|Garden salad with walnut citrus dressing|
There are some restaurants where you go just to get something to eat. Nanoosh is one of them. With three locations in New York, this self-described "Mediterranean Hummus Bar," screams "stop in for a salad or sandwich and a glass of wine anytime."
So The Restaurant Dieter and his spouse found themselves stopping in one Friday night after landing at LaGuardia. My spouse got to the airport from work before I did, so I missed the obligatory coin flip that determines who gets the upgrade to first class. So while The Restaurant Dieter made do with peanuts and a Fresca, his spouse in 3C dined on a chicken sandwich with wine and pretended not to notice actor Hal Holbrook in the next seat. Hal had the beef.
With 8 hours having passed since lunch, it was time for something fast, fresh and without a lot of fuss. Nanoosh's menu seems to fit the bill perfectly. With all of its emphasis on EVOO and organic -- "we have a deep and abiding belief in the power of food to help us live a healthier and more fulfilling life" -- it even seems virtuous on a diet.
Certainly, it can be. However, it would be a mistake to suggest that all Mediterranean food qualifies as diet-friendly. That pool of oil floating atop your hummus is only the start. Ask to leave the oil off, you're still looking at a sesame-paste-and-chickpea dip that's probably more than 100 calories and 5 grams of fat per 1/4 cup. And let's face it, with good whole wheat pita like that served at Nanoosh, nobody's limiting themselves to a quarter cup.
Still there are abundant salads on the menu, along with grilled chicken and tuna. Given the coolness of the evening, it seemed time to dip into a bowl of soup. Nanoosh offers two: organic tomato and a lentil with -- of course -- organic lentils, organic carrots and organic onions. Somebody on that staff decided that a single adjective wouldn't do, but that's another story.
The soup was a thick porridge of puree and soft whole lentils with enough spice to keep its ultimate brownness from tasting, well, brown. The bowl was large and might well have been dinner in and of itself. Even though it was only $5.50, an option for a smaller cup might be nice.
With it I had the garden salad. And I do mean with it; for some reason, they arrived at the same time, crowding the typically small New York restaurant two-top. The salad was a litany of "organic" adjectives as well -- romaine, cherry tomatoes, carrots, corn, heart of palm. For a little zing (and protein), the kitchen tosses on a handful of dry roasted edamame.
The dressing choices were an extra virgin olive oil and citrus and something really different: oil-free walnut and grapefruit dressing. Non-fat dressings tend to be awful, don't they? Somehow all that crunchy vegetable-ness usually demands a little silken oil to feel satisfying. But a dressing that unusual had to be experienced, so I went with it.
The server said it was a concotion of ground walnuts, walnut extract, grapefruit, sugar, salt and pepper. The flavor was light and fresh, but thanks to the ground nuts, a little gritty. Given the fats present in nuts, it may have been oil-free, but it was not fat free. However much fat the walnuts contributed, it still seemed to need a dash of olive oil. Even then, it did not break the bad-no-oil-dressing rule.
Next time, I'll try the olive oil and citrus dressing. Nanoosh is the kind of place where you stop in. Again and again.