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Team Behind Buzzy Thai Destination Wayla Debuts a Japanese-Italian Spot in Nolita

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Kimika, the new restaurant from chef Christine Lau and Rivers and Hills Hospitality Group, opens for outdoor dining tonight

An overhead photograph of breaded and fried eggplant, cut into pieces over banana leaf
Eggplant katsu

The team behind the Lower East Side’s impossible-to-reserve Thai restaurant Wayla has plans to unveil a second project tonight in Nolita.

Nestled near both Chinatown and Little Italy, Kimika serves what it calls “Itameshi” cuisine, a combination of Italian and meshi (Japanese slang for “meal”) cooking styles. It’s a lesser-seen fusion of cultures in New York City, but if the popularity of Wayla’s noodle-wrapped meatballs are anything to go by, the new restaurant is poised to become a neighborhood hit. Kimika — located at 40 Kenmare Street, at Elizabeth Street — opens for outdoor dinner service tonight.

The new Italian-Japanese restaurant has built its menu around coveted in-season produce sold at the city’s greenmarkets, like heirloom tomatoes and watermelon. At Kimika, those ingredients appear as accents to silken tofu, but also as stand-alone stars, as is the case with the restaurant’s fried and breaded eggplant katsu, served over a banana leaf. Seasonal produce has also found its way to the new restaurant’s desserts menu, which includes toasted strawberry Yakult soft serve and a shaved ice kakigori that relies on watermelon for its base.

There’s something for everyone at Kimika, except perhaps for food purists. The restaurant’s more expected Italian offerings — like pasta and flatbread — are upended by a mixture of Japanese ingredients and flavors. The restaurant’s uni flatbread, for example, is topped with sweet soy, pink peppercorn, and scallions, while its spaghetti is adorned with four types of roe. A crispy rice cake lasagna comes served with with sweet sausage, scallions, heaps of provolone, and kimchi.

An aerial photo of a white plate with yellow pasta topped with four kinds of roe
The Roe Roe Roe Roe Spaghetti with tobiko, mentaiko, ikura, bottarga, and shiso
A close photograph of a bowl of orange pasta with tomatoes and herbs in a white and black patterned bowl
Soy butter bigoli with cherry tomatoes, chives, and fried shallot gremolata

Behind each of these creations is chef Christine Lau, a hospitality industry veteran who most recently worked at Prospect Height’s stand-out ramen spot Bar Chuko Izakaya. Her 15-year career also includes stints working in the kitchens of the charming but now-shuttered Italian restaurants Alto and Centovini.

Rivers and Hills Hospitality Group’s first restaurant, Wayla, has been one of the most elusive reservations in the city since restaurants reopened for outdoor dining in June, despite several Eater staffers reporting that the hype is somewhat overblown. The Lower East Side Thai restaurant listed itself on Resy in late June, and by 9 p.m. that same day, most of its reservations for the next two weeks had been booked. At the time of writing, every table is reserved at the restaurant for the next two weeks.

Wayla’s soaring popularity dates back to long before the pandemic, though. Shortly after opening in the summer of 2019, the restaurant developed a fast following for its homestyle Thai fare. With a slightly larger outdoor seating area and the same team driving its menu, Kimika could see similar levels of success.

The restaurant plans to add takeout and delivery services down the line. It will be open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Reservations available through Resy.

An overhead photograph of several colorful plates, bowls, and metal containers of food from
A spread of dishes from Kimika

Kimika

40 Kenmare Street, Manhattan, NY 10012 (212) 256-9280 Visit Website

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