NYCReview

photo credit: David A. Lee

Nudibranch review image
8.5

Nudibranch

$$$$

125 1st Ave, New York
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

When the food at a restaurant is all over the place, you often get an unfocused experience. But at Nudibranch, that’s not the case.

The meals here are prix fixe, and the menu seems like it was put together by someone blindly drawing cuisines from a pouch like Scrabble tiles. You’ll see food influenced by places like South America, Mexico, and a bunch of different Asian countries—and, while not every dish is a home run, the ones that work really work.

As soon as you step into this East Village restaurant, you feel like you're part of a West Elm catalog shoot. Take a seat in the dark wood-filled dining room, and for $75, you get to choose one course from each of the three sections of the menu. (You can also add any item à la carte.)

Nudibranch review image

photo credit: Nudibranch

Start with the refreshing raw scallops on top of seaweed crackers that will make you think of both Korea and Japan. Or try the frog legs fried in an absurdly good ginger and lemongrass batter. Your fingers will involuntarily transport every last bit of crust that falls on your plate straight into your mouth.

But the absolute best thing here, which helped propel Nudibranch from a pop-up to a full-fledged restaurant, is the mushroom course. The kitchen cooks different types of mushrooms with Shaoxing wine and throws a big raw egg yolk on top. If you find it difficult to articulate what umami is to someone, have them try this dish, and the meaning will become clear in about two seconds.

Nudibranch review image

photo credit: David A. Lee

Hit up the people in your life who aren’t afraid to eat dishes they’ve never seen before, and bring them to Nudibranch. We love how the kitchen is trying new things and going for it in a slightly random way, and if you bring a group of four, you can pretty much try everything in one visit. The dishes change seasonally, and whenever the kitchen comes up with their next menu, we’ll be the first ones to make a reservation.

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Food Rundown

Nudibranch review image

photo credit: David A. Lee

Mushroom

Here, you get maitake, king oyster, and other types of mushrooms prepared four ways (confit, puréed, sautéed, and fried in tapioca starch). Once you stir everything together with the raw egg yolk that comes on top, you’ll realize why we give this dish a blue ribbon prize (no participation trophies necessary).

Nudibranch review image

photo credit: David A. Lee

Scallop

For this pretty-looking starter, slices of raw scallop and slivers of cucumber are arranged in alternating layers on a fried nori square with a bit of trout roe. You’ll taste a little lemon and barely any wasabi, which is brushed on. They don’t skimp on the scallops.

Nudibranch review image

photo credit: David A. Lee

Frog Leg

If the kitchen used chicken instead of frog legs for this dish, it would be one of the most popular things to eat in the neighborhood. We heard someone next to us say, “I’m good with anything on the menu except for the frog legs.” If you’re in the same camp, all we can say is: your loss.

Nudibranch review image

photo credit: Kenny Yang

Squid

The pieces of squid are tender and go nicely with some green beans and torn pieces of mint. But this dish is all about the exceptional squid ink black bean sauce. You’ll be looking for anything to dip into it (including your pinky finger).

Nudibranch review image

photo credit: David A. Lee

Cauliflower

We’re a little sick of cauliflower. It’s used to make everything from rice to pizza crust to gnocchi. But this dish makes us excited about broccoli’s not-green cousin again. The cauliflower is prepared three ways (roasted, puréed, and pickled) and combines creaminess and crunch with subtle funk from fish sauce. The fact that crispy bits of lap cheong are thrown in is just a bonus.

Nudibranch review image

photo credit: David A. Lee

Flat Iron

The sous vide flat iron steak is almost as tender as a piece of sushi. Each bite goes perfectly with the chimichurri and crispy, salty fried taro sticks that come on the side. Even if you’re not in the mood for beef, you will be after you try this.

Nudibranch review image

photo credit: David A. Lee

Pork Jowl

Pineapple, charred cabbage, and mustard help balance everything out—but the firm slices of pork jowl taste like they're about 95-percent fat. You can skip this dish.

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