How 'Bout Them Knockers: Nandina Asian Tapas & Sushi
5631 Alta Ave. at Greenville Ave.
Promised delivery time: 45 minutes to an hour
Delivered in: 30 minutes
Online menu: 0
Ease of phone communication: 10
Delivery speed: 15
Making 3 a.m. sushi delivery possible: 20
Complete and total Basil-o-Rama: 12
Non-traditional menu spelling: 5
Credit for delivering smallish portions and call it Asian tapas: 24
Saving face by eating a meal not cooked by roommate's mother: 7
Total Score: 93
This is the year's first entry. For a roundup of 2008, check out our recap here.
With my roommate's parents in town for the week, there's an embarrassing amount of food in my kitchen right now. Mom said she cooked for a week before they loaded up the dogs and drove the Airstream down from South Dakota, and it shows: gallon-size ice cream tubs brimming with Chex Mix, buckets of dried fruit, pans of baked goods. Nobody was going to starve here anytime soon. So, I did what any red-blooded American would do in this situation--I pulled out my credit card, found a spot on the couch and ordered someone to bring me more food.
Still fairly new to the neighborhood, I thought I'd crowdsource the decision, and Twitter came through with a win (@matthew_carver, owe you one): Nandina, the late night "Asian tapas" and sushi spot on Greenville, and I liked the thought immediately. With so much food around the house already, I'd be unlikely to let something like sushi add to the bounty. Mom's chili might taste better with age, but raw fish just gets more likely to kill you.
I wasn't able to track down a menu online, so I dropped by the restaurant earlier Sunday evening to pick one up, and to scope out the much-lauded decor. The fountain and patio looked like fun (if it weren't freezing out) and the bar was packed inside. But I'd spent all weekend perfecting my divot in the couch, and no way was I going to give it up now.
Comments I read online warned specifically against delivery--problems communicating over the phone, hours spent waiting for food, orders that arrived with only half the food. I was wary, but forged ahead, in true stoic Midwestern style. The phone call went smoothly, and took no repeating at all--a sprint right from "Drunken noodle" on through to my credit card number. As we wished one another a good night, the woman taking my order nonchalantly promised delivery within 45 minutes to an hour.
No more than 30 minutes went by, though, before the doorbell rang and my lead-footed waiter arrived with dinner, shivering at the doorstep while I fumbled with the lock. In the kitchen, unpacking my delivery containers meant reclaiming counter space from gallon-sized tubs of Chex mix and pans of Rice Krispies treats, but with the food all spread out on the counter--well, never before have I seen so fine a display of pan-Asian-Great-Plains fusion.
Tempted to steal yet another of the chocolate-filled cookies my roommate's mother hauled 1,000 miles, I began instead with the unagi. The grilled eel is always a highlight of any sushi excursion I make, and Nandina's didn't disappoint. It survived the trip well, lightly marinated and accompanied by a generous glob of wasabi.
My extensive research on the subject suggested that Thai drunken noodles were so named either because (a) pad kee mao is so spicy, you'll get drunk trying to put out the flames, or (b) the dish's extreme heat will sober you up when you're already sauced. When it comes to Nandina's drunken noodles, though, the point is academic -- these had all the spice of a Wilford Brimley workout video.
Phantom chilies aside, I still enjoyed the flat rice noodles, "tomatoe" and all (to stay faithful to the menu's spelling). Even after a drive through Sunday night's resurgent winter chill, the tofu, egg and vegetables arrived warm enough, and an occasional taste of basil added another layer to the flavor.
For a complete and total basil-fest, though, my selection off the hot tapas menu really delivered. The five basil chicken wraps came wrapped in aluminum foil, each loaded with minced chicken, water chestnuts and onions, with a big basil leaf tucked inside a thick -- a little too chewy, to be honest -- steamed rice wrapper.
The salad was another winner; the subtle flavor of the green papaya shreds worked well with the ground peanuts. Most importantly, this being delivery, the lime juice dressing didn't make a gooey mess of the delivery bags.
The meal left me with plenty of leftovers for tomorrow night (sushi not
included), but not so full I couldn't finish the meal with one last stolen Rice Krispies treat. Honest, that's my last one. --Patrick Michels