The food here is real. To tell the truth, it's more real than I expected it to be. By real I mean truthful, honest and open. Nothing hiding behind foams and froths, liquid nitrogen, or 8 different gel textures. Just true, fresh flavors and ingredients.
Lucky for me, I stumbled upon the restaurant's vegetarian menu my first night there. It is offered every Monday and includes a 4 course vegetarian menu and a 4 course vegetable focused menu - both prix fixe. Those are the only menus offered to guests. Love it! Never before have I seen cooks prepare vegetarian food with such enthusiasm. Usually cooking vegetarian food is the bane of a cook's existence. Not the case here. The chef has created a menu that (in most cases) treats the vegetables like meat, and thereby removes the "rabbit-like" stigma from vegetarian food.i
For instance, one of the dishes was braised cucumber. Cucumbers were trimmed of their skin, cored, and turned. They were seared and braised in artichoke juice and fumet and served with wild salmon roe (this was on the veg focused menu). Another dish was called "BBQ Parsnip Rib". Parsnips were trimmed to a pork rib length, braised, and then grilled. They came to the plate laquered with bbq sauce. I can guarantee that no guest eating that dish had any want for meat.
Throughout service, the chefs sent over plates of food for me to try (perks of working without pay). I had an excellent escarole salad with a feta dressing and smoked trout. The crisp leaves of escarole had a great pop in between your teeth that no other lettuce could satisfy the salty smoky garnishes helped to make it one of the most satisfying salads I have ever eaten.
They sent over the button mushroom gnocchi with yams, breakfast radish, and sauce bordelaise. The gnocchi melted in your mouth and the sticky bordelaise sauce coated the toothsome yams in such a way that they glimmered. Next was a dish of braised fennel. Literally cooked like a hunk of pork. It was lined with a thin layer of persillade (parsley breadcrumbs) and came garnished with, get this - house cured lamb bacon. Yeah baby.
Lastly, a dish of raviolis filled with riced potatoes. They were sat in a acidic sauce of preserved lemon, artichoke, and fennel. Light, refreshing, and meat free. But most of all: satisfying - a component often missing in vegetarian cuisine.
Well, I'm off for another day of it. Not a bad line of work if you ask me! The snow is really coming down out there and it takes me an hour to get into Manhattan as it is. Coming up: the restaurant gets in a baby pig twice a week for their "Baby Pig" dish. Details on that one to come. Start drooling now!
Eat your veggies,