Free bread in restaurants has been tepidly debated for as long as people have been tepidly debating things on the internet. (In summary, free bread at the outset of a meal once seemed ubiquitous, but it is no longer. This is an adjustment.) The bread at newly opened Nura in Greenpoint, the second venture from Otis’ owners Michelle Lobo-Hawley and Scott Hawley, is so sensational that it renders that old expectation inconceivable.
Nura’s bread basket ($19) lands on your table like a beautiful bouquet of baked goods, garlic coriander naan fanning out around a pair of Parker House rolls. The naan is wonderfully blistered, a little slick with ghee and dynamic with alternating charred and chewy textures. The Parker House rolls with ají dulce and annatto seeds and are plump with a snappy surface and a pillowy interior. The whole lot is tandoor baked and served with a trio of dips: Mellow yogurt with haraasa and za’atar, poblano hummus and vibrant cultured leek butter.
The breads and dips are remarkable. Carbohydrate connoisseurs and novices alike will likely literally remark on their presentation and the obviously meticulous preparation orchestrated by pastry chef Sam Short (recently of Blanca and Roberta’s). Even if Nura’s menu offered little else of similar esteem, this item, which splits the difference between appetizer and side, would put it on the map.
The kitchen, led by chef Jackie Carnesi (also of Roberta’s), continues to deliver on the promise of Nura’s excellent baked goods. The grilled prawn starter ($21) has a buoyant bite and a more pronounced saline, seaside nose and flavor than most. Its bed of deep, smoky sauce, multi-dimensional with mezcal, habanero, urfa biber and pomegranate, is marvelous to taste on its own and the reason why Nura’s bread (or any bread at all, for that matter) exists. Finishing the last drops I imagined other pairing possibilities; opportunities to taste the expert purée again and see how it punctuates other foods. It is a very good sauce.
Larger plates are generously portioned, like the half honey-glazed chicken ($37), served with an herbaceous fenugreek roti, that's bisected from a hefty bird. Its skin is a little less than crispy but the meat is juicy even to the center of the breast. And while the za’atar baby back ribs ($32) aren’t quite falling off the bone, they come pretty close and are richly flavored with cherry chipotle barbecue sauce.
Nura’s warm, welcoming, industrial-chic space is large, lined in exposed brick and lush with flora under a high ceiling. Some tables have wood-slatted partitions between them, intimate and prime for secret-sharing. And the sprawling, 80-seat dining room is anchored by a large horseshoe bar a little right of center, where they make some exceptional cocktails with flavors less often combined by local mixologists. The Little Giant ($15) is a real winner and should become an autumn standard, made with ghee-washed rye, jaggery, fennel and bitters. The Paid to Daydream ($15) also successfully blends milk-washed white tea rum, peach and citrus to quick-drinking effect.
Complimentary baked goods may no longer be as common as some recall, but you get what you pay for. Nura’s breads are stunning, and the rest of its small but mighty menu invites return visits. It’s exactly the kind of restaurant that lets its talented team fracture old notions with new standards.
The Vibe: Inviting, comfortable and beautifully designed with high ceilings, exposed brick and abundant foliage with room for groups and cozy, semi-secluded tables poised for romance.
The Food: Nura’s naan and Parker House rolls are sensational to start with, and its grilled prawn and half honey-glazed chicken deliver on that early promise.
The Drinks: Terrific cocktails like the Little Giant with ghee-washed rye, jaggery, fennel and bitters are unlike much else in the area.
Time Out Tip: Reservations at Nura are already a bit hard to come by, so plan your visit outside of prime time.
Nura is located at 46 Norman Avenue and is open Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5:50pm-10:30pm and Friday and Saturday from 5:30pm-11:00pm.