French Vegetarian at Table Verte in NYC, New York

Image of Entrance of Table Verte in the East Village, NYC, New York

Before you read this, please note that this post is about a press dinner: understand that the restaurant knew who we were and this was a complementary dinner.

Going to a French Vegetarian restaurant sounds like an oxymoron so I was extremely curious to go to a Press Dinner at Table Verte, located in the East Village. I had vegetarian experiences previously either in true vegetarian restaurants like Gobo, Zen Palate or Angelika Kitchen, as well as Asian restaurants where vegetarian dishes are always available (think about Indian, Chinese or Thai)! But French? I was excited to see what it was all about!
Image of the Dining room of Table Verte in the East Village, NYC, New York

So, here I am, walking to this place, passing the crowded Saint Marks Place, and ending up on the same block as Caracas, the Venezuelan restaurant that serves delicious arepas! Fortunately, I always rely on the address because I could have passed next to Table Verte without noticing it: no extravagant lights or outside decoration. The place is tiny with its 38 seats (each table is green, matching the name of the restaurant) and I retrieved there the type of atmosphere that I was used to when living in Paris, especially at La Butte aux cailles, in the 13th district, close to Place d'Italie. La butte aux cailles has these small restaurants, very casual, warm, where the food is the star and where you feel so comfortable, you tend to forget you are in a restaurant and are just enjoying the moment you share with others at a meal. In fact, the press dinner was on a Tuesday and the place was packed. I did not notice though that they were rushing people so they had to eat quickly and free their tables for other customers as it is customary in a lot of restaurants in New York. 

I did not meet with the owner, Chef Didier Pawlicki (Taureau and La Sirène), but had a quick chat with Executive Chef Ken Larsen. Chef Larsen was classically trained at the French Culinary Institute, and spent few years as a Chef in France, near Nancy. There, he discovered that French people attach a lot of importance to food and that everything on the plate has to be good, including the garnish.
Image of Chef Ken Larsen in his kitchen of Table Verte in the East Village, NYC, New York

Later, being himself a vegetarian, he decided to make these garnishes the star of the dishes, without trying to recreate proteins with tofu or seitan, crafting a menu with not only vegetarian, but also vegan and gluten free dishes. I was pretty intrigued, of course as a Frenchman, but also because vegetarian has not always been successful in the past (Angelika kitchen was terrible!).

We started the dinner with a medley of salads that the Chef proposes on his menu - Le plat froid:
  • Celeri rave remoulade: shredded celery root marinated with lemon juice and dressed with homemade mayonnaise.
  • Lentils vinaigrette: lentils served with a brunoise of carrots (carrots are first julienned and then turned a quarter turn and diced again, producing small cubes), celery and leeks with Dijon vinaigrette.
  • Beets with horseradish seasoned with shallots, tarragon and herbs.
  • Assiette de carottes: carrots, chickpeas, leeks and raisins in a lemon spiced vinaigrette.
Image of Salads or plat froid at Table Verte in the East Village, NYC, New York

I really liked it: rustic, pretty traditional, it easily reminded me of a dish my family would serve at the beginning of a meal (in France, the entrée is the appetizer). I truly liked the flavors and appreciated the fact that it was not overdressed. The assiette of carottes had definitely a Mediterranean influence thanks to the raisins. The salads were served with some delicious homemade onion focaccia bread that I could have eaten entirely!

The next dish was the cassoulet vegetarien, served with yam cake.
Image of Vegetarian cassoulet and yam cake at Table Verte in the East Village, NYC, New York

I would not have associated the yam cake with French cuisine, but the cassoulet is definitely one of the most famous French specialties from the South West and I could hardly imagine what the vegetarian version would be! If you never had a cassoulet, know that it is made of white beans with different meats: pork, duck or goose. This one, that was vegan and gluten free, was made with mixed beans that were stewed with roasted shallots. Normally, the restaurant serves it with wild rice, that is not how you would serve it in France. This time, it was served with a yam cake that was delicious! It was made of layered sweet potatoes seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon. This was smooth and sweet, and paired very well with the cassoulet: going from sweet to salty was fantastic. We even told Chef Larsen that instead of serving the cassoulet with wild rice, he should always pair it with the yam cake! He told us that he would definitely consider it and that in fact, he likes to have feedback from the diners: that is how he came up with some ideas of items, such as the vegan chocolate ganache cake!
Image of Vegetarian cassoulet at Table Verte in the East Village, NYC, New York

I loved the cassoulet because it was very hearty with great flavors: it was definitely a surprise, because it stood up on its own and I did not miss any meat in it! I was also thinking that this is the type of dish that people could try to make home.

The next dish was the Gnocchi Parisien au gratin: Chef Larsen's own version of Mac & Cheese. 
Image of Gnocchi Parisien au gratin at Table Verte in the East Village, NYC, New York

It was made with truffles, white sauce and Swiss cheese. This dish was fantastic! First of all, they used real truffles and not truffle oil: you could tell the difference. Then the gnocchi were very light and not potato-y. This dish was very rich, but it was so good that I finished the side portion they served us; I cannot imagine eating the full size by myself...although, knowing me...
As Table Verte is a French Vegetarian, they could in fact stay true to their theme and call the gnocchi "vegetarian quenelles"!

Last, came dessert!!! We started off with the long awaited Tarte au chocolat vegetalienne et sans gluten (vegetarian and gluten free chocolate tart):
Image of Vegetarian and Gluten free chocolate tart at Table Verte in the East Village, NYC, New York

As mentioned above, it was based on the suggestion of a diner. The crust is made of overcooked rice, raisins and almond flour. The chocolate ganache is made with chocolate and avocado (not surprising as avocado can sometimes replace butter because of its fatty content). I liked the crust that was crunchy, but did not really like the ganache where the dark chocolate taste was a bit lost.

However, the next dessert was amazing! It was a banana brulée!
Image of Banana brulee at Table Verte in the East Village, NYC, New York

This was a great way of finishing the meal! It was made of banana, nilla crackers, Crème Pâtissière (custard) and had a caramel crust similar to a creme brulée. The crème was smooth and definitely tasted banana. It was not too sweet and perfectly set, like a fusion of banana pudding and crème brulée! Definitely a dessert not to miss!

This was an incredible and sensational dinner! I did not know what to expect, but this concept not only makes sense, but works! I really liked the passion of the Executive Chef that really came through his food. Apparently they started to serve brunch, so I will have to go back to see what they have!

In conclusion, Table Verte can satisfy any type of diner: vegetarian or not! 

Enjoy (I did)!

And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!

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