Sunday, March 02, 2008

Nada - Cincinnati

As we walked through the door, I felt like maybe some bouncers were going to come out from nowhere and force me to leave.

Two drop-dead women stood at the hostess stand in dresses that Wardrobe grabbed from a rack at White House Black Market. Every hair was in place as they poured over the seating chart and considered where they'd seat the likes of us.

We weren't exactly the Beautiful People, but the chicks at the door were astute in surmising we had the cash (or credit) to cover the cost of dinner.

So they sat us at a table facing the spectacular open kitchen.

Despite the intimidation factor at the door, we felt quite welcome and comfortable at our spot. In fact, Nada projects a definite feeling of warmth. The walls are covered in the color of a vibrant, fiery sunset. Diners can gaze over a wavy partition to check out the action in the kitchen. The steamy, sweaty scene is orchestrated by chef David Falk, and it's a perfect visual appetizer to get you all hot and bothered before your food comes.

Because what you'll get is the equivalent of porn on a plate.

Where the former Bella was sleek and cool to the point of distant, Nada has a just a dash of rustic mixed with gregarious sophistication.

My eyes soaked up the delicious offerings on the drink menu and decided to go with the simple Nadarita. The house margarita is a perfect way to judge the pouring talents of any bartender, and mine was a spot-on mix of tequila, triple sec and lime juice. The drink wasn't too tart, it wasn't overly sweet and the liquor didn't taste cheap - and for seven bucks it shouldn't.

Our service was exceptional and I am kicking myself for not remembering our server's name.

She knew the short-but-sweet menu inside and out and was glad to grab us a bowl of guacamole while we drooled over our options.

I'd heard about the guac from several people and my tastebuds were anxious to try the traditional concoction. The fresh dip was a bright, chartreuse green and fairly unadulterated save for a few chunky strands of onion on top.

As you can see, we didn't like it one bit.

I decided to sip on a mojito during my main course. It was full of bits of fresh, earthy mint and even with the rum it made me think of how Derby Day is only a couple months away.

The drink was a perfect acompaniment to the glorious orb of ceviche I savored. Ceviche is a common dish in Latin America - it involves using a blend of citrus juices to "cook" seafood. Different regions have their own techniques for preparing the dish and in Mexico the recipe for ceviche traditionally calls for tomatoes. I was pleased to dine on a sparkling jewel of shrimp and scallops bathed in a broth the rich red of a strong Bloody Mary. The scallops looked like floating angels and the chunks of shrimp were as big as pieces of Bubblicious bubble gum.

My spoon dove in to the gorgeous dish and fished out some of the seafood - the scallops were incredibly tender but the shrimp was just a dash too tough and rubbery. The ruddy broth was tangy - a mix of citrus juice, tomato and the flavor of clean cilantro. There were a few other elements I couldn't peg - all gave the ceviche an amazing depth.

I also enjoyed the macaroni and cheese - the flavor wasn't too sharp and cheesy, but instead very creamy and dotted with chunks of zesty jalapeno.

The mahi mahi soft tacos were okay. The soft, flour tortillas were filled with a a couple pieces of what looked to be pan fried fish, along with some lettuce, cheese and guac. The tacos were nice but they didn't really pop.

The manager sent over a dessert of caramel covered flan since we had to wait (seriously three extra seconds) for the tacos to arrive at the table. The flan was creamy, sweet and the perfect size to finish our meal.

The menu at Nada isn't as extensive as other places but it showcases a variety of carefully crafted elements to please your palate.

I am anxious for another visit to the restaurant, as long as I can get past the hostess stand.


Unknown said...

Next time try the Barbacoa Tacos...amazing.

Matt said...

I guess I'm not the only person who takes pictures of plates.

Thanks for sharing. I'm going to Nada tonight and wanted to know what to expect.