It’s Easy Eating Green!
By Andrea Strong, Top Chef
This week at NBC we’re celebrating everything Green, going an extra mile to try help fight the Global Climate Crisis. Eating vegetarian dovetails nicely with this mission. Thankfully, going vegetarian doesn’t mean just bowls of sprouts and tofu anymore. New York City is home to some fairly sophisticated vegetarian restaurants that also happen to support local farmers and agriculture, which helps minimize the size of that carbon footprint caused by transporting out-of-season foods from places like California and South America to New York City.
While I am not a vegetarian, my brother and future brother-in-law are (they’re both actually vegan), so I am no stranger to the issue of being an omnivore in a veggie-vore world. But honestly, these restaurants are so good, I frequent them even without my vegan crew in tow. Check them out and let me know your favorite Vegetarian restaurants too.
Counter, 105 1st Avenue, between 6th and 7th Streets, 212-982-5870
This 100% organic restaurant and wine bar located in the heart of the East Village, not only sources its produce locally, they also grow it on their rooftop vegetable garden in season, which makes the carbon footprint for dinner at Counter as small as you can get it.
Their menu extends beyond the usual to dishes like Provencal stew with amaranth and millet dumplings vegetables and potatoes, simmered in a seaweed broth, a terrific “risotto” made from cauliflower with sage and polenta, and their signature Vegetable B’steeya — phyllo pastry stuffed with saffron-basmati, rice, pinenuts & almond-orange blossom, butter, with mint-cucumber crème fraîche.
While the food is terrific, what I like most about Counter is their beverage program, which is taken quite seriously. Those who love their cocktails will love their organic martini bar, served with fresh juices and organic spirits, while winos will flip for their extensive wine list, which is organic and biodynamic. Beer-bellied vegetarians are in luck too — they’ve got an incredible selection of organic brews in store as well. (the Sam Smith Organic Ale is a favorite.) To keep the community close to the vine, the restaurant features twice-monthly Rebel with a Cause wine dinners. If you’re around on Sunday April 27th, check out the wine dinner with Heller Estate.
Hangawi, 12 East 32nd Street, between Madison and Fifth Avenues, 212-213-0077
Outside of a yoga class or a meditation retreat, it’s tough to find serenity on the streets of New York. But you’ll find an oasis of calm secreted behind an unassuming façade in the frantic bustle of Koreatown. It’s called Hangawi, and it’s one of the city’s most beloved vegetarian restaurants. The shoe-free environment (you’ll pad around in slippers) has a Zen monastery vibe, flanked by polished organic elements — wood and stone accented with a variety of ancient artifacts from the mountains of Korea.
The menu here is a la carte, but if it’s your first time, I’d go for the chef’s prix fixe so you can get a real idea of the adventure this Korean mountain cuisine can take you on. Just to give you an idea, you might start with steamed dumplings and emperor’s rolls (scallion pancakes with assorted toppings and fillings), move onto sweet corn porridge or a pumpkin noodle salad, and then get to feast on main dishes like the kimchee stone rice bowl (a personal favorite) or one of the restaurant’s signature maitake mushroom dishes. If you’re looking for a special treat, this is the place. You’ll leave feeling like you’ve just gotten up from Shivasana (but you’ll be full).
Broadway East, 171 East Broadway, (between Jefferson and Rutgers), 212-228-3100
Broadway East, a cool lofty oasis for vegetarians and omnivores alike, is the newest addition to the Green Scene here in New York. Owned by architects Ron Castellano and Joel Barkley and contractor James Wong, the restaurant is a rare hybrid offering a predominantly vegetarian menu alongside a few organic and local poultry and fish dishes. Chef is Lee Gross, who was most recently chef de cuisine in LA at M Café de Chaya, a Japanese-owned macrobiotic restaurant, and prior to that, was most notably was Gwyneth Paltrow’s personal chef, is turning out dishes like red beet tataki and golden beet tartare with hijiki, wasabi cream, mountain caviar, black cod and vegetable oden with sweet miso broth, black soybeans, yuzu and vegan peanut butter cheesecake with chocolate streusel, concord grape caramel, concord grape foam. (You’ll never believe it’s vegan.)
The menu’s theme of sustainability is carried through to the construction and design of the restaurant as well. The downstairs bar is made from wood recycled from a NYC water tower and the dining room is cushioned by a “Living Green Wall,” a soil-based wall of greenery and plants that covers 240 vertical square feet of space. The restaurant composts, filters and carbonates its own water (no bottled water will be available), and has a contract with a green linen company, and works with Environmental Energy Recycling Corp (an environmental service company that provides waste cooking oil collection and recycling for the food service industry).
Now that’s eating Green.