A few years back and I can remember when the London restaurant scene was booming and trying to keep track of new restaurant openings was relatively possible – but now it’s virtually impossible. You can notice that change even more so when the site of a restaurant you loved has closed down and something new has appeared in its place almost instantly – completely under my nose. Taking the site of former restaurant, Sixty One in Marble Arch, Nirvana Kitchen is the newest addition and I can tell you now it’s a great replacement – though of course very different.
Decor wise it still remains the same inside, which is good because I love it and the only thing that has really changed is the staff, the signage and of course – the food. Now you can expect to eat from a Pan-Asian inspired menu, full of flavour, colour, excitement and a kitchen looked after by head chef Anirudh Arora.
Menu wise it’s not particularly extensive, but well thought out and so choosing what to eat is a rather hard task as you’ll simply want it all. The first of our sharing dishes was a lovely duck and watermelon salad with mandarin, pomegranate, basil, coriander, cashew and hoisin sauce. A dish I’m very familiar with and most recently sampled on at Gilgamesh in Camden, however Nirvana Kitchen’s version had more of an edge. The meat is slightly more moist and the hoisin sauce had a touch more flavour. Equally as lovely was the softshell crab tempura with a truffled ponzu dip. Lots of flavour and carefully cooked.
Standout dishes from this sharing menu were the two pictured above. The scallop ceviche with sweet potato, red onion, crispy corn and citrus chili yuzu was one of the best ceviche dishes I’ve had in a while. Zesty, punchy and the scallops were so soft and tender. Better still was the black cod. I expected it to arrive as a freshly baked fillet, but instead it was deep-fried, the fish marinated in harissa and served with Thai som tam dip. It wasn’t much to look at, but take one bite and you’ll fall in love.
While technically all of the dishes are classed as sharing plates, as you move down the menu and prices increase, the dishes get slightly bigger. One of my personal favourites was the Nirvana baby chicken. A plate full of moist morsels of chicken, marinated in a mint miso sauce and served with garlic crisps and a puy lentil salsa. Another must order is the Chilean seabass which is given a tamarind glaze and caramelised cashew ‘Gajak’- though I couldn’t really work out what the latter was on the plate.
For those looking for a little more spice and heat from their food should order a couple of the “pots”. Nirvana’s delicious take of the classic Nyonya chicken curry is packed full with coconut, spices, potatoes and a poached duck egg. For a more Thai experience, order my favourite from the evening – the rich and silky lamb massaman curry. Pair all of these spicy pots with a side of fluffy white rice and a classic Malay paratha.
In reality we didn’t actually finish everything on our table (because we’re only human), but I’m so glad we didn’t over indulge too much because desserts are worth saving the space for. It wasn’t until very recently that I fell in love with the Japanese mochi rice cake and so I had to try them here. Once you experience a good mochi, you quickly realise just how satisfying they can be. We sampled sweet mango, salted caramel and coconut – served with a lychee sake shot on the side. My favourite dessert still was this large colourful bowl, filled with fresh fruits, honeycomb, white chocolate, raspberry mousse and honeycomb – the stuff of dreams.
I was a bit worried about Nirvana Kitchen at first, me visiting at least anyway. Having loved the restaurant that was previously in its place and sad to hear it had closed – I had high expectations for its replacement. However, Nirvana Kitchen really did pull it off, with its excellent service, solid Pan-Asian concept and exciting food. If you’re looking for a modern taste of Asia when in the Marble Arch area – Nirvana Kitchen is the perfect choice.
NB: I was invited to review and my meal was complimentary. All views are as always, my own. My views are not influenced by anyone other than my own palate and slightly poor eyesight.