After reading the rave reviews and being a self proclaimed duck lover, I was very excited to come to Nuela for the vaunted Arroz con Pato.
Arrived at 5:30 and was promptly seated. As soon as we sat down we were greeted with little cheese rolls and a delicious mascarpone butter with honey. This was insanely delicious and one of the better breads I have had at a restaurant. I love places that take the time to put extra thought into their breads, amuses, petit fours, freebies, etc. and this was a great little starter. Not your normal ho-hum baguette or sourdough bread...very unique. I loved the roll so much I asked for another (even though I knew I had a ton of food coming) because it was so delicious. The server was so happy that I loved it so much he said "OK I'll bring back two more!". Great gesture on his part but I only ate one so as not to fill up on bread before the good stuff.
For appetizer the smoked brisket arepas- I was looking forward to these but was a little disappointed. The brisket actually tasted more like pastrami which was unexpected. I was thinking it would be more like brisket in the style of barbecue. Set atop a plaintain and black bean queso, it was tasty but just nothing memorable or a must order. Still, it was a nice little bite to whet the appetite before the duck extravaganza. Next time, I think I'll go for the oxtail empanadas or tuna ceviche.
Then came the main event- Arroz con Pato! I loved the presentation first of all. The huge pot comes out to the table and you can see the whole dining room focusing their attention on you. The waiter described each component of the dish- duck breast, confit leg, foie gras, gizzards, duck egg, wow. A duck lover's dream. Oh yeah and this is all place upon a bed of about 2 pounds of rice studded with little sweet potatoes, brussell sprouts, and dollops of green sauce. The waiter said it was supposed to be a paella so it would be best to mix it all up. I refused at first because I wanted to try all of the aspects individually first. But then, I agreed to the waiter's initial request since he seemed to really think that was the best way to go... and he was right.
After he mixed it up, the flavors really came together. The egg mixes in with the rice, the green dollops meld to really make a sauce and create a green rice. The gizzards, foie, and duck breast all get dispersed in different parts of the dish. I have to say this dish was very delicious. I can see why it yas garnered the praise it has. The duck leg was wonderful- perfectly crispy skin and luscious fatty moist dark duck meat falling right off the bone. This is noteworthy, since I have actually had some duck confit where either the skin wasn't crispy enough or the meat was even overcooked. Neither was the case here. The foie gras was also really awesome. The vegetables added another flavor, texture, and some nutritional value lol. The best though was when you get a little piece of duck (whichever part), some rice, sweet potato, brussel sprout all in one forkful to have all the components come together to create one incredible bite. I really enjoyed it and probably plowed through way more than I should have. Two minor negatives were the following- The duck breast I requested to be EXTRA RARE was a little overcooked and more like medium. Secondly, I wish they could get a little more crispy rice in the bottom of the pan (soccarat). There still was some crispy goodness, but I really would have loved a little more because that to me if the best part. The contrast in texture betwen the soft rice and the crispy burnt awesomeness. Still, regardless this was a great dish and something you really can't get anywhere else. A+ for uniqueness and creativity!
Sides- We also shared sides of the chinese broccoli with mirin and garlic, and the potatoes huanacaina. The broccoli was good for the first few bites but as it sat around it was just soaked in way too much mirin. The potatoes were just ok. The sauce was like a cheese sauced and again after a few minutes it turned into a gloppy puddle was it cooled off. Wouldn't recommend either.
Dessert was an afterthought. We had the churros and they were not good. Really crunchy and perhaps even stale. You get 5 little mini churros and they just werent worth the stomach space. Frankly, the churros at Costco kill these but whatever. We did try a scoop of the lumacha ice cream and that was real good. I was told its a Peruvian fruit but it tasted somewhat like a butterscotch.. nice.
All in all I really liked Nuela despite the disappointing app and waste of a dessert. The duck dish lived up to the hype (although it could have been flawless had the breast been rare and there was a little more crispy rice bits) and made it worthwhile alone. Service was friendly and the atmosphere was very lively which I love big time. Definitely go to try something nuela (pun intended).
43 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010