East Village Vegan for Non-Vegans

As our car pulled up to Avant Garden, I made sure to tuck my rabbit fur-lined suede gloves into my purse. Didn’t want to cause a scene at a vegan restaurant, after all.

Bar seating at Avant Garden

Bar seating at Avant Garden

Avant Garden was tiny – about 30 seats – and cozy. If you were seated at a table for two, you were basically getting to know your neighbors really well. That said, we were there on the early side at 8 pm on a Monday, so we had a choice. And we decided on the counter, where we had a close up view of the preparations.

Naturally, this omnivore (who loves lamb, btw) was afraid we would be starving after a meal at a vegan restaurant. No need to worry. Our server recommended one main dish, a “hot” and another (either cold or toast) for each person, if we were hungry. We ended up with 2 toasts, a cold and two hots – more than enough food.

My favorite of the night was probably the carrot harissa toast, with a touch of heat, but well-balanced. I also liked my sunchoke toast, but apparently, we were the only ones to order that dish. We saw plate after plate of hummus toasts being made at the counter in front of us, but ours was the only sun choke – I know, so 1% of us, no?

carrot harissa toast

carrot harissa toast

Sunchoke toast - delicious, yet unpopular (alas)

Sunchoke toast – delicious, yet unpopular (alas)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was probably full at this point – no seriously. The ingredients were so fresh and the tastes, layered and subtle. Our salad of sweet potato in a jalapeño dressing (yum!) was quite good, not too hot, but with waves of flavors. I guess it’s really true that salt and animal fat hide many flaws … In any case, the ingredients and preparation at Avant Garden were terrific. If only I had vegan chef (and shopper) full time …, right?

Gnocchi

Gnocchi

Although it had been unseasonably cold in NYC, it was now warming to a temperate 30 degrees. In other words, warm enough to drink a white wine. Especially with vegan cooking?  I was happy with my wine choices – a glass of muscadet for the first courses, followed by a mellow deep yellow glass of viognier for my “hot” dishes.

G ordered the gnocchi – normal one of my favorites. I liked the texture and flavors, but after a few bites, we both started to taste the sweeter flavors of the sweet potato and sauce more than we’d like.

Let’s face it: the winning dish of the night was the maitake mushroom, with apples and broccoli rabe. Really loving the viognier setting off the bitterness of the rabe. Terrific balance of tastes.

And while dessert sounded interesting and good, we were both too full to sample. Would we be hungry in the morning? I guess time would tell.

The service as Avant Garden? So friendly, pleasant and enthusiastic. A perfect capper. A terrific meal. Highly recommend. Who wouldn’t love to eat vegan a la Avant Garden every night? If only …

Sweet potato salad

Sweet potato salad

Roasted maitake

Roasted maitake

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