Par for the course for veterans on the restaurant battlefield these days, Wayne Nish has reshaped his menu to appeal to a hipper palate and clientele. What was March (New American) has morphed into modern fusion at the now casual Nish, still located in the same serene Sutton Place townhouse. Deemed one of the “founding fathers” of fusion, Wayne Nish plays with global flavors with a strong inclination toward all things Asian. With a menu that requires a glossary, Nish isn’t meant for the impatient dining set. But I quickly determined that patience is a virtue over a dinner that which included a delicate sashimi of hirame, sweet lobster and silky bay scallops. The top-notch cheese service from an elusive Fromages.com and a charming outdoor terrace make Nish irresistible come spring.
What did you want to be when you grew up?An architect, journalist or a musician. I didn’t find food and cooking till a bit later.
How did you get into food? I followed a girl up to Cornell after dropping out of Long Island University in freshman year. The only job I could find was as a cook at a fraternity house. So I tried my hand at it. By the end of that summer my reputation had become strong enough that I had three different fraternities trying to hire me for the following year. I chose Pi Lambda Phi. They had a 30th anniversary reunion at March with me three years ago.
What was your first job in food? When I was 17 my aunt got me a me job as a soda jerk at the Hotel Americana, now the Sheraton on Seventh Ave. The first banana split I made came back with the waitress telling me it was the most beautiful one she ever saw. But that I forgot the bananas.
When did you decide you wanted to reinvent your restaurant, changing it
from March to Nish? I began to form my ideas last summer.
How is it different for you? It’s exciting because it’s new. I’ve wanted to do something more casual and more accessible for a long time.
What’s your favorite dish on the new menu? It’s a toss-up between the clam ravioli or the salmon with trahana. Littleneck clam ravioli with lop ch’ueng sausage and salted black beans slow-roasted scottish salmon with trahana, tomato and eggplant.
What’s your least favorite dish (and yes, you must pick one)? The requisite green salad. I’m not a salad-eater.
What is your junk food of choice? Pizza. And lately these Fujian-style pork-filled bings, which are a savory pastry. There’s a new shop on West 3rd Street that sells them.
Other than your own, what’s your favorite restaurant in NYC? Probably Jing Fong in Chinatown. I love it for dim sum.
What culinary trend do you most embrace? Downscaling.
What trend do you wish would die already? Uber-trendy, mega-sized Asian Fusion restaurants.
What’s next on the horizon for you? Any new ventures or restaurants in
the works? Spill the beans…I’m consulting on a pizza restaurant concept for the Caribbean and Central America and talking with a couple of guys on casual restaurants here in NYC.
Until we eat again,
**Don’t forget to subscribe for Restaurant Girl’s Weekly Newsletter**