New: Niu

No, it’s not Northern Illinois University - closer to its antithesis, rather. From the ashes of Max & Benny’s rises Niu, a self-described “Japanese Fusion Lounge,”

serving a variety of (semi-)traditional and fancified maki, and a few entrees.

It’s probably a hipper alternative to the nearby Kamehachi, what with its minimalist decor and its “Sexy Mexican” roll (shrimp, spicy crab, and jalapeno, topped with avocado), but not by much. The most interesting stuff on the menu, as far as we’re concerned, is the cold and warm plates on the “fusion” half of the menu. Here, you can try a Honeymoon Shooter (oyster, quail egg, uni, ikura, and caviar topped with gold flakes for $11), or Shisito peppers (scallops and crabs stuffed in fried jalapeno peppers for $10). We’re wary of any sushi place that feels the need to offer Pad Thai ($12 for tofu or chicken and $13 for shrimp), but we suppose it’s a touristy area. Anyway, that shooter gives them a reprieve from total humdrumness - Metromix recommends giving it a whirl if you find yourself at AMC River East, and that seems like a reasonable course of action.

Niu [MenuPages]

[Photo: NIU, in the fall]

New: Niu