For the last few years, El Paso seemed to have gone pho crazy, so it was a relief when Nishi arrived downtown in Union Plaza. Chef Enrique Lozano had been known for his sellout pop-up ramen dinners at TradeCraft before he found a permanent home in the space formerly occupied by Cafe Italia and most recently 360 Cocina Urbana. The sleek, intimate spot is serving up some inventive dishes served nowhere else.
Unique to El Paso are the dim sum offerings and ramen noodles made from scratch. This may also be the only place where you can enjoy a Mexican coke with Asian specialties. Dim sum includes takoyaki (octopus), kimchi pancakes, gyoza dumplings and bao buns with pork belly, chicken or tofu.
The signature Bourdain ramen bowl pays tribute to Anthony Bourdain with pork belly that’s been braised for eight hours in soy sauce and balsamic, served in a shoyu broth with roasted corn, a soft boiled egg and garnished with an ornamental fish cake. Mexican standards like mole and al pastor (seared pork shoulder in adobo and achiote with roasted pineapple) seamlessly infuse their flavors into the rich broths. Every three months or so, some dishes will rotate to make room for seasonal items, which, beginning this month, pay tribute to Thanksgiving with slow-roasted turkey breast topped with “holiday” butter and cranberry glaze.
Vegans need not worry about bone-infused broths or making modifications, as vegan items are indicated with a (V). Vegan ramen is served in a miso-based broth topped with delicately fried house tofu or roasted cauliflower “steak,” and most recently, locally made seitan for a limited time.
Menu components take hours to make, and this attention to detail doesn’t end at dessert. Cue the matcha, a refreshing and creamy green tea ice cream with chamomile honey. The dessert has now been replaced with a matcha brulee, a vegan matcha custard. Also new, is an assortment of mochi fruits (ice cream confections) and chocolate truffles.
Plan accordingly, as hours of operation are limited to dinner service. Once there, be sure to tag your Instagram-worthy meal with #SlurpingIsGood.