If you’re looking for great vegetarian food in the West Village, you really ought to check out Louro, a now-one-year-old restaurant run by Chef/Owner Dave Santos. Santos, you will remember, was doing a “supper club” at City Grit; they did a great vegetarian dinner a while back which I quite liked. Chef Santos now has his own restaurant, but he still maintains a bit of the inventiveness of his old dinners with the “Nossa Mesa Supper Club” at Louro. Every Monday, the restaurant serves up a prix fixe menu that changes with the seasons and the kitchen’s whims. The restaurant opened last December and one of the first supper club menus was completely vegetarian! My wife and I checked it out and had a great time. Continue reading
Sometimes, I go to a restaurant, mean to write a review, and, months later, never get around to it. Usually, I just move on. This time, though, even though the visit is almost a year old, I want to share with you my visit to Bouley last December. As frequent readers know, I visited Bouley for lunch while on jury duty last summer. The experience was, I wrote, nearly pitch-perfect. So about a week and a half before Christmas, I went back for dinner. The second time was even better. The food was great, the service was fantastic, and the overall experience was impeccable. Continue reading
If you’re looking for the best afternoon tea in New York, the Plaza Hotel’s offering is probably high on your list. But is the Plaza Hotel’s afternoon tea vegetarian-friendly? I was there a few weeks ago and found it to be a great experience, and they were quite willing to substitute vegetarian options.
If you haven’t been to tea at the Plaza, here’s what you need to know: this is an old-school afternoon tea: scones, little sandwiches, very formal, the whole nine yards. That said, they are at least a little whimsical; because of the story of Eloise, there’s an “Eloise tea” on the menu that includes more kid-friendly sandwiches (grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly) and offers lemonade instead of the usual teas. Don’t worry: if you are feeling young at heart, like my wife was, you can get an adult-sized serving of the food that goes with the Eloise tea, along with a cup of grown-up tea.
I ordered the “Golden Monkey Picked” tea from the list of reserve black teas. It was really interesting — a smooth black tea that was flavorful without the bitterness that is often an undertone in black teas. I don’t know a lot of about being a “tea connoisseur,” but according to the wikipedia page, this is a highly regarded tea. Among other things it is hand-picked, which sounds quite tedious. If nothing else, the name “Golden Monkey” is pretty neat.
The tower for the Eloise tea was nice: it looked just like the adult tea, so if you have older kids, they can really feel like they’re participating in a “real” afternoon tea. The desserts on the top shelf were pretty similar to the adults’ tower (my daughter got jello, which I didn’t, and her strawberry had a pink frosting on it rather than dark chocolate). The middle shelf featured scones like everyone else’s tower. But the bottom shelf was different: strawberry sandwiches instead of cucumber, and grilled cheese and peanut butter sandwiches instead of some of the other finger foods the adults get. The sandwiches all had the crusts cut off, so they looked “classy” just like other other sandwiches!
My tower was quite good, with one sort of serious glitch: although they said they would substitute vegetarian options for me where necessary, they forgot. This was a little disappointing — for a place that is as expensive and well-regarded as the Palm Court, I would have expected that they’d get this right. It wasn’t a huge problem, though; they very quickly brought out a new plate (the desserts and scones on the top two plates are obviously vegetarian, so this only affected the bottom plate).
The sandwiches were both classic and unusual. There were cucumber sandwiches, which are par for the course at an afternoon tea. There were no egg salad sandwhiches, which I didn’t really miss. What you see near the middle of the plate is a little tart-like thing with egg that was made with black truffle; it was quite good and probably my favorite. There was also some toast with pesto. The pesto was surprisingly flavorful for such a small dollop.
The sweets were nice, though nothing particularly mind-blowing: a little fruit tart, a little cannolo, cupcake, cookie, etc. There were also some other things I ate before taking the picture: a macaron, a dark chocolate-dipped strawberry, cream puff, and maybe a few other odds and ends. Add to the mix the usual scones (one plain, one currant) and you have quite a lot of food for your money.
All in all, the Palm Court had a great afternoon tea. It is classic, formal, luxurious, and quite expensive. And it is really expensive. Lady Mendel’s serves a five-course afternoon tea for $40, more than a third less than what the Plaza charges. The Pierre serves a tea comparable to the Plaza’s, with champagne, for approximately what the Plaza charges without. So this is definitely a special occasion-splurge kind of place. But for what it is, it’s a great experience, and the vegetarian options are really good — you’re not forcing yourself to choke down multiple cucumber sandwiches because that’s all they had. In every way except price, this is an exceptional tea service.
If you want fantastic vegetarian food at a
great good decent price, then Jean-Georges is the place to go. The flagship restaurant is the crown jewel in the sprawling empire of celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongeritchen is the cheapest three-Michelin-star meal in New York City (at least for lunch). Jean-Georges is quite vegetarian-friendly, too. Jean-George can legitimately stake a claim to some of the best vegetarian food in New York. Continue reading
Looking for some great, vegetarian food truck fare? Over the next several installments of “Frugal Friday,” I’ll review some of the more popular food trucks in New York City. Over the past few years, the food trucks have made the leap to mainstream, and in some cases even gourmet. But is all the hype worth it? As in most contexts, the answer is, “It depends.”
