Nosh, the casual New American bar and restaurant below Silo, is a surprise — at least visually. It looks like a place you might expect to find on a busy downtown street in a cosmopolitan city. In Manhattan, there would be many more tables much closer together, a reflection of the price of real estate. And in San Francisco or another benign climate, there would be tables on a shady sidewalk. Here we get Austin Highway, cars parked outside the front door, four barstools, and five tables so generously spaced that one wonders if business is really expected.
It may be inevitable that much of Nosh’s menu would come across like Silo lite — or not-so-lite in the case of shrimp and grits and green-chile macaroni and cheese. Some plates, such as the sizzling mushrooms, can even trace their lineage back to Chef Mark Bliss’s Biga days. So when we noticed the shrimp corn dogs with spicy mayo, we lept on them. Clever, but not too cute, the skewered and battered shrimp were lush, fat, and fantastic, and the sriracha-laced mayo was a perfect antidote to the indulgent coating and the tender, flavorful shrimp within.
Almost as good were the lemongrass-habanero pork meatballs served with chilled citrus noodles. The meatballs were moist, spicy, and simply great, and although serving the noodles just a little warmer would emphasize the citrus, they were nevertheless welcome on the plate. The Korean-barbecue pork tacos with kimchee, on the other hand, were highly anticipated and seriously disappointing. The corn tortillas and unadvertised melted cheese effectively neutralized the punch of the somewhat timid barbecue, and the kimchee seemed noncommittal as well. This one we’d avoid.
THE SKINNY A cosmopolitan evening
bar with uptown mixology and
signature Mark Bliss fusion on the menu
DON'T MISS The 75 cocktail and
the shrimp corn dogs with spicy mayo
And we’d resist the Greek mezze salad — at least at $10. From the menu description it sounds like there’s a lot going on, but grilled artichoke hearts appeared to be a major player and when they were (apparently) forgotten, our thrill subsided. Marinated onions, not even mentioned, almost steal the show from some good feta. Pretty, yes. Worth it, no.
The tandoori-chicken sandwich on a toasted focaccia bun falls somewhere between disappointing and potentially very good. The addition of tarragon-apple slaw to the chicken and its tomato-ginger chutney almost causes fusion confusion, but I’d go for more slaw and less of the unimpressive chutney, which seemed thrown together. Right now it’s a question of balance. Other sandwiches include a prime-rib cheesesteak and grilled mushrooms with brie on sourdough.
Big Plates/Bowls number only three at the moment of this review. We picked the only one that is unique to Nosh, the rigatoni with Italian sausage, cream, and tomato. If this is typical of what the tiny kitchen can do, we say give it its head. The sauce was straightforward but intensely flavorful, the pasta was perfectly cooked and the ratio of sauce to pasta was spot-on; not a speck of sauce was left when we were finished with the dish.
There was some wine left over, however, but mostly because we had begun the evening with another of Nosh’s clever come-ons: the 3 for $8 cocktails from the Bar Stuff list. True, we didn’t really love everything about the three drinks we passed around, but there was a spark to each of them — with one common thread: sweetness. The simple syrup that had been added to the 75 with St. Germain (the currently fashionable and quite distinctive elderflower liqueur) was most in synch with the total package, which also included Hendrick’s Gin and lemon juice. Agave syrup tended to dominate the Basil Bliss (no doubt named for Mark), which contains tequila, fresh basil, and lime, but it has soul. For all its romance-novel connotations, the Dark & Stormy, based on Goslings Black Rum, ginger ale, simple syrup, and lime, was the one we felt least passionate about. There are only eight selections on Nosh’s very well-priced wine list, by the way, and the serviceable Terra Andina Chilean cabernet can be recommended at $8/glass and $32/bottle. The big boys’ list from upstairs is also available.
Should you be in the mood for dessert, there’s only one choice: housemade Italian doughnut holes rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Our waiter brought samples of Colorado-brewed Breckenridge Porter as an accompaniment, but though the chocolatey beer was fine alone, we’d give the holes a pass — at least until the two chocolate dipping sauces, one white and one said to be dark, develop some personality. On a larger scale, more of its own personality is what Nosh now needs. But, as is indicated under the Big Plates/Bowls heading, there’s “more to come.” We’ll be back to see what develops.