It's dish after dish of acid, umami, uncanny seasoning, temperature play. Yotam Ottolenghi's Nopi is everything Emily Fiffer hoped it would be.
LONDON – Nettles are prickly suckers. They yield to few men. After a recent trip to London and a meal at Nopi in Soho, I can say with certainty that one man — lauded chef Yotam Ottolenghi (Plenty, Jerusalem, Ottolenghi restaurants, Nopi, you know the drill) — coaxes nettles the way I assume Jack Nicholson does women. Deftly, assertively, poetically. Until rendered powerless.
The softened stingers appeared in a sauce sopped up first by scallop, then fork, then finger. (I use digits in public sparingly. In this case, it was imperative.) So alluring was this sauce that I called over my server to crow about it, then asked for the recipe. "It's simple," he said. "Five ingredients."
This is my love letter to Nopi. This is passion, raw and unfettered, in the face of a chef whose food I have been cooking in my own kitchen, thanks to his beautifully constructed cookbooks that are as fulfilling to read as they are to use. This is the moment I have been waiting for.
Nopi was everything I'd hoped it would be: a meal that tasted as if it were cooked by someone who understands exactly what makes my palate hum. Hearty at times, dainty at others — Ottolenghi maintains the balance of an Olympic gymnast in the kitchen. Dish after dish offered acid, umami, uncanny seasoning, temperature play.
Olives — simple! — brightened by whole pink peppercorns caused a mild riot. Courgette fritters were flecked with manouri and fried into plump rounds; cool cardamom yogurt proved an apt companion. Dessert was fork-soft chocolate cake with plum "soil." I believe it hit 11 on the Richter scale.
I could go on, but what's the use? I advise you, instead, to travel and taste for yourself.
21-22 Warwick St.
London, W1B 5NE