If you were a restaurant exec charged with finding a location for a laid-back but with-it eatery in the Valley right now, you’d most likely be exploring downtown Tempe.
The area has been going through a bit of a restaurant boom lately, with some of the food scene’s biggest names – including Postino, Culinary Dropout and Nocawich – vying for restaurant space.
Opening to far less fanfare is Nush (noosh), a Persian-inspired restaurant that launched on College Avenue in March. It’s the project of husband-and-wife owners Scott O’Neill and Nona Saravi and general manager Joe Tameron – three former employees of Pita Jungle, perhaps Arizona’s leading purveyor of good-for-you food.
Nush (the name is essentially the Farsi equivalent of bon appétit) is a stripped-down yet funky kind of place, a healthy-eating restaurant in the style of a New Age welding studio stocked with organic ingredients, craft beers and wine, and options for those eating vegetarian, vegan, or gluten- and dairy-free. You’d be thrilled to come here for a well-constructed salad or snack – the herbed Nush fries and a lemony medley of sautéed spinach and garbanzo beans are both standouts – but not for the restaurant’s more meat-focused dishes. Most lack the thoughtfulness of their smaller and leafier counterparts, with mountains of rice or lackluster pasta adding more bulk than brio.
There is a near-obsession with pomegranate at Nush; the sweet-tart fruit appears in just about everything. There is pomegranate green tea and pomegranate seeds sprinkled on thick and garlicky hummus; strewn into a clever snack of snappy sautéed green beans with red onions, garlic, and orange zest; and dotting a decent roasted vegetable salad topped with impossibly addictive shavings of caramelized carrots. A very good and aptly named Everything Salad features pomegranate seeds intermingled with a garden’s worth of vegetables, dried fruit and roasted pumpkin seeds. Even the mint dipping sauce looks back at you with sparkling ruby red eyes.
Nush’s pomegranate seed parade isn’t such a bad idea. But save for a trio of meaty and crisp chicken legs flecked with Parmesan and basil, and a bulked-out chicken wrap with a mildly spiced red sauce, they’re of little help to the restaurant’s more protein-focused dishes, easily lumped together into one underwhelming and mostly under-seasoned group.
As you might expect, dessert includes a dish of vanilla yogurt with pomegranate syrup. And fresh pomegranate.
Contact: 560 S. College Ave., Tempe, 480-664-4967, thenush.com
Hours: Dinner 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. M-Th., 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. F-Sa., 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Su.; happy hour 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. daily
Highlights: Everything Salad ($10.77); organic hummus ($5.77); green beans ($3.77); red chicken wrap ($9.77); roasted vegetable salad ($9.77); garlic Parmesan chicken legs ($7.77)
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