Akhtar Nawab’s First NYC Full-Service Spot in Eight Years is Now Open

Partner in Choza Taqueria and Indie Fresh, Akhtar Nawab has opened his first full-service, New York-based, sit-down restaurant in almost a decade: Alta Calidad (552 Vanderbilt Ave.).

Back in 2008, his restaurant, Elettaria debuted on 8th Street, during what was “a really challenging time open a restaurant and keep it open,” he says. Because of the recession, “I took a beating,” and he closed the restaurant about a year later. The experience was so disheartening he stepped away from the kind of food that he had been cooking there, like pan-roasted sweetbreads, quail, and duck breast, some of which featured South Asian influences.

Following the closing he was the head chef of La Esquina and consulted, but in the mix of experiences he fully embraced Mexican cuisine. “I’ve had a lot of fun with it and had a lot of fun away from fine dining,” he says; his wife had a baby, and the hours were such that he could spend a bit more time with his family.

The cuisine has reminded him of Indian cooking, with cinnamon, cloves, chilis, and spices for dishes with “tons of ingredients,” that take “all day plus a day to cook.” He cites moles as examples.

Here in Brooklyn, Nawab’s new restaurant is a bright, nearly 40-seat space that had been Chuko Ramen, with communal tables and bar seating where drinks —once the liquor license is in place — will include margaritas, spiked horchata, and micheladas. With a menu of chips and dips, a selection of tacos, small plates, and vegetables as well as larger format family-style “platos,” it’s a neighborhood place to graze or feast.

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