I recently checked out La Perla Mexicana (no, not that La Perla), which was parked one day on “Food Truck Row” on Park Avenue. (Check out tweat.it for locations of food trucks around New York City; on any given day, a dozen or more will be camped out on Park Avenue between 47th and 52nd Street or so, as well as on 47th between Park and Madison.)
The selection at La Perla Mexicana is pretty good. Like Patty’s, another Mexican food truck (review coming soon), the menu has a lot of things you wouldn’t find at your typical crappy Tex-Mex place: cemitas and tortas (sandwiches), huaraches, gorditas (the real kind, not the Taco Bell kind), and more. And, in a sense, making them vegetarian is easy; just get them without the meat.
But there are some other, more interesting options too. The quesadilla fillings include cheese, mushroom, pumpkin, and corn smut. Yes, corn smut. I assumed that was some sort of mis-translation or typo, but that’s actually the technical term. (I had always known it as “huitlacoche.”) Anyway, I assume you can mix and match these fillings with some of the other options on the menu. This time, though, I stuck to the basics: tostadas (which typically come in an order of three) with beans, lettuce, cheese, guacamole, tomatoes, and sour cream.
Overall, the tostadas were pretty good. The problem with getting something like this is the risk that lettuce is used as a filler, and unfortunately, there was some of that going on here. But what really disappointed was the guacamole. I don’t know if it was literally squirted from a bottle, but it certainly had the over-pureed, way-too-smooth consistency of guacamole that isn’t freshly made. I understand that it could be pricey to make fresh guacamole for every single customer, but I’m surprised they don’t just make it in batches every hour or two.
Still, the tostadas were pretty substantial. They were 3 for $10, which is a pretty reasonable price considering their size and how filling they are. The corn tortilla base had a good crunch but the tortillas themselves weren’t super-oily, which is is a big plus (and a big problem with most freshly-made tortillas: they are just out of the fryer so they are greasy and gross). The beans were tasty, though I thought they skimped a little bit; again, the ratio skewed too heavily toward the lettuce.
All in all, though, and particularly at 3 for $10, these were quite good. If you’re near La Perla Mexicana, I highly recommend stopping off to give them a try.
A year ago, I wrote that The NoMad was New York’s “restaurant of the moment.” Since then, the restaurant has garnered a Michelin star, and spent a lot of time on Eater’s list of the top 38 restaurants in Manhattan. (By the way, does anyone know why they list the top “38”? Why not 35? or 40?) The restaurant started off with a bang and has really maintained its momentum since. Around the corner, Eleven Madison Park (my reviews here and here), with the same chef-owner, Daniel Humm, is doing some pretty neat things. My not-so-secret hope for The NoMad was that it would be a place to get food at EMP’s quality, without having to pay EMP prices, and it looks like The NoMad might hit that sweet spot. Continue reading
You know that friend of yours who tries too hard to dress fashionably? The one who has just a few too many colors, or accessories, or flourishes, to the point where it overwhelms? Norma’s is that friend.
In fairness, if you are looking for the best breakfast in New York, Norma’s has to be high on your list. Located at the Parker Meridien Hotel, Norma’s is open every day until 3 pm and serves breakfast that whole time. Norma’s is a great option on weekends, and a fantastic alternative to the usual lunch spots. In 2002, Eric Asimov described Norma’s breakfasts as “more fairy tale than real,” and a decade later — with Norma’s serving up cheesecake-stuffed French toast, a $1000 lobster frittata (with 10 oz. of caviar), or a $5,022 Caesar salad (which, in fairness, comes with the Presidential Suite) — the description is still true, even if the prices are higher. But in the quest to be “fairy tale,” Norma’s tries too hard, to the point where the dishes don’t quite hold together. Continue reading
Earlier this summer, I had lunch at Gramercy Tavern, a one-Michelin-starred restaurant in, well, the Gramercy neighborhood. If you want great vegetarian food in New York, Gramercy Tavern is probably on your short list: their dinner tasting menu features a vegetarian alternative, and many of the same options are available for lunch or a la carte. I’ve had many great experiences at Gramercy Tavern (including some fun interactions on twitter, but this was just good, not great. Continue reading
Dining at Kajitsu, the Michelin-starred vegan restaurant in midtown Manhattan, is like nothing you’ve ever done before. (Trust me.) There’s a reason it’s been on my list of places I’d like to go, even though I don’t typically list completely vegetarian restaurants on the list. The restaurant features Japanese shojin cuisine — a style of cooking that is centuries-old and comes from Buddhist monks. But it’s much more accurate to say that this is a place that uses ingredients you might or might not be familiar with and concocts them into incredible works of food and art. Continue reading
What’s the best vegetarian food in San Francisco? I recently raved about State Bird Provisions, the best new restaurant in America according to Bon Appetit Magazine. But here’s the thing. The second time I went to SBP (review coming), I asked the waitress what restaurant she recommended, and without hesitation, she answered, “Rich Table“. Rich Table was also the recommendation of my friend Chef Dave Santos. Oh, and the James Beard Foundation has listed both SBP and Rich Table as semifinalists for best new restaurant. Dave Santos hooked me up with a last-minute reservation at Rich Table the day after I ate at SBP. If I had not been to one of these restaurants, I would easily say the other is the best restaurant I’ve been to in the last year. Having been to both within 24 hours, I really can’t say. Continue reading