by Ken Tsui | The three person kitchen crew at Nicli’s Next Door in Gastown revels in taking turns making staff meal. It’s when they get to play around with new recipes, interesting flavours, and styles that are wildly different than the Italian vernacular they’re used to. As we’ve previously seen with Chicha doing Japanese, Farmer’s Apprentice doing Korean, and Bao Bei doing Mexican, staff meals are best when they’re a fundamental departure from the restaurant’s particular pigeon hole, and it’s no different here.
Today, it’s head chef Josh Gale’s turn and the unorthodox route he’s chosen is toward India with a highly idiosyncratic duck curry. He starts by raiding his own pantry and that of the bar, building a base of flavours with creamy coconut milk, ginger, and spices, followed by a healthy dose of Calabrian chili paste. Once it bubbles to where he wants it to be (with a spoon and an approving nod), he strains the tasty sauce and adds shredded duck confit. Josh lets the flavours meld for another minute or two before adding in his curveball ingredient – cooked risotto – which gives the curry a new level of unctuousness. He balances it all out with a dice of carrots, red peppers, tomatoes, and a squeeze of lime before letting it simmer gently.
As you can well imagine, the dining room smells like it never has before.
With Nicli Antica Pizzeria right next door, Josh has access to incredible dough, so he throws rough discs on the stove top to make some naan bread. As he pulls the last piece from the heat, the staff sets the table and sits for a meal that surprises as much as it delights. Dig in…