I love it when you happen across a restaurant by chance, don't you?
On my recent visit to New York. This is exactly what happened to me. It was at the end of a whirlwind day of sightseeing, as a school friend marched me all over Manhattan, taking the sky car to Rosevelt Island, marvelling at the Universe at the Planetaruim and generally making me laugh like a drain. I took over the reins and dragged him to the Lower East Side to see if we could wangle a table at a tiny little vegan place that is usually booked up EIGHT weeks in advance. We arrived outside just before opening. I pasted on the best 'pleading' face I could muster and asked if they could squeeze us in, 'seeing as we are so early and me visiting from London, and all'. Only to find that they didn't open on Monday's as it was their prep day for the week ahead. Not to be knocked from my shameful lack of research or dissuaded from showing my strapping, carnivorous friend the delights of good vegan grub, I asked where the owner/chef went to eat (figuring she knew good food when she came across it). She didn't hesitate to let me in on some local knowledge.
So, a few minutes later we entered the softly lit, ambiance of Table Vert. It had a nice atmosphere and the server was really attentive and knew her menu. We followed her recommendations (I bowed unhesitatingly to my obsession with kale), knowing, with friend in tow, we'd be able to share. When I travel so much, I am not always with the good fortune to have friends to dine with, so it is great that I not only get to share and sample two starters, entrees and desserts..but I enjoy great company too. My friend B is a great story tellers and speaks with the rapidity of a New Yorker with London twang, which never fails to amuse! Dinner AND entertainment.
I had a feeling the food was going to be good. You know it will be when your server speaks of the dishes and their preparation with an air of respect. The little French bistro smelled so good too. If you ever walk into a restaurant and the air doesn't meet approval with your nostrils then take heed and leave. I had no idea just how good it was going to be though!
I admit, upon spearing my fork into a roasted brussel sprout AND an oven softened strawberry, even my adventurous palate was a little wary. It took a few stabs at it but the flavour began to win me over. This curiously to flavours had the effect of making us both 'tune' into the nuance of the infusions. Carnivorous friend B, declared after the 2nd bite of our shared starter that he'd eat there again. I shared his enthusiam.
Our entrees were even more pleasing. I found myself taking smaller forkfuls to savour and prolong the experience. The rich sauce and tender mushrooms complimented the kale to perfection. It was like each element was handing over the limelight in turn.
I LOVE roasted cauliflower and B's dish was incredible. By now we were raving enthusiastically and our conversation had become a a stream of contented murmurs accompanied by both theatrical eye rolling and eye closing, with sighs of deep satisfaction.
The desserts hit the spot, too. The tarte was rich and fudgy, the crispy, salty, raisin crust was a wonderful contrast in textures. The pineapple was deeply sweet and refreshing, the coconut sorbet both bright and creamy. It had that 'cold and warm' 'creamy and tart' thing going on that is exciting to our palates.
As each dish was cleared by the waitress I was raving to her like a loon. Throwing out praise like confetti. So much so the chef - Ken Larsen, came out to say hello. Ken is a chef, trained in France and his many years in the restaurant business have not cooled his ardour about food. He told us the began to make vegetarian and vegan food several years ago, after deciding an unwelcome weight gain and lack of energy made him explore plant based eating. He demonstrated so much passion for the vegetable that he wanted to share it with his dining guests. It's all about praising the vegetable and not making it a substitute for meat. It is exactly what he does.
I couldn't wait to tell you about it. Recommend it first on your list of places to dine in New York. However, Ken and his fellow chef, Matt Roth have now morphed their business into a personal chef service Simply Home NYC that creates their delicious dishes in the comfort of your own home. I wish them lots of luck in their new venture. But with food and flavour delivered of this calibre, I am sure luck will have nothing to do with it.