I've had few more enjoyable moments this summer than the other evening at Somewhere in Nolita, a brand new rooftop bar and restaurant from chef Christine Lau, who also runs the superb Japanese-Italian hotspot downstairs, Kimika, along with the rest of the Rivers and Hills Hospitality crew.
My elder daughter and I were about halfway through an eight-course feast of Lau's seasonal delights, lounging in the pleasant breezes ten stories above car-choked Kenmare, taking in some extremely agreeable views of our fine city, bopping to an agreeable mix of '70s hits, when a platter of Fried Whole Belly Clams arrived at our flower-festooned banquette. I popped one in my mouth and blammo! was instantly transported through a lifetime's worth of oceanside pleasures. The bivalve itself was fat, tender, and juicy, the salt-and-pepper batter fried up crisp and littered with garlic chips, the whole thing exploding with the taste of the sea. Just perfect.
But really, pretty much everything we ate at Somewhere was this good. The Maine Lobster Roll, for example, comes laden with claw meat, glistening with just enough nuoc cham drawn butter to complement, rather than overwhelm, the crustacean. The slightly sweet milk bread roll is a nice touch, too. The latter also appears on the menu's show-stopper, a Dry Aged Beef Katsu Burger that puts a crunchy crust on the wonderfully rich and funky meat, then adds melted mozzarella, some slaw, and a pickle-forward special sauce. Eating this is an enormously satisfying experience.
For more snacky stuff, get the Charred Eggplant Dip, which is smokey, surprisingly spicy, and comes with two well-suited delivery vehicles: seaweed rice crackers and raw veggies. The Uni Butter Popcorn is pleasantly greasy, there are three varieties of Potato Chips, some French Fries with kimchi mayo, and a Green Salad if that's more your thing. And don't sleep on chef Lau's crackling Mozzarella Stick, which is more Korean Rice Dog than standard pub fare, and comes complete with crystalized sugar on the outside and hot honey drizzled all over the place.
There are two desserts available, and they are delicious. The Coca-Cola Yakult Marble Popsicle deftly combines icy and creamy, sweet and tart, and throws on some intensely-flavored cherry dip just to amp up your happiness even further. Possibly even better (and certainly less drippy) is the Sweet Corn Ice Cream Sandwich, with a blueberry swirl and slabs of soft graham cracker holding it all together. These both taste deeply of summer.
Somewhere in Nolita serves a full cocktail program, of course--my daughter liked her What a Dandy, a mixture of Haku vodka, ume plum liqueur, a touch of lemon and a bit of pilsner--as well as beer, wine, spritzers... all the booze you could want, really. The outdoor space wasn't quite finished on opening day last week, with canopies still on order, but neither of those delays detracted from the general loveliness and super chill vibe of the place. And to ensure that things don't ever get too lit up here, the plan is to make Somewhere in Nolita a reservations-only spot.
Somewhere in Nolita is located at 30 Kenmare Street, at the corner of Elizabeth Street and atop the Nolitan Hotel, and is currently open from 4 p.m. to midnight daily, with expanded daytime hours on weekends coming soon (somewhereinnolita.com)