Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City
Vegan does not need to be such a bad word in the food world. Recently, there were shockwaves when Ravi DeRossi (a bigtime bar owner and restaurateur) announced that most of his restaurants and bars will become completely vegan.
This is a big deal since he owns a seafood-happy tiki bar, a rum bar with lots of Cuban dishes, and an excellent meat and cheese fondue spot in the West Village. How can these possibly work as vegan establishments?
Well, if his first foray into the non-meat world is any indication, they will be huge successes. Avant Garden opened earlier this year in the East Village and it’s as good and eye-opening as Dirt Candy (another game changing vegetarian restaurant).
There is somehow both a high-end and casual experience at Avant Garden. A warm chef’s counter and cozy dining room are overseen by a capable staff of servers. Unfortunately, like most of the great new restaurants in the city, portion sizes are small and oftentimes even when you order as many dishes as the staff suggests, you still leave hungry.
But the flavors and preparation of the vegan dishes are stellar. If you didn’t know any better, you’d guess that these vegetables were marinated in some sort of meat or cheese juice. How else could they taste this good?
Perfect example is the potato cannelloni. It’s actually a play on the spherical stuffed pasta. While the pasta on its own could be vegan, here the Chef makes it from fried potato and fills it with a creamy, tangy “ricotta” made from pine nuts. It’s surrounded by more tasty vegetables: spicy, earthy eggplant “merguez”, a bright, peppery arugula pesto, and a handful of crunchy potato chips. It’s awesome and there’s no meat and no cheese!!
Same holds true for the toothsome beet tartare salad and the giant, meaty maitake mushrooms. After eating at Avant Garden, I realize if there is any restaurant owner that can make us all go vegan, it’s Ravi DeRossi. Price: $17
|130 East 7th Street (between Avenue A and First Avenue),