By Dane Feldman
Photo by Dane Feldman.
Just last week, I ventured into Morningside Heights, a neighborhood of Harlem in Manhattan, for the first time. Morningside Heights is, in essence, a college town in and of itself thanks to the bustling Columbia University campus located on 116th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway. En route to Jin Ramen (Broadway and 125th), I happened upon Nikko (Amsterdam and 123rd). Needless to say, I haven’t made it to Jin Ramen just yet.
However judgmental on my part this may be, I was rather surprised to find that Nikko has a large menu: sushi, hibachi, Thai food, and Chinese are all on offer. I was in the mood for a combination of Chinese and sushi, so to start I ordered the Nikko Rangoon.
Truth be told, rangoons are absolutely a guilty pleasure for me. I didn’t know they existed until I started college and befriended a Rangoon lover. For those who don’t know, rangoons are deep-fried pods of cream cheese and crabmeat. Nikko’s rangoons, however, were lightly fried and contained far more cream cheese and crabmeat than most rangoons I’ve had. Already, we were off to a good start.
My dinner companion and I were interested in a Chinese entree, but were hoping to limit our fried food intake just a bit. Thankfully, not all of the dishes are fried and we were able to order steamed chicken and vegetables. This had to be one of the best Chinese dishes I’ve had in a long time: the sauce was slightly thick and flavorful, but not too salty. The chicken was cooked perfectly and the vegetables were soft and seasoned well.
We also ordered the Angry Bird Roll: shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, and papaya topped with spicy king crab and wrapped with soybean paper. In all of the sushi spots I have been to (we know that’s a lot of restaurants), I have never once seen papaya in a roll. It was delicious: the subtle sweetness of the papaya went quite well with the spiciness of the tuna and crab.
Nikko boasts a full bar and even offers a specialty cocktails menu, which contains fruity, tiki cocktails (one of the biggest trends in mixology right now) as well as classic mojitos and mojito variations. For those uninterested in alcohol, Nikko also serves tea and soft drinks.
The wait staff at Nikko is friendly, attentive, flexible, and knowledgeable.
As for the ambience, Nikko certainly surprised me in this category as well. When you enter the restaurant, the hibachi tables are located in a separate open room to the left, while the bar and restaurant tables are located on the right. The space is dimly lit, busy, but spacious, and well decorated. I wish I could say this is a secret spot, but it seems to me that the secret has been out for quite some time. Nikko is the place to be in Morningside Heights.