Review: Desnuda

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It seems like the East Village will forever be the mecca for the young, hip and grunge. It has this unshakable history of being a hotbed for artists and nonconformists and is birthing a new and distinct food scene. It’s the perfect setting for Desnuda, a wine bar and cevicheria that serves up elegant, complex and intriguing ceviche, but in a relaxed, trendy and easy environment.

First of all – yes, there is such thing as a ceviche bar. The menu consists of wine, ceviche/tiradito, oysters and two sides — rice and sweet potatoes. That’s it! And you will soon realize that this is more than enough.

Desnuda – Spanish for “naked” – is very small and aptly described as a bar, as the bar is the only place that you can sit. Dark woods and plush stools make the dark atmosphere cozy. It’s a place to get comfortable with the company of wine and friends (or a date) and share entree-sized marinated raw fish dishes tapas-style.

I started off with the Macabeu & Muscat wine. It was a nice crisp white wine with a dry effervescence. I liked it because it was bubbly, but not sweet. It was light and sharp enough to not interfere with the delicate fish.

I sipped my wine and snacked on complimentary truffled popcorn while I watched the chef prepare my fish behind the bar.

First up was the Tiradito de Atun. Tiradito is a Peruvian, spicy, marinated, raw fish cut similar to sashimi. The Tiradito de Atun was an elegant fusion of Peruvian and Japanese flavors. The tuna was marinated in a soy-like sauce (specifically a shishito Uzi truffle glaze) and covered in jalapeño peppers, red onions and potato chips and cilantro. The first thing you notice when you dig in is the quality of the fish. It is excellently filleted, melting in your mouth with little more than mashing of the tongue necessary to break it down. The next thing you notice are the potatoes chips. They call it a “potato crunch” but it seems like that was their way to class up the fact that they were mixing potato chips with a very fine piece of tuna. But it worked! The crunch not only added texture but salinity and starch, rounding out the dish. Next came a sweetness I thought it was from the sauce, but it seems to have been coming from the jalapeño! All together, it was a great balance, offering a salty and umami flavor from Japanese traditions and the sweet spiciness of Latin cuisine.

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Next was the Ceviche de Salmon. Buttery king salmon was mixed with orange slices, almonds, red onions, cilantro, thai chili oil and black sesame seeds. The salmon was so smooth. The play on textures was perfect. It was bookended by medallions of sweet potato with a sweet brûlée top. The dish was visually beautiful and complex in texture and taste.

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As I sat at the bar, wondering if the paper fans on the ceiling were actually waving rhythmically in sync or I had one too many glasses of wine (rest assures, the fans do wave in sync), I realized that I stumbled on something truly special. A small menu serves them well; they do one thing, and they do it fantastically.

Brooklynites, check out their outpost in Williamsburg!

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