The cards for free wine flights from NIOS Restaurant at the Muse Hotel had been sitting on my desk since the NYC Wine & Food Festival just waiting to be used. After not spending any one-on-one time with my good friend Katie for a while I suggested we use the wine flights and check out some of Chef Massimo De Francesca's culinary creations. I made a reservation for 2 in the bar at 9:00pm for Friday night.
Expecting only to have share some appetizers and the wine flights I came to NIOS hungry but not expecting to take on a three-course meal. We were offered the Pre-Theatre Prix Fixe Menu and while we were debating sharing some of the appetizers from cleverly named "Act I" of the menu Katie and I decided too many things sounded delicious so we went for the $42 Prix Fixe. Katie chose the Smoked Duck for her starter and I selected the Calamari.
The calamari was inventively coated with cornmeal as opposed to breadcrumbs served with a subtle yuzu aioli. Perfectly fried to be golden but not brown, tender on the inside, the tentacles were particularly delectable. My appetizer was crunchy counterbalanced by the silky aioli and served at the perfect temperature.
Katie's smoked duck came served with frisée, figs, wild mushrooms and thinly sliced manchego cheese. I was lucky enough to be able to taste some of the duck from her plate-- of course you would expect me to try the duck! Delicately cured by smoking, the duck breast had that creamy layer of preservative fat. The finely cut duck looked like turkey bacon but had much more complex flavors than anything out of a Jennie-O package! I can just imagine what all the elements on her plate would have tasted like together.