All photos by Scott Lynch
Feb 14, 2022
Greenpoint’s Nura instantly joins the ranks of Brooklyn’s great restaurants
Exec chef Jackie Carnesi, formerly of Roberta's and pastry chef Sam Short deliver banger after banger at the gorgeous new spot
It’s ok if your jaw drops a little the first time you walk into Nura. The soaring, striking home of Scott Hawley and Michelle Lobo-Hawley’s newish restaurant, located in a former auto body shop on the corner of Norman and Guernsey in Greenpoint, is easily one of the most immediately impressive spaces I’ve been to in recent memory.
There’s a row of curvy wooden booths running up one wall to the big open kitchen in the back, which is set below a massive skylight. The three-sided island bar is surrounded by comfy cushioned stools, with a gnarly-looking succulent and a bellowing elephant rising above the bottles of booze. Another elephant resides in the spacious waiting-for-a-table lounge, as do so many plants that it made me grateful I wasn’t in charge of keeping them all alive.
Another large dining area with banquettes and scattered tables brings the seating capacity up to about 80 people total. And if you’re concerned that the high-ceilinged, stone-floored room would quickly get obnoxiously shouty, know that they’ve installed sound-deadening material in the beams above, so the noise level is totally comfortable for normal, adult conversation even when every seat is filled. Which, given what I saw last Thursday evening, happens often. Get those reservations in now.
While Nura has nailed that instant vibe of “wow we made the right choice by coming here tonight”—the couple’s other restaurant, Otis in Bushwick, also feels effortlessly cool—what really makes this place special is the food.
The executive chef is Jackie Carnesi, who spent six years at Roberta’s before signing on and creating the menu here last summer. Co-owner Lobo-Hawley is from India, and Carnesi tells Brooklyn Magazine that “the first thing they told me about this space was that they have a tandoori oven, so I knew I was going to have to incorporate that into what we were doing.”
For lack of a sexier genre name, Nura’s cuisine is fusion: “Indian, Mediterranean, Mexican,” says Carnesi. “Those are three of the really big cuisines that we focus on, but Scott was kind of like ‘I want you to do something without rules. Just make some good food.'”
Using what she calls a “global pantry of ingredients,” Carnesi has done exactly that. There’s a sweet potato dish, for example, that slathers the mashed tuber in a nutty tahini, the whole thing brightened and sweetened with Meyer lemon honey, a topping of fried garlic giving it some bite. I’ve never eaten anything quite like it, and I can’t wait to have it again.
Same for Carnesi’s sunchokes, which keep company with meltingly-soft chunks of tart apple on a cloud of whipped paneer, sauces and sprinklings of yuzu and vadouvan bringing both color and depth to the party.
The radicchio salad with blood orange and cashews is a bit more straightforward, but the cabbage with harissa and crispy olives, the prawns with pomegranate and Turkish urfa biber, and za’atar baby back ribs with cherry chipotle BBQ sauce, and pickled jalapeño are anything but.
With all of Nura’s fireworks, it’s a bit surprising that what’s emerged as Carnesi’s signature dish here is described rather blandly as a “half-chicken” on the menu. Be assured, this is no ordinary bird. Aside from the drama of the full leg, with charred (and very edible) foot, outstretched in stick-it-to-the-man style, this beauty is juicy and tender throughout, packed with flavor from skin to bone, and sitting in a puddle of a “butter chicken hollandaise” that will buckle your knees.
The other must-get dish at Nura comes courtesy of pastry chef Sam Short, who’s also from Roberta’s and makes some of the best bread you’ll ever eat. Her contribution to the “breads and dips” platter, which every table seems to order, are two chewy, wonderfully greasy wheels of garlic coriander naan and a pair of maple cornbread mini-loaves, both of which are fantastic on their own, and even better any of the three dips, one carrot-based, one spicy hummus, one yogurt.
Short is also responsible for dessert, including the excellent coffee pepita pavlova, which eats like a super-sticky meringue, and the craquelin grapefruit profiterole, starring her Meyer lemon curd ice cream and crackling shell. Next time I’m getting the chocolate ice cream sundae with black cardamom, and Short’s version of Italian torrone.
Nura is located at 46 Norman Avenue, at the corner of Guernsey Street, and is currently open for dinner on Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m, on Sunday from 5:00 to 9:00, and for brunch on the weekends from 11:00 to 3:00. If you can’t get a resy, a few tables and all of the bar are kept open for walk-ins (347-672-1222).
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