In this version of the Resy Rundown, we’re revisiting the East Village’s Nudibranch. Originally opened in 2022 after getting its start as a pop-up in 2020, Nudibranch quietly built a reputation for itself as a destination for globally inspired cooking in a relatively affordable $75 per person prix-fixe menu.
Today, however, the year-and-a-half-old restaurant is embarking on some new changes, and we’ve got a quick rundown of them for you so you’re well informed before your next visit.
1. First things first: There are no more tasting or prix-fixe menus.
Even as a pop-up, Nudibranch adopted a prix-fixe, tasting-menu style format, something that chefs Jeffrey Kim and Matthew Lee were familiar with, having worked in kitchens like JUA, Eleven Madison Park, and Atoboy. But starting today, they’re doing away with the format in favor of an easygoing à la carte menu composed of drinking snacks, vegetable-focused small plates, and larger-format entrées meant to be shared.
Why? “It was never our goal to be a fine dining restaurant,” says Kim. “By ditching [the prix-fixe] we’re focusing on being more of a neighborhood bistro where you can grab a drink or a snack, or also a larger meal if you want.”
Kim and Lee say the decision was prompted by their own desires for more creative freedom in the kitchen, and the fact that New Yorkers today are looking for “simpler” dining experiences.
“People felt like they had to commit themselves to a certain type of experience [with the prix-fixe] … and for the East Village, and even for us, I think people want to simplify things,” says Kim. “We’re just trying to be more approachable, without the hindrance of a $75 per person prix-fixe for entry.”
2. They’re leaning more into Korean and Spanish cuisines now.
While they’ve shied away from using the term “fusion” to describe their style of cooking, Nudibranch’s food has always been about combining different ingredients and cuisines. From the start, their dishes combined traditions from all over, and they’ll continue to do that going forward, but they say they’re most focused on Korean and Spanish influences, primarily because both are Korean American and because Kim spent two years living and cooking in Spain.
Nudibranch’s biggest Korean cooking influence shows up in Lee and Kim’s use of fermented ingredients, like fermented Fresno chiles that they use for the housemade hot sauce. That hot sauce shows up in a new fried chicken sandwich ($15) that got its initial debut during a staff family meal, and they’ve been perfecting it since.
“I think what is unique and what we’ve always done is to have things that are house fermented because it’s very close to our Korean background, our home base,” says Kim. “Each Korean restaurant, regardless of whether it’s fine dining or not, has their house kimchi. Everyone has their own spin on how to preserve things, and every house ferment imparts a very unique flavor.”
There are also Korean rice cakes served with a black bean sauce, eggplant, and Thai basil ($18) and fried squid and mushroom with gochujang aioli ($18). An oxtail tagine ($45) nods to the Moroccan influences in Spanish cuisine, as well as the Caribbean influences they’ve encountered here in New York with galbi jus, chickpeas, and mojo verde.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel here,” though, says Kim. “We’re just connecting the dots and finding similarities across cultures because that’s what we want to do with food — tasty food is a common denominator. We’re being more focused and more intentional with the type of stuff we create, as opposed to just saying this is inspired by everything.”
3. But the deep-fried frog legs are staying put.
While some dishes, like the deep-fried mushrooms accented with Shaoxing wine and topped with egg yolk, are going away permanently, Kim and Lee assure us that the frog legs ($21) — a signature dish — are staying put. However, they’ll be offered as more of a drinking snack. Also staying on the menu are the soba with bottarga ($16) and the alpaca tartare ($18) with smoked soy and Asian pear.
4. Save room for the duck — and dessert.
One new dish they’re particularly excited about is their take on Peking duck, perhaps the largest and most expensive entrée on the new menu. It features a 14-day aged duck ($125) lacquered with honey and spices and roasted in the oven, served with scallion pancakes, house pickles, and a seasonal hoisin sauce.
And new for dessert, they’re offering a masala chai tres leches cake ($13), topped with dulce de leche whipped cream.
5. Do be on the lookout for pop-ups.
“We would not be here if it weren’t for the hospitality of friends and restaurateurs and chefs and restaurants who allowed us to go into their spaces,” says Kim. “So, it’s very much ingrained in who we are. We’d like to keep hosting them going forward.”
6. And do know they plan to be open more often, too.
Kim and Lee will also extend Nudibranch’s hours to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays through Thursdays, and until 11:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. And while it’s not set in stone just yet, they hope to eventually be open six days a week, too.