The restaurant space at The Nolitan hotel in Nolita seems to be a death-knell. The prior two occupants–the Usual from Eggslut chef Alvin Cailan and before that, a forgettable Italian restaurant–did not survive. But with the arrival of Kimika, the new Japanese-Italian restaurant from the Wayla team, the veil of bad feng shui seems to have been lifted. Kimika is undeniably a hit. The comfort food fusion dishes combining the best of carbs and creamy, meaty sauces from two cultures are quite impressive. It’s also fantastic that Kimika is a female-led restaurant with great cocktails and an interesting, nerdy wine list. Outdoor dining at Kimika is a fantastic experience, and I’m looking forward to the days when it’s safe enough to eat these meals in the beautiful space inside.
Kimika has one of those menus where everything on it sounds so good. It’s divided into small plates, pizzettes, pastas and large entrees, and we had a hard time narrowing things down. How could we choose between tuna tartare, kakiage fritto misto or greenmarket peaches? These are all things you really want to eat. We finally chose the tuna tartare, covered in a rich and creamy mayo sauce speckled with roe, and did not regret it.
Rich flavors is a big theme here, and we followed up the tuna tartare with a mortadella pizzette. As you might imagine, this involved generous slices of pork placed on top of a crust, but the twist is that the crust is more like a fried pastry, similar to a jianbing or a Chinese crueller, and the pork is drizzled in a dipping sauce reminiscent of hoisin.
If you’ve gone on Kimika’s instagram at all, you know that the two stars on the menu are the rice cake lasagna and the eggplant parmesan. I was instantly smitten with the rice cake lasagna and could not help myself from taking second, third and fourth servings of the tasty rice cakes, making sure to swirl them around generously in the cheese and tomato sauce. We ordered a second pasta dish, the roe roe roe roe spaghetti, and while it was fine, it was not as memorable as the lasagna. In fact, this was the only dish in our order that I probably would not order again on a future visit.
The eggplant parmesan was well-made, and if you need a vegetarian option, I would recommend this. It sounds exactly as advertised–eggplant with tonkatsu breading on the outside. It doesn’t quite do it for me the way a pork or beef tonkatsu would, but I wouldn’t say no if offered seconds.
This sounds like a lot of food, but you need to make room for the creative desserts at Kimika. Again, you feel like you want to order everything on the menu–watermelon kakigori? souffle keiki? mochi bomboloncini? Yes yes yes! They need to offer one of those samplers that let you try all the desserts in one sitting. We decided on the yakult softserve, which we eyed on Instagram beforehand, and the mochi bomboloncini. Both good choices. As an fyi, the softserve does incorporate chicken skin in the dessert, but it’s not as off putting as it sounds. It tastes more like salted rice puffs rather than chicken skin. As for the mochi, if you’ve had sesame balls at dim sum and love them, then you will enjoy these very much.
It takes a lot of courage to open up a restaurant during this time, but Kimika is doing it, and it is doing it with aplomb. There are a lot of good things in store at Kimika–the staff mentioned the possibility of a rooftop dining option. I pray that they’ll have heat lamps or indoor dining can proceed safely so that this good momentum can continue.
@ The Nolitan Hotel
40 Kenmare St (between Mott and Elizabeth St)
New York, NY 10012