A dessert featuring vanilla, matcha, truffle, cherries, and pink peppercorns Photo: Jeff Marini

Chris and Nina Nugent’s unlikely jewelbox of a restaurant, which shares an unprepossessing block with the neighborhood grocery store, has streamlined its operation since first opening in 2011. Gone are the occasionally chilly servers, the menus printed on plantable seed paper, and 15 or so of the chairs and tables. It’s now just Chris and Nina, one server, and 30 seats—him in the kitchen, her acting as hostess and spiritual guide—and it’s become even more intensely personal, feeling less like a dinner out and more like a pleasurable journey into the Nugents’ home and heart.

Chris, who honed his skills at Les Nomades, remains masterful when it comes to distilling flavors down to their essences. You can see it in his soups, which sing with the pure, idealized flavor of whatever vegetable he’s decided to exalt on that particular night: an earthy yet sweet beet consommé, maybe, or a dense, almost nutty cream of mushroom. The chocolate bar that Nina hands you on your way out the door? Chris stays up until the wee hours several nights a week, alone, to make them—on one visit, a pale milk chocolate sparked with warming Mexican cinnamon. It feels like a heartfelt gift. An invitation to return.