The palm tree is the only type of inflatable tree you can buy at Wal-Mart. We need them at our dreary corporate conferences and freshman orientation mixers because of what they represent: escape, the fact that there are places in the world where the light comes from sunshine instead of overhead fluorescents. Nahita, a Japanese-Peruvian spot in Park Square, takes the inflatable palm tree mindset to its extreme. It’s a restaurant filled with so many trees it practically has its own microclimate, and ultimately, it’s a restaurant that’s a better place to escape than it is to eat.
Nahita is one of the flashiest restaurants in Boston, a place that looks like it bought out a Rainforest Cafe liquidation sale to create a jungle escape in the middle of America’s least jungly city. The bar area is a towering atrium filled with palms and hanging vines, and the dining room has so many potted rubber trees that Chris Pratt could use it to film a Vietnam War movie when he inevitably pivots to more serious roles.
But Nahita’s showiness extends beyond the Jurassic Park decor. When you order a cocktail, it will likely come with an ice cube imprinted with Nahita’s logo. The tacos are served in branded wooden trays. There’s so much liquor behind the bar that the bartender has to use a ladder to reach it. And there’s a speakeasy hidden somewhere inside of the restaurant that’s accessible only if you have a “#FlyFree coin.” We’re not exactly sure what such a coin is, but it sounds like something you might be able to make on your own using an inspirational quote rock from your mom’s neighbor’s garden.
The food is showy in its own way, too - a Japanese-Peruvian menu filled with lots of raw fish and ceviche, fusion tacos with fillings like spicy uni and Turkish beef, and a $108 dry-aged steak that’s meant to be shared. You probably aren’t going to find anything on the menu that you’d trek through an actual jungle to eat a second time, but everything at least falls into the “pretty good” bucket, with some things, like the uni shooter that comes with quail egg and sake, being both pretty good and fun to eat.
Ultimately, being a fun place to eat is Nahita’s principal characteristic. The bar fills up just about every day after work with lots of people in ties who don’t mind spending $100 on a couple of cocktails and small plates on a Tuesday. You’ll probably see a birthday or two, and the crowd seems happy to be in a place that’s so different from other stuffier Back Bay restaurants.
If inflatable palm trees actually succeed in helping Walmart shoppers mentally escape, then Nahita’s real trees take things up a notch. You might not actually feel like you’re on vacation here, but you’ll have a decent time having a drink and a bite at the bar. That’s better than doing trust exercises at a corporate retreat, at least.
Dining would be much more efficient if more places combined drinks and food in one dish like Nahita does here. Uni tends to be expensive anyway, so you might as well get some sake with it.
Shaved Baby Artichoke
From veal to bok choy, there are a lot of foods that are tastier in their baby form than they are after they’ve grown up. That’s the case with the baby artichoke here, either because it hasn’t yet had its spirit broken by two divorces and 17 years in a cubicle, or because it goes really well with truffle-yuzu dressing.
Nahita Cebiche Sampler
You get fluke, bluefin tuna, and hamachi. The hamachi was our favorite, but keep that quiet - we don’t want the others to get jealous.
Spicy Blue Fin Tuna & Seared Otoro
Otoro is the fatty, belly cut of tuna. And if you suspect that something with the words “fatty” and “belly” in it is good, you’re right.
Halibut Tempura Tacos
The tortilla-to-filling ratio seems to be a little off, leaving these a little drier than you’d probably like.
Berkshire Pork Belly Chicharrone
If you can’t decide whether you want your pork roasted and tender or crispy and fried, go with this dish where you get both.
It’s a braised short rib, and while it passes the Could You Eat It With A Spoon? test, it otherwise isn’t that special.