Tucked away behind Nashua’s bustling Main Street, Unums is a welcome escape from the downtown rush. For six years, this eatery has been turning familiar American dishes into inventive, more contemporary creations. The ever-changing menu is also a reflection of the restaurant’s efforts to use local and seasonal ingredients when possible, a touch that’s evident in each bite.
Our meal at Unums began with a basket of their complimentary focaccia, studded with crisp onions and diced tomato. Served with a good olive oil, the bread was flavorful, although a little heavy for a pre-dinner nibble.
Appetizer options are on the lighter side, with the lobster Rangoon ($11) being a solid choice. A summer twist on typical crab Rangoon, these lobster-filled creations feature less grease and more high-quality ingredients than you’re likely to find at your local Chinese restaurant.
These are bursting with Boston-area crustaceans, which are floating in a creamy, cheesy center, all wrapped up in a crispy shell. Beneath is a cucumber slaw and ginger scallion sauce, which had a welcome hint of wasabi flavor throughout.
The charcuterie plate ($15) is also ideal for sharing. This dish boasts ingredients that are mostly from Lee, N.H., including sopressata, salami, prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella, blue cheese, and Seven Sisters cheese from Pennsylvania.
Everything was lightly drizzled with balsamic vinegar, including the toasted bread that accompanied the charcuterie. The vinegar was an unnecessary but favorable addition to the salty meats and tangy cheeses.
Unums’ menu mostly highlights fresh seafood and meats that are complemented with inventive sauces, starches or grains, and vegetables. The menu also boasts a wide variety of gluten-free options, as well as some vegetarian choices, and Unums is eager to accommodate other dietary restrictions as well.
On this particular evening, we sampled the grilled spice-crusted salmon ($24) and the one vegetarian entrée, eggplant arancini ($14).
The flaky, perfectly cooked salmon sat atop an impressive pile of fusilli, which were tossed with summer squash, zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, marinated artichokes, crumbled gorgonzola, pine nuts, and basil pesto. The pasta “sauce” had a nice kick of heat thanks to some crushed red pepper and fresh-cracked black pepper. The dish may sound a little busy, but all of the components worked surprisingly well together.
The eggplant arancini was equally innovative. The crisp, risotto-heavy fritters sat flawlessly on a silky, well-seasoned corn bisque. Mixed greens, capers, tomato puttanesca, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction helped to round out the dish, while introducing some necessary textures and flavors.
Curiosity forced us to also order a side of the wasabi mashed potatoes ($8), a heaping helping of a creamy, well-seasoned starch with a manageable wasabi flavor.
From the bar, Unums offers a good variety of specialty cocktails, like the bittersweet martini ($11), made with Hangar One Kaffir Lime vodka and a splash of Campari, which are shaken with ruby red grapefruit juice. The end result is a not-too-sweet, but definitely strong, libation that paired beautifully with our appetizers.
Unums also takes pride in its lengthy yet approachable wine list, which consists of three- or six-ounce pours of whites and reds, as well as bottles (including champagne). Prices per glass range from $4 to $15, while bottles clock in at anywhere from $10 all the way to $375.
The dessert menu is thankfully short, offering only a few options to fulfill a craving for something sweet after a satiating meal.
Desserts cost $9, and options on this evening included a variety of sorbets, crème brulee, chocolate cake, and limoncello raspberry cake, which is what we decided to make room for.
The cake consisted of a limoncello-soaked sponge cake with lemon cream and raspberry marmalade filling, all topped off with a raspberry glaze and thin white chocolate piping. The limoncello helped to make the sponge cake incredibly moist, and the slightly sour lemon flavor paired beautifully with the sweet cream and tangy raspberry.
The food and drink at Unums are only made better by atmosphere. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide fantastic light — and people-watching opportunities — while the open kitchen provides a comforting view of your food being made. The bar area is sleek and modern, with one flat-screen TV that’s fortunately unobtrusive.
The space itself is intimate, but the tables and bar area are ideally spaced out, so even on a busy night, diners don’t feel like they’re sitting on top of one another.
It’s not hard for Unums to get busy, either. It may be hidden behind Nashua’s downtown area, but word-of-mouth is the only marketing this place needs. The dishes, drinks, and overall experience speak for themselves.Michelle Collins is a food writer and professional chef who runs The Economical Eater blog (www.theeco