If I’m heading out to the East Village for dinner, my first neighborhood choice will always be Desnuda. No, not for its raunchy name (ed. “naked” in español) but for the best ceviche in the city. I suppose the name refers to the simplicity and freshness of the bare, stripped raw fish…? Or maybe what to expect after too many aphrodisiac oysters… ❓
Let’s focus on one guilty pleasure at a time. 😈 Desnuda is one of the best hidden dining spots of the East Village. Warning: the place has no sign – so you need to know what you’re looking for to find it. It’s the teeny, tiniest wine bar, with only a few counter seats – no tables. This place is best for parties of 2 – 3 max. The cozy and intimate atmosphere makes this a perfect date place. Don’t come here if you are in a rush though – Desnuda does not take reservations and unless you come early you will most likely have to wait for the limited seating.
I discovered ceviche in 2009 in Peru during a 6-month sabbatical backpacking trip in South America. I was so overly expressive about my obsession with the dish that the chef of a local eatery in Huacachina made me come in the kitchen for a full night-shift to learn how to make traditional Peruvian ceviche. To this day, it’s one of my signature dishes when I host summer dinners at home. And bonus: it’s healthy and guilt free!
Desnuda is traditional ceviche on steroids. At Desnuda you will find the best ceviche in NYC, with a mix of classic and very innovative recipes with melt-in-your mouth fresh raw fish. The menu’s relatively small, mostly Latin flavors with some Asian influences. Make sure you ask for their daily specials that are rarely listed. They also offer a great selection of East and West Coast oysters.
$1 oysters all day Sunday and Monday!
The bar stools overlook the bar/kitchen, so all dishes are artfully prepared in front of you for personalized service. The bartender/chef/waiter is one same person – usually a hipster-tattooed-bearded dude. Expect some visual and olfactory entertainment in the preparation, like a blowtorch here and there 😯 (for the Salmon ceviche with caramelized sweet potato for example) or the acclaimed Tea Smoked Oysters ($24). The food isn’t particularly cheap but then again you’re paying the normal price for amazingly fresh seafood and raw fish. All plates are meant for sharing.
Desnuda is also a wine bar with a decent South American wine list.
Ask for their complimentary Truffle Popcorn to snack on while you wait for your dishes!
In a nutshell, Desnuda is a perfect intimate place for seafood lovers. It’s one-of-a-kind and not like anywhere else in the city.
Only cons I can think of are: it may be a bit cramped and narrow for the claustrophobic eaters, the occasional lack of ventilation and sometimes grumpy service.
Desnuda also has a location in South Williamsburg with real table service, cocktails, more happy hour options and even accommodates private parties.