By the time the evening was over, my taste buds were doing cartwheels. The five of us women, who eat out each month, had finished dinner at Nixta, Ben Poremba’s hip, new, Mexican-inspired restaurant. I had been to a pop up last fall, but it was my first time at Nixta since its debut in what was Old Standard.
A colorful transformation brings a different feel to both the inside and out. Gone is the unfinished wood interior. The dining area is now enlivened with a zesty orange, lime, salmon, and aqua paint scheme, that alerts diners to the exotic happenings in the kitchen. The novel color palette gives the space the look of a Mexican cantina, but without the clutter.
When Chef Tello Carreon visited our table, he explained his desire to embed layers of interplaying flavors into his unique creations. When he used the word “layers,” It occurred to me that “layering” was happening throughout the restaurant. As you walk in, there’s an attractive decorative layer that catches the eye. That’s followed by an overlay of smooth, charming service (hat tip to our server, Isaac) and a menu layered with new and inviting food adventures. Nixta is a colorful, multi-layered experience that begins at the door on Tower Grove Avenue in view of Poremba’s other dining choices: Elaia, Olio, and La Patisserie Chouquette Bakery (Parigi is in Clayton).
The Flavor Feast Begins
We started with guacamole, chunky yet silky, served with warm chips and stunningly delicious. Next came the salad du jour featuring watermelon. For our tapas plates, we went with 3 of the seafood items: octopus, salmon, crab—all lusciously assembled and embedded with an array of flavor nuggets.
A Trio of Desserts
By dessert, the sun streaming through the window over my shoulder had faded and the place had a soft candle glow—another layer of charm that made you want to linger. We shared three desserts. The Mexican bread pudding or capirotada, a special occasion dish in Mexico, that has more fruit than our Southern variety. I like to think of myself as having mastered this simple,yet satisfying dessert, but there’s definitely more to learn from Tello here.
The flan and rice pudding (a dish made by his mother when he was a child in Guanajuato) were equally inspired. Sorry, I have no good photos; the light was too dim. But the warm glow was just right to visit with friends and enjoy every last bite of those heavenly desserts.
Nixta, 1621 Tower Grove. Open: Dinner only, Tue-Sat 5p-10p. Nixta becomes Bar Limon after 10p on Friday and Saturday and time for the late night menu, cocktails, and salsa dancing.