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Week in Reviews: Nish Gets Two, 15 East & More!

1) Frank Bruni kicks us off at Nish, Wayne Nish's casualized UES townhouse (formerly March). And, actually, the business today is pretty straight forward. Two star copy for a two star review:

It’s March minus some of the manners and mannerisms, March in (nicely pressed) jeans. It’s also an interesting answer to challenges that currently face fine-dining establishments. How do you present a sophisticated experience in an accessible way? In a dressed-down era, what still qualifies as a relished indulgence, and what’s just a prissy vestige of bygone days?

Nish is the attempt of one veteran chef, Wayne Nish, to muddle through all of that, and it’s an accomplished enough effort to make you root hard for it and for him. As a cook, Mr. Nish has long trotted around the globe in a fashion more imaginative and energetic than many of his peers, bringing a world of inspiration to bear on a French template.

Congratulations to Mr. Nish, who joins the Restaurateurs' Successful Makeover Club—and now gets to keep his townhouse and continue cooking. [NYT]

2) Next up on the reviewers' shuttle to Nish is Mr. Randall Lane for Time Out NY. He, too, headed way over to the East Side this week to check in on the place. Though he doled out a mathematically-equivalent-to-Bruni three of six stars, his prose was not as kind.

The trouble is that the dishes, although thoughtfully assembled (for better or worse, there is a glossary in the menu that defines the ingredients), seemed somewhat forced and tasted largely unremarkable. March was an American restaurant with French and subtle Asian touches; Nish is heavily Asian, with influences as far-flung as Korean and Indian. At least one esoteric regional ingredient finds its way into virtually every dish, even if it doesn’t enhance it. For example, while I fundamentally liked an appetizer of poached egg over seaweed and spongy bread—basically an Asian eggs Florentine—a topping of bonito flakes, in tandem with the seaweed, needlessly made the dish reek of fish food.
If we had a nickel for every egregious pile bonito flakes...[TONY]

2007_01_15East.jpg3) Paul Adams was at 15 East, formerly Tocqueville #1, now a top-level sushi restaurant, and was mostly blown away.

A 10-piece selection of sushi or sashimi runs $55, which it earns through sheer glamour. Spread out dramatically along a plate that takes the full width of the table, the fish glows with freshness. I didn't take notes, but I can vividly remember each piece a week later: lush toro tuna; silky amberjack; a redder, leaner tuna slice marinated in soy, with complex, keen flavor; creamy, tangy salmon; salmony arctic char; an intense composition of chopped horse mackerel wrapped in a shiso leaf; sweet, milky-colored shrimp; slippery sliced scallop, which may have been the group's best, and mild cooked sea eel. Okay, I only remember nine of the 10. But that's my lapse, not the chef's: Every piece had a luminous quality that added up to a dramatic whole.
Indeed. By the end of the year, 15 East will have eclipsed Jewel Bako as the haute sushi restaurant of record below 14th Street (yes, it's on 15th Street, but that's, basically, a technicality). [NYS]

Elsewhere, Meehan at West Village tapas newbie Ostia, NY Press at the other West Village tapas newbie, Tasca; Sietsema at West Village Portugueser Alfama, Tables for Two at Iacoppo Falai's Falai, Ryan Sutton with the early word on Anthos and Amalia, Nosh at Alfanoose, Shepherd at Degustation, $20 Bucks at El Toro Partido, and Wilson's Gal at Chinatown Brasserie.