February 26, 2024

The joy and humor in the food felt at odds with the pageantry surrounding the dining experience at Naks in New York. After Valdez’s return to the kitchen, each course was announced to the room by servers who recounted the chef’s own memories in superficial ways. Service captains added flourishes like a rare salt made by filtering seawater through ashes over duck stock, and offered suggestions for eating each course sans utensils. The dining experience in Naks’ front room offers a more relaxed experience with an à-la-carte menu, closely packed tables, and a cheerful L-shaped bar.

The famous Soup No. 5 served at Naks is heavily spiced and contains bull testicles and penis, and is traditionally consumed as a hangover cure. While these flavors feel of a piece with the other restaurants under the Unapologetic Foods umbrella, Valdez also knows how to pull back and exert pointed restraint. The restaurant also offers dishes like grilled morsels of pork jowl, sticky skewers of eel, and Kanto fried chicken with fiery hot dipping sauce. The overall dining experience at Naks is engaging and lively, with a sense of fun and energy, but the constant interruptions disrupt the mood, making it a little bit weird again.