While the owners of Jackson Square French standby Nico spend a year in France, their chef de cuisine, Coi and Lazy Bear vet Jordan Guevara, will play — and the culinary game he’s playing is high-stakes, remarkably detail-oriented, and strategically designed to blow diners away. It kicks off on Friday, January 10.
The plan to hand Nico over to Guevara was hatched in 2019, when owners Andrea and Nicolas Delaroque realized they wanted to spend a year in France with their young daughter. Initially, the couple offered to sell the restaurant to Guevara, Nicolas Delaroque told Eater SF last fall, and made a similar offer to Paul Einbund, the owner of the Morris. After some discussion, the group came up with a different plan: For all of 2020, Guevara and the Morris would partner to run Nico, with Einbund and his team guiding and managing the spot while Guevara provided the creative backbone.
Guevara, who like Delaroque is a devotee of “dusty old cookbooks,” set about to create his “first entire menu put together in a restaurant setting,” he says. (All his prior menus have been for pop-ups, which Guevara says “is kind of a different thing, you do it one time and look back and say ‘man, I wouldn’t do any of those things again.’”)
With the Gap Year menu, Einbund said in November, “We’re going to let Jordan go a little crazier,” and a subsequent conversation this week bore out those words. While speaking with Eater, Guevara explained the jaw dropping precision it takes to make the single-bite salt cod, plankton crepe, and grapefruit tasting menu item pictured above, as well as a wild-sounding souffle made with multiple preparations of chestnuts, soft-ripened, triple cream brillat-savarin cheese, and black truffle. It’s as much a chiffon cake as it is a souffle, Guevara says, intended to really “capture the essence of the chestnut.”
That souffle pairs great with “old madeira with cellar funk,” Einbund — a longtime sommelier — says, and he’s working with a rare wine company to find said funky madeiras to sell by the glass from $15 to $100. But all of the dishes also play well with bubbles, he says, which is why the tasting menu’s six-wine wine pairing list is all sparkling, and five of the glasses will be Champagne. (Those averse to carbonation can choose other wines by the glass.)
The pairings aren’t the only place Gap Year will break the rules, Einbund and Guevara say. While the restaurant will employ traditional front-of-the-house staffers, the food will actually be delivered by the folks who work in the kitchen, a decision made so people who have questions about the complicated dishes can get their answers from the source. It’s a lofty goal, and one that Einbund and Guevara say might not pan out in the long run. “We’ll see once it’s happening, if they actually have time to run food,” Guevara says, as Einbund concurs with a chuckle that “I am positive it won’t end up the way we’ve envision it.”
An intricate menu, a challenging wine list, and food delivered by the folks who make it: this is a formula that could be pretty intimidating, right? When that question was posed, Einbund seemed ready for it. The idea isn’t to create “a temple of gastronomy,” Einbund says, “If it gets too [with this he adopted a deep, Lurch-like voice] ‘goooood evening, madam’ I’ve missed my mark.”
Guevara, arguably the mastermind behind the outrageous menu, shares Einbund’s hopes for a “warm and comfortable” venue. “It’s not about us showing off,” he says. “I don’t want to have to tell a story for you to enjoy a dish. I want you to say ‘yum.’”
Gap Year at Nico opens on Friday, January 10 at 5:30 p.m., and will serve dinner Tuesday-Saturday from 5:30-9:30. The initial menu is below, but keep in mind that it’s a “work in progress,” a spokesperson says, and is subject to change.
Gap Year at Nico opens on Friday, January 10 at 5:30 p.m., and will serve dinner Tuesday-Saturday from 5:30-9:30.