Friday, September 26, 2014

Opening Alert: The Nice Guy (West Hollywood)

Taking over the former Mezze space in West Hollywood is a mafia-inspired hangout called as The Nice Guy. Taking cues from late 70’s and early 80’s interior, the H.Wood execs (the brain behind hotspots such as Bootsy Bellows, Hooray Henry’s, and Shorebar) never seemed shy about being upfront with their upbringing.

The vibe here feels like your favorite supper club with its intimate candles setting, piano play, white-marble bar tops, floral-patterned booths, large couches, and dark wood walls. Also, the reservation-only concept breaths hospitality - they want to make sure they know who you are, what you like to drink, what time of the night you’d like to eat and where you like to be seated every night. I imagine in an upscale lounge like this, they expect a sense of intimacy, familiarity, and camaraderie within the regulars. But fret not…to score a reservation, all you have to do is call the hostess and answer her questions.
Interior 2
John-Carlos Kuramoto, formerly of Michael’s in Santa Monica, has put together Italian-inspired bites, ranging from healthy to comfort fare. My favorites are the Duck Banh Mi Pizza, Chicken Parm Wings, and the 8 oz Dry Aged New York Steak.  And for the healthier items, I thought the Black Tuscan Kale Chips, Blue Crab Arancini, and Charred Baby Sprouting Broccoli were excellent. Other than those, of course, they have the classic Margherita or Prosciutto Pizza, Meatballs with tomato sauce, and the Burger with candied bacon. Even if you decided to go with the more conventional dishes, rest assured the dishes will be carefully executed and taste much better than the typical bar food.

Other than the food, The Nice Guy is also a craft cocktail destination. Helmed by master mixologist Brian Stewart (of SoHo House) in collaboration with h.wood Group's Adam Koral, this place boasts a large selection of spirits, fresh juices, and top shelf Liquor. 
I thought the Bobby Soxer (Casamigos Reposado, blackberries, fresh lemon juice, honey, Campari, and fresno chili peppers), the Chairman (Gentleman Jack, Aperol, cacao, salted cola reduction, and cider vinegar), and the Daddy’s Little Angel (Silencio Mezcal, pineapple juice, organic agave nectar, fresh lemon juice, and Angostura bitters halo) were some of the tastiest cocktails I’ve tasted. 
Cocktail I didn’t like as much - Mother’s Milk (Tito’s Vodka, house made chocolate milk, soda water)…tasted too sweet, it felt like a 50-50 mixture of Yoohoo and Vodka. Additionally, if you really want to impress your date or group of friends, you should go big – order your cocktail in a large punch bowl for $350.

Below are recap of the foods I tasted that night

Chicken Parm Wings – good crunch, good marinara sauce but I wish the cheese melted. Not a big deal – chicken is fried juicy with a perfect proportion of saltiness.
Cheddar and Fontina Mac & Cheese – I liked it so much, I had to order a second plate. It’s a firework of taste and sensation. Very high in cheese content (obviously) while the noodle has a good texture – it’s luscious, creamy but not overly salty or wet.
Mac and
Pizza with Squash Blossom, Chorizo, Calabrian Chili, and Petit Basque Cheese – can’t really give a judgment on this one. Pizza came cold when it was served. I had 2 bites and I thought it was pretty bland – can’t feel the pleasant fattiness of the chorizo or cheese.

Duck Banh Mi Pizza with Duck Confit, Fontina, Pickled Carrot, Thai Herbs, Sriracha – this is a much better Pizza than the Squash Blossom. I love how the salty duck balance out with the sweetness of the pickled carrot and the spiciness of the Sriracha. The fontina was good too – creamy while providing subtle nuttiness to the pizza.

Seared Diver Scallop – Hands down best dish of the night! Cooked wonderfully –crispy on the outside while the inside remained soft. Searing scallop might be a simple task but when you can preserve the inherent brininess and sweetness (while not overcooking the surface), you are a rock star!

Crispy Eggplant Parm Sandwich – Second best dish of the night! Sure the pic doesn’t look appetizing but I loved the gooeyness of the mozzarella so much – it’s stringy, rich, and creamy – Quite the dream. Also, they’re doing a good job on the breaded eggplant –still crispy though doused heavily in marinara sauce and mozzarella. The basil aioli added a slight tang to the dish, a pleasant counterpoint for this hearty rich sandwich.

8 oz. Dry Aged New York Steak
 Ordered mine medium rare and they came the way I expected – slightly charred, red in the middle and oozing out juice when I cut into them. Meat was wonderfully tender with intense beefy flavor. I just wish there were some intramuscular fat within the meat.
Blue Crab Arancini – I thought this has a pretty good crunch though I can’t really taste the blue crab. Maybe the cheddar and the rice croquettes overwhelmed the blue crab existence? Definitely I’d appreciate more blue crab in the filling. Other than that, these balls are still a triple threat: crunchy, creamy, and cheesy.
Daddy’s Little Angel (Silencio Mezcal, pineapple juice, organic agave nectar,fresh lime juice, Angostura bitters halo) and Lucky No. 8 (Bacardi 8 Rum, Amaro Averna, organic agave nectar,fresh lemon juice, and sherry)

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience here. The space is cozy and inviting that it encourages everyone to mingle, whether at the bar or the shared couches. And if you prefer privacy, you can go reserve the small lounge area in the back. I’ll definitely be back here with a group of friends for a fun night out or weekend lounging. Sure the food has exceptional twist, but I think the cocktails are the main attraction that will make me come back years to come. 

Gourmet Pigs   © 2008. Template Recipes by Emporium Digital