Tonight, Nisi Estiatorio, a new Greek restaurant in Englewood, will be opening its doors to the public for the first time. Nisi is a gorgeous addition to the Bergen County restaurant scene. In this economic climate of gloom and doom, seeing a new restaurant with such a beautiful design is a wonderful surprise. When you step in through the heavy wooden doors, it is like being transported to a high end taverna in Santorini. Everything is blue or white, including the large tiled wall fountain behind the impressive ice bed filled with fresh fish for your choosing.
I attended a cocktail party at Nisi last night where I got to taste some of Nisi’s menu offerings. I was disappointed not to have an opportunity to sample any of the focal points of the menu: the fresh fish on display. They looked so appetizing that I plan to return soon to try them. There was no shortage of pass arounds however, so I can report back on many other dishes. Many of them were as delicious as I expected them to be considering Nisi’s chef is no other than John Piliouras, formerly of Manhattan’s Molyvos Restaurant.
Nisi could probably have been called Ouzo because it is a starring ingredient in many of the dishes. I started with some incredibly fresh oysters and clams on the half shell with an ouzo orange mignonette sauce. I also tried many of the mezedes (appetizers) including light as air taramosalata (carp roe mousse with almonds, lemon and olive oil), and a fire roasted eggplant spread. The ouzo cured Scottish salmon was very good as were the keftedes (mini ground lamb meatballs). The Greek take on shrimp and pasta with vodka sauce was done with orzo and ouzo and was actually more interesting and spicy than its Italian counterpart. My favorite appetizer was by far the Ktenia Kataifi, a sea scallop wrapped in a pastry that looked like shredded wheat. It was light and just melted in my mouth, leaving me with a sweet taste of scallop and balsamic vinegar reduction.
As I said, I didn’t get to taste any of the main dishes from the menu. The sea bass, dorado, pompano, sole and prawns lying on their bed of ice looked very fresh and appetizing. They are priced per pound ranging from $25 to $32 and are grilled and then deboned before being served. Unlike many Greek restaurants which emphasize fish, there is also plenty for the carnivores: chicken, lamb chops, rib-eye, and moussaka.
There was no shortage of desserts to be sampled, many of which featured some unusual Greek ingredients. The creme brulee was infused with something called Mastiha, a sap that can only be found on the island of Hios and is considered to be the original chewing gum. Nisi offers two types of baklava: a traditional one and another one with chocolate, raspberries and orange pastry cream. The diet conscious should try the Karidopita, a sugar free walnut cake.
Nisi has a soothing and hip ambiance. Unlike many of the restaurants in Bergen County, it has a liquor license and a beautiful bar. I have a strong suspicion that Nisi is going to become a serious dining and after-hours destination.
90 Grand Avenue,
Englewood, NJ 07631
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