I was recently re-invited to Table Verte, a French restaurant that serves only vegetarian dishes.I am definitely a carnivore and, most of the meals I had when I was a kid, growing up in France, had a dish with either a meat, fish or poultry. My wife Jodi, loves burgers and filet mignon, but have an inclination to order vegetarian dishes. It is with her, when we were dating, that I went to my first vegetarian restaurant: Zen Palate, at their location in Union Square that since closed. Then I went to others, like Gobo or Angelica kitchen, the latter being the worst vegetarian meal I ever had, the food being bland and mushy. I discovered Table Verte beginning of the year, and it made me realize how we easily get stuck with labels. Think about it: in Italian restaurant, we may order pasta with a tomato and basil sauce. We do not call that vegetarian. A cheese pizza is not called vegetarian. A ratatouille is not called vegetarian. etc. etc. I could go forever with dishes that we love but never think about associating them with being vegetarian.
|Execute Chef Ken Larsen (left) & Sous Chef Matt Roth|
So, what makes Table Verte different from other vegetarian restaurants? Over there, Ken Larsen, the Executive Chef (who lived and worked in France) crafted a menu where he did not try to replace the meat or fish by other soy based proteins such as seitan or tofu. In the years he worked in France, he understood the importance of the garnish on the plate. In France, everything has to taste good: the garnish included. So, he decided to eliminate the meat and make the garnish the star of the dish. He also does not try to recreate a specific dish, but rather be inspired by it and make his own creation.
The difference between my last visit and today was, besides new dishes, that they replaced the a la carte formula by a series of prix-fixe menus. I admit that I prefer when both a la carte and prix-fixe are available, as we sometimes just want to have one dish each.
So, here we are at Table Verte (the green table), in the dining room, where all tables are...green.
We decided to share some dishes and started with appetizers. We started off with roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic glazed strawberries.
I rediscovered Brussels sprouts few years ago, after eating a couple in a restaurant, regretting not to have more on my plate. Yes, when I was a kid, I hated it, but it might have been the way my Mom cooked them (Sorry Mom!) or maybe my palate evolved...What was interesting with this dish was the pairing with strawberries, not a sweet and salty combination because strawberries are not that sweet, but rather adding a different texture and maybe a delicate sour taste that made this dish successful.
Chef Larsen thought about this dish after a trip in France back in August where he tried some crepes with savory flavored sherbets. Although it was very creative, it was my least favorite dish, the sherbet being a bit too icy and not having that much taste.
Then, we got my favorite appetizer: truffled mushroom duxelle.
Chef Larsen wanted to add a spread on the menu, similar to a pâté that is a traditional appetizer in France. The presentation was identical, with cornichons and mustard, but, instead of bread, he made a pâte sablée that is a rich crumbly crust.
I have to say that I loved that dish. When it came to the table, we could smell the truffle, and the taste of the mushrooms was divine.
Then, for the entrées, we picked the eggplant lasagna:
It was made of goat cheese, Swiss cheese, spice roasted eggplant, harissa chickpea ragu and sautéed spinach. The pasta was cooked al dente. Jodi loved it to say the least! I liked it, especially because there was lost of cheese and was expecting a little kick from the harissa, but it was not the case.
The second entrée was Olive Polenta, made with an onion confit (fantastic!), roasted peppers, artichokes and cippolini onions with parsley caper sauce.
The presentation was sensational and it was as if the delicious olive polenta was like a piece of meat, soft, but not too much, perfectly paired with the onions that gave some sweetness to the dish and the haricots verts some crunch.
These two entrées are the perfect example of dishes that do not need meat or fish and left us satisfied. But of course not enough to skip dessert! We ordered the Banana Brûlée made of French pastry cream, sweet cookies, with a caramelized sugar coating:
If you like banana, you cannot miss this dessert that is between the banana pudding and the creme brûlée.
It was creamy and not too sweet; so good that we finished it!
The second dessert was the tarte au chocolat:
I had that dessert last time, but it slightly changed: the crust was made with raisins this time and you could definitely taste it.
The chocolate part was rich, dense with a strong chocolate taste and if you wonder how they make it, I know that they replace the butter with avocado that is a perfect substitute and a vegan dessert.
I had again a nice dinner at Table Verte, a restaurant that more carnivores should know!
Enjoy (I did)!
And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!
Please note that I was contacted directly by the restaurant or a PR and that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!