Against the Current
Plymouth eatery Aqua is taking a decidedly different approach to dining
Left: Miso-glazed Chilean sea bass with carrot puree, Japanese rice cake, and mango-pineapple salsa. Right: Angus filet with a merlot reduction, carrot puree, truffle croquette cake, and asparagus.
One thing’s for sure: Aqua does not look like most new restaurants. Is it an ultra-modern sushi joint? A high-tech nightclub? Contemporary fine dining? A neighborhood hangout with a patio?
Answer: all of the above.
The Plymouth eatery is the brainchild of Victor Nikollbibaj, who ran the Grecian Café for 14 years in the space now occupied by Aqua.
Nikollbibaj maintains that fine dining can often be “kind of boring … they all look the same,” he says. He set out to offer an experience to “make people feel like they’re on vacation in Europe or Vegas.”
Aqua achieves a distinct look. There’s “zone” lighting that can be altered in the lounge and dining room. The night we stopped in, it was bathed in purple — not as off-putting as it might sound. But we opted for the outdoor patio with its low, couch-like seating.
Décor aside, food is what most people go to a restaurant for, and the selections at Aqua are very good, beautifully presented, and not overly priced, either.
Executive chef Ronald Buechs calls Aqua’s cuisine a modern take on European dining. “We pull from everywhere around the globe,” says the Canton-area native who cut his teeth at places like Tavern on the Green in New York City and Upstream in Charlotte, N.C., before working closer to home at places like The Sardine Room, Panache 447, and Andiamo’s.
The focus at Aqua is fresh, locally sourced, and house-made. There’s no freezer or microwave on-site.
The feel is modern from the get-go. An iPad menu has pictures and descriptions — helpful to the customer, but it also allows the house to add specials or quickly “86” items when they run out.
There’s a selection of Asian-influenced appetizers, from lobster/crabcakes with aioli to sashimi. There are also mussels with smoked tomato and Albariño wine, and steak bites in a Madeira reduction. Soups (called “wet bowls”) include miso, gazpacho, and a popular Thai carrot concoction.
“Green plates” include homage to the Grecian Café — and its loyal customers. A reasonably priced Greek salad with chicken or gryo meat and heirloom beets ($13) is Aqua’s No. 1-selling dish.
More expensive main courses include an Angus filet with a merlot reduction or double-cut lamb for $34. There’s also miso-glazed sea bass and seared scallops served over not-too-spicy wasabi-infused potatoes.
Aqua also has plenty of vegan and vegetarian options — including tofu plates and brie in phyllo dough. For the less adventurous, there’s a Kobe burger, plus a kid’s menu and a short but interesting dessert menu.
Drinks are visually appealing as well. Bar manager Jamie Karosa’s favorite: Old Things New, an old fashioned with bourbon, Peychaud and orange bitters, maple foam, and Luxardo cherries. There’s also craft beers on tap and carefully curated wine selections.
Nikollbijaj says early customer feedback has been positive. He and Buechs have already been tweaking the menu with seasonal items. Multi-course wine dinners are also in the works.
Aqua’s décor won’t appeal to everyone, but the food is nicely done and the presentations are beautiful. It’s worth seeing where this experiment ends up.
413 N. Main St., Plymouth; 734-335-7474. L & D daily. $20