Kro’s Nest wasn’t the only pizza operation to experience a nasty partner breakup last year. Nasca Cafe in Central Park also experienced a meltdown. That branch now goes by the name Navena, kind of like how the ex-Kro’s Nest goes by Tube Station, and the partner who left–Wei–now runs two Nasca Cafe outlets, including a recently opened one in Sanlitun South (see here). I visited on Wednesday night–and today. Ten thoughts on the spot:
- On Wei: A citizen of New Zealand, like the Gung Ho pizza guys, he worked back home at an operation called Hell Pizza. He told me he only uses New Zealand cheese (some cheaper American cheeses get rubbery when they cool, he says), whole wheat flour from the Netherlands, fresh ripe tomatoes for the sauce, and many, many other things. (Don’t get him started on this until after your order goes in.)
- On the pizza: Since it was the first day of my campaign to lose 15 kilograms, I ordered the Hunting Wild, which includes salami, ham, roast beef, pork sausage, bacon, and pepperoni. This is a deep-dish style pizza and comes packed with flavor. While my medium looked small, Wei said what matters is the weight, and that it would stack up to a medium from the big pizza branches or a large from Gung Ho.
- On the sauce and toppings: I found the sauce slightly sweet, though not unpleasant, and Wei attributed this to the use of fresh tomatoes. The toppings all seemed high quality to me.
- On other menu items: I tried the lemon pepper wedges, which came in a large mound and accompanied by small bowls of garlic-mayonnaise sauce and sour cream. Tasty. My friend Ruby ordered a Caesar salad, which turned out to be bigger than expected and looked good topped with a poached egg crossed with anchovies and surrounded by plenty of bacon strips. The menu includes plenty of desserts, pastas, sandwiches, and burgers, including a veggie version.
- On the beverages: I stuck to coffee, with a large mug at RMB22 (get six stamps on your Nasca card and the next mug is free). Other options include yogurt drinks, milk shakes, juices, sodas, teas, and spirits. A bottle of Harbin is RMB15, while at Erdinger is RMB32. The house wine is Black Wing (RMB29-38 glass, RMB158-168 bottle): The Cabernet Sauvignon won as best red in the Grape Wall Challenge I co-organized last year.
- On flexibility: Ruby wanted what she calls a “Blue Belle” pizza, something she had back home and that includes broccoli, black olives, and blue cheese as toppings. Wei whipped one together and she gave it thumbs up.
- On the décor: The atmosphere is light and airy, with pastel walls adorned with colorful paintings. There is a computer terminal for checking email, a small (and I would guess growing) library of books, and seating areas up front, along the side, and in an alcove in back. It could use some material to absorb the sound–or louder music–and works as a laptop stop. Finally, if you want to know the inspiration of the name and logo, see here.
- On delivery: Nasca does it from its Chaoyang Park outlet and its Sanlitun outlet, the latter covering Central Park. It’s free for any order over RMB50. My friend ksquare tested it out and said he had no problem with the service.
- On pricing: My bill came to RMB99 for the pizza (RMB55), wedge fries (RMB22), and coffee (RMB22). Ruby’s came to RMB97 for the pizza and Caesar salad, though she did take half of each home to eat the next day (and said the pizza passed the re-heating test).
- Overall: I’m adding this to my preferred pizza spots and will start working my way through the menu…
Those notes came from Wednesday night. Today, I tried the Mexican Passion: good but in future I would ask for more spiciness (you can choose between three levels and I went for the middle one). Wei also showed me all of his delivery materials to show how the bags, cups, and boxes are all made from recycled materials.