A new chef at a many-times-seen-but-not-often-visited spot attracted my cohort, Oh Hey Dallas, and I ventured into what promised to be a new, more Italian-centric, chef-driven Ristorante Nicola.
The space is much larger than expected with a gigantic bar and waiting area complete with gold tree stumps (because who doesn’t love a gilded tree trunk?). I was escorted to a comically large booth for two people to meet my friend. I was immediately greeted by Sam, who was perhaps one of the most attentive waiters I’ve met in quite a while. Later in the meal I was informed that I was sitting squarely in the seat that George W. Bush once sat for dinner once — made my freakin’ evening.
My first drink was the Zenzero Allergria that started off my meal well with GG Le Poire vodka, ginger liqueur, and lemon juice. The simplicity of the three ingredients made the drink refreshing (which is necessary in this ridiculous weather) and somehow complex. Since I’m a huge fan of Le Poire, I loved this drink and would definitely order it again at a happy hour to help me forget about a long day at the office.
My second martini (which I enjoyed with the salad and pasta courses) was the classic Nicola Martini, made with vodka, St. Germain, and, again, lemon. This drink was quite similar to a lychee martini and not terribly different from the Zenzero, so perhaps go with the previously described drink over this one. One note about the pasta: I hate (read: hate) gnocchi and I LOVED the gnocchi served to us — it was very obviously homemade and was almost like small pillows of potato deliciousness. I made a point to take home the leftovers.
My third and favorite drink of the evening (coincidence?) accompanied the entree course of lamb (more, please) and scallops. Speaking of scallops, all of Chef Justin’s food items are either local, made in-house, or shipped overnight from the coasts (the fish, that is), and the freshness of the food is noticeable. The scallops were so meaty and firm that they couldn’t have been out of the water for more than 36 hours.
Now, back to the deliciousness of the third drink, the Honey Manhattan. Made with Jack Daniels Honey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters, it’s a drink for the more stout drinkers out there. Unless you’re prepared to deal with this drink’s side effects, don’t join the party. I had to stay up an extra hour to make sure I’d had enough water to mitigate any future hangover symptoms.
Restaurante Nicola is a sophisticated place to grab a drink after work or with a friend or two. The entire wait staff is attentive, Food is available in the bar area (which is always a plus). Snack on some of the Italian-inspired deliciousness during happy hour (specials below) at a reduced price. Oh, and don’t forget to give your compliments to the chef!
Ste 150, 8111 Preston Road Dallas, TX 75225
Monday-Friday | 4-7 p.m. | Reduced priced appetizers, $5 wells, $7 wine, martinis, and specialty drinks