Chef offers Jewish-interpreted food at nuuNoosh

Laila Borokhim opens second restaurant
Chef offers Jewish-interpreted food at nuuNoosh
Photo courtesy of nuuNoosh
One offering at nuuNoosh is Hungarian egg salad made with butter, sour cream and (cooked) egg yolk.

Laila Borokhim, owner/chef of Layla’s Persian Food restaurant, is creating a universe of Jewish-inspired food in Madison and is now dishing it out at a second location on Regent Street. She calls the restaurant nuuNoosh, because she says, matter-of-factly, “I didn’t know what to call this place.” I ask if it is true she refers to her young son as Noosh. To which she softens and says, “Yes.”

You may remember back in December 2015 when Borokhim opened her then second restaurant “Noosh” on South Park Street in the formerly shuttered Taco Bell. Due to disputes with the owners of the building, she closed Noosh within the month, telling the Wisconsin State Journal, “I will reopen, it’s just a matter of when.”

Credit Borokhim’s tenacity as an entrepreneur, or perhaps her stubbornness, for allow her to get back up after taking a punch in the ring of restaurant ownership. More than those fierce qualities, after spending some time with Borokhim, I would say it’s her desire to recreate the feelings of nourishment from meals shared with her extended Iranian family that is the overall motivation for nuuNoosh.

In what once housed a tattoo parlor, the building features a rounded roof and resembles a small airplane hangar. Inside, a shabby-chic dining room offers seating for 30 or so with plenty of room out back for a lively patio come summer.

In the spirit of the meaning of the Hebrew word “nuu”–which Borokhim translates to mean “uh huh” or “yeah, go on, sure,”–yeah then, let’s go on about the menu.

It’s very different from her Persian-inspired restaurant in that nuuNoosh is more of a Jewish-interpreted casual dining experience with a culturally diverse lunch and dinner menu featuring brunch on the weekends. Her philosophy on food remains the same–that it should be fresh, prepared in small-batches and resound with seasonality.

Inspired by old-world cuisine where “food was cooked based on what ingredients were available and when,” she says at nuuNoosh, vegetables are plentiful and “meat is the flavoring and not the star of the show.”

Part of a row of eclectic restaurant neighbors (Hong Kong Station and Campus Biryani & Gyros), nuuNoosh is perfectly at home offering nontraditional spins on classics, like the tuna salad sandwich. What Borokhim will serve is a sardine salad sandwich and a grilled ahi tuna salad sandwich with mixed vegetables and a wasabi cream sauce on rye bread. She’s serving a Hungarian egg salad made with butter, sour cream and egg yolk, as well as a house-cured lamb sandwich on rye bread that’s similar to a Reuben.

Kubbeh (Iraqi dumplings), which are made with semolina flour and ground lamb, will be served for dinner (vegetarian option available), as is a slow-cooked chicken soffrito. Borscht and an egg torta of chicken liver and chorizo sausage are a fine sampling of the food that has formed Borokhim.

A champagne brunch menu complete with mimosas and a Bloody Mary bar offers items such as the challah bread French toast, streudels, a Yemen-inspired fried bread called malawach and jachnun–a savory rolled buttery baked dough.

Throughout the process of adding this restaurant to her portfolio, which includes, for now, the Noosh food cart, she often received questions about why she wanted to own another restaurant. Her reply, “because I don’t only want a crumb, I want the whole sandwich.”

And because Borokhim likes to share, we also get to eat a delicious sandwich.