When I reviewed Desnuda, the avant-garde cevicheria in the East Village, over a year ago, the place had a pleasant sense of anarchy about it. There was no real menu, just executive chef Christian Zammas puttering around behind the bar (there’s no kitchen) armed with a sushi-bar-style cooler of fish, a cutting board, a bunch of spices, a blowtorch, a bong, and one infrequently used burner. Tell him what you like and he’d make a few dishes for you, employing ingredients rarely seen in ceviches, like smoked paprika. It was like a night in your stoner friend’s basement if that friend happened to have a cache of fish and incredible knife skills.
More than a year later, Desnuda is still doing bong-smoked oysters and unorthodox ceviches, but it’s been tamed a bit. Last night, Zammas wasn’t behind the counter, and the new chef was perfectly pleasant but quiet and reserved. There’s a printed menu now — although it looks like you can still request different creations made with the nightly specials.
A ceviche of wild salmon ($18) with slivered almonds, orange segments, red onion, and slices of sugar-bruléed sweet potatoes was tasty but needed a bit more acid to counteract all that sweetness. The tamarind sauce smeared on the bottom of the plate contributed surprisingly little tartness. Still, the fish was beautifully fresh. The wine list offers interesting South American options like a lush chardonnay-gewürztraminer from Uruguay.
122 East 7th Street