Making veggies extraordinary


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Nix in the West Village can be your guide to healthy eating in the city


Photos



  • Nix open for lunch. Photo: Susan Marque




  • Kale and sea veggie Caesar. Photo: Susan Marque




  • Pea umplings. Photo: Susan Marque




  • Fried cauliflower. Photo: Susan Marque



New York City has an abundance of restaurants, but if you want quality, comfort, a great vibe, and a place that doesn’t break your budget, things get a little tricky. Especially when you eat healthy. Nix is the fix.

I get pretty excited about food that is inventive, maybe a tad decadent, but that also works for me. I was one of the original food restriction folks. (No dairy, no sugar, no chemicals ... you’d be surprised how much that cuts out.) If you have ever wondered how to make veggies shine, Chef John Fraser can be your guide. I happen to think he deserves more than just one Michelin Star, but those are rare, and he got one last November for his seriously great vegetarian fare at this downtown spot.

The kale and sea veggie Caesar Fraser created for Nix is genius. It’s unlike any other healthy version of a Caesar, with a light lemony note instead of being overrun by garlic. There’s no fishy taste or smell if you are new to eating seaweed. You do get a powerful dose of minerals in every delectable bite. Fraser’s smoky eggplant spread makes me supremely happy, and the combination of velvety pea filling in the dumplings with spicy gingery sauce makes me want to eat here daily.

Fraser starts with produce and his team gets as much locally as they can. Nix partners with a consortium of Hudson Valley farms, and they fill in with trips to the green market in Union Square. In winter they rely on produce from warmer climates.

For a restaurant that’s only been open since February 29, 2016, Nix has become a popular spot in the area. “We always set out to be a neighborhood restaurant, and we are happy and grateful that our neighborhood has embraced us, becoming our core clientele,” said owner James Truman, former editorial director of Conde Nast. “As we anticipated, perhaps 65 percent of our guests are women. Women are at the vanguard of the new movement of wellness and healthy eating.”

That’s probably true, but there are plenty of dishes at Nix to satisfy anyone. The signature cauliflower buns are one of those orders. The cruciferous bulbs are fried tempura-style, then coated in a spicy red sauce and paired with pickles that give you all kinds of crunch to put inside of freshly made, soft steamed buns.

Truman is deservedly proud of his place. I asked him how he created a space that is the cozy side of elegant and he told me that when he was at Conde Nast, he helped to redesign some of the interiors of their building. He said he liked that even more than being an editor. He definitely pays attention to details and understands how an environment plays an important role in how diners feel.

Fraser became a vegetarian a few years ago, but Truman has been one since the eighties. The two met at that time when Truman was the food and beverage director for Standard Hotels, and they became friends.

“Back in the 80s, when I moved to New York from London, I found it almost impossible to live as a vegetarian. There was usually one entrée on a restaurant menu — typically pasta primavera — that was there for vegetarians, otherwise you were just out of luck,” said Truman. The timing for his collaboration with Fraser couldn’t be better. They are not just on trend but seem to have learned from the mistakes of other restaurants. Truman scrunched up his nose when describing foods that try to mimic other foods.

“At Nix, we strive to extract the maximum flavor from every vegetable through any number of technical processes, but we always want them to taste like vegetables,” said Truman. “We don’t do the “fake meat” trick of processing tofu or tempeh or seitan so that it starts to replicate meat or fish in texture or flavor.”

If you’re like me and have to be careful about what goes into your food, this place has a system that works. Each server can quickly look up the ingredients of every dish on an iPad, or search a single item that will pull up all the dishes that have that in it. It’s an easy and kind way to steer each person towards choices that work for them. If you want to be healthy in the city, Nix is one topnotch way to go.




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