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 a love letter to . This is passion, raw and unfettered, in the face of a chef whose food I have been cooking in my own kitchen, thanks to beautifully constructed tomes 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