At some point, you’ve probably given someone or something a second chance. Maybe it was the roommate who kept filling up the DVR with episodes of Cupcake Wars and eating all your peanut butter. You kept trying to make it work, but in the end you just racked up an alarming grocery bill. Or maybe it was your seventh-grade crush who dumped you - you decided to go on another date, and now, two decades later, you’re getting married. That one turned out pretty well.
Point is, sometimes giving second chances really pays off, and that’s the case with Nico Osteria. This isn’t the first time we’ve reviewed this restaurant - previously, the overpriced, hit-or-miss food here earned it a 7.2. But there’s a new chef and an updated menu, and even though the concept (seafood-focused Italian) is the same, the food is now significantly better.
The old Nico’s served some questionable dishes like “swordfish meatballs” that never quite managed to bring us on board. Now, though, the menu is full of things we definitely want to eat. For example, the shrimp kataifi. On first glance, these might look like coconut shrimp that somehow escaped from a Red Lobster, but they’re actually covered in a shredded phyllo dough and delicately fried, with delicious results. And while we used to have serious issues with the pastas here - they were tiny, expensive, and not consistently good - they’ve majorly improved. A stand-out is the cacio e pepe, with housemade noodles coated in the perfect amount of cheese and pepper. The meat and seafood entrees are no longer priced to drive you into bankruptcy, and while we like the salt-crusted branzino, you should plan to go heavier on the antipasti and the pastas here. They’re just more interesting.
Yes, it’s still in the Thompson Hotel, but if you don’t go to the bathroom (located outside the restaurant), you can have a full meal without realizing that. So if you don’t like eating at hotel restaurants, just hold it and you’ll be fine. Since so much of the seating is at the chef’s counter, with a view of the open kitchen, this is a great place to come alone or on a date - larger groups can get tricky because most of the seating is for two or four.
Nico Osteria is still pricey, but no longer outrageously so, and the food is really good - on par with what’s being served at other quality spots in the Gold Coast. Its turnaround under a new chef makes us glad we continue to occasionally give second chances. But we still hide our peanut butter, and so should you.
The crudo selection changes based on availability. And while it’s generally good, we prefer focusing on the more interesting antipasti. But you can expect options like scallops with puffed rice and avocado.
Sheep’s Milk Ricotta
The ricotta is pretty firm, with a quince rind that adds sweetness. It’s served on top of a super thin cracker and with roasted grapes. The cracker is too thin to scoop up the ricotta without breaking, so just eat it with a fork. If you do that, it’s really good.
Despite looking like something you’d find on the menu at Red Lobster, this shrimp dish tastes awesome. It’s wrapped in lardo before being battered and fried, and served with persimmons and a lime aioli.
Get these. They’re tender, and served with fried polenta in a tomato sauce that’s spicy but gets sweetness from the (kinda odd) addition of rehydrated raisins. Something we never wanted in our tomato sauce until now.
Cacio E Pepe
As far as we’re concerned, this is a perfect pasta dish. Chewy, cheesy, and peppery.
The stuffed pappardelle is a carryover from the old menu, and is one of the only pastas from before that we consistently enjoyed. It’s filled with pork, then covered in a light truffle sauce with carrots. Even though it’s pork, it kind of reminds us of a Sunday pot roast.
Whether or not you like the idea of an “octopus bolognese,” you should order this dish. It’s fantastic, and the tomato sauce is surprisingly rich considering it’s made with octopus instead of meat.
Salt Crusted Branzino
If you want a traditional main, this is a good option to share. It’s moist and flavorful, and comes with a tomato hollandaise we really like.
We’ve never been disappointed by the desserts here, and you really need to order at least one. The Monte Bianco is a hazelnut mousse with a caramel crust - you won’t be mad if this is the one you pick.