Review: Narcissa – East Village, New York

During a recent trip to NYC, we planned dinner with the mutual friend who first introduced Malinda and me. Our treat. There aren’t enough dinners in the world to repay him for putting the two of us in touch.  

We chose Narcissa in the East Village because it’s consistently rated among the best restaurants in New York City and several reviews spoke highly of their flavorful vegetable dishes. Neither of us are vegetarian, but we’ve recently taken a pause on all meat but seafood. According to The Today Show we’re “flexitarians.”

The small, elegantly casual restaurant is located in the Standard Hotel and was only sparsely populated when we arrived for our 6:45pm dinner reservation. It wouldn’t stay that way for long. Our server informed us that the menu had recently changed and shared that the chicken and the steak were excellent options. True to their reputation, she insisted that we try a couple of the vegetable dishes. We obliged.

I ordered the roasted beets with cumin and Malinda chose the Japanese sweet potatoes. I enjoyed them much more than she did. The dense white and purple flesh was drizzled with a tasty yellow sauce. Malinda is partial to the orange-fleshed kind used to make Sweet Potato Pie (technically a Yam). None of us liked the beets— although the seasoning had promise. They were served in thick, over-dried chunks that we barely touched.

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The parker rolls arrived as a duo— one saffron, one seaweed. The saffron roll was delicious and worthy of seconds, but our server informed us that they only came as a pair. Judging from the half eaten seaweed scented version that remained— we took a pass. Malinda opted for the whole snapper (sans head and tail). She loved it. The few bites I had were excellently cooked and seasoned. The flaky white fish was covered with perfectly translucent onions and a spicy red sauce. I chose the prawns and was satisfied— not blown away. The sauce was sop-worthy, but something about them left an odd aftertaste that I did not fully appreciate.

Our friend had the roasted half-chicken. It looked and smelled delicious— crispy and moist in all of the right places and topped with hot, juicy grapes. His empty plate and satisfied smile confirmed it. We tasted and enjoyed his ceviche— mixed with raw onions and served with lettuce leaves for wrapping.

Dessert didn’t happen. By the time we’d finished our entrees, the restaurant was packed. So much so—  the manager offered us champagne at the adjoining bar in a thinly veiled attempt to reseat the table. We accepted the bubbly and didn’t comment on the maneuver. Overall, the food was fine— not outstanding. With all of the options in NYC, it’s not high on our return visit list— but it’s not a bad option. Just steer clear of the beets.

–TMW

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