry vinaigrette, add the sunchokes and divide between the two salad bowls. Garnish with a pinch each of dill, chervil and chive batons.

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