Restaurant Review: Pure Food and Wine

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Raw foodism stresses that for the most benefit from food, it should not be heated above a certain temperature (usually about 110 degrees) because that kills off nutrients and beneficial enzymes that aid in digestion. Whether that’s all true or not, I’m skeptical, but I’ve never had any real interest in raw foodism because it doesn’t provide any ethical benefits over veganism. That said, though, I’ve always been curious about raw food from a culinary perspective. Five years ago “raw food” meant crunchy broccoli to me. But now, I see restaurants and cookbooks sprouting up (har!) and I’ve gotten curious about what an experienced raw chef can do armed with only a dehydrator and food processor.

When we were in New York last week, we decided to go to one of New York’s several raw restaurants to get the full raw experience. Our attempt to visit one of Quintessence’s branches was foiled when we saw it had closed. The next night we were in the Union Square area and decided to stop by Pure Food and Wine, a raw food restaurant started by two formerly omnivorous chefs who were inspired after a visit to the aforementioned Quintessence. When we walked in, we felt a bit out of place… it feels like a very trendy restaurant (definitely not our normal scene). But, we figured, screw it… there were people there more dressed-down than us, so we were seated without any stares from fellow patrons.

Because Pure Food and Wine isn’t exactly a “cheap” restaurant, Huyen and I decided to split an appetizer, get separate entrees, split a dessert, and forego wine. It was a tough choice because the menu had some really outstanding sounding dishes. We settled on:

  • Appetizer: Creamy Cauliflower Samosas with Banana Tamarind Sauce, mango chutney, Asian water spinach, and sake
  • Entrees: Biryani and Coconut Curried Vegetables with cardamom and coriander spiced “rice” and hunza raisins and Zucchini and Golden Tomato Lasagna with Basil-Pistachio Pesto, sun-dried tomato sauce, and pignoli ricotta
  • Dessert: Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart with black mint ice cream

The cauliflower samosas were made with an almost rice-paper-like wrapper that was just the right consistency (not too hard, not too most). The filling was absolutely delicious, with complex flavors rivaling the tastiest samosas I’ve ever eaten. Huyen’s eyes almost popped out of her head. She went from “notably skeptical” to “amazed” in one course. We couldn’t wait to try the rest.

Both entrees matched the samosas in terms of quality. The biryani was flavorful and a tad spicy without being hot. The balance of spices was just perfect and the textures were much more varied than the phrase “raw food” would have you expect. I savored every bite of the lasagna dish. The thinly sliced zucchini was a nice replacement for the standard pasta slices. The tomatoes were wonderfully fresh and flavorful, even in spring, and the pignoli (pine nut) ricotta was creamy, only slightly nutty, and a perfect compliment to the sun-dried tomato sauce. Needless to say that the pesto (a food that’s traditionally served raw) was flawless, given a nice twist by the use of pistachios.

At this point, we decided that if we lived in New York, we might go broke from going to Pure Food and Wine too frequently, since we’d surely bring every out-of-town friend there during their visit. But to be fully convinced, we had to try their dessert. After all, how could one make a chocolate ganache tart and a raw ice cream that were anywhere near as good as their gourmet baked counterparts?

Our minds were blown once again. The tart, made using Rapunzel cocoa, was rich and delicious. The small dollop of mint ice cream made from coconut beans and cashews had only a slight nutty flavor and was better than most processed vegan ice creams I’ve tried, let alone raw ice creams. A perfect finish to a perfect meal.

Seriously, this meal was wonderful from beginning to end. While our hostess scared us with her supermodel appearance and attire, our waitress couldn’t have been friendlier or more responsive to our questions. Huyen and I both left absolutely satiated and believers that raw food can be every bit the culinary experience any other gourmet cuisine can be.

Now, Pure Food and Wine ain’t exactly cheap. But, we cited this restaurant as the reason that we got an inexpensive hotel room: money’s better spent on food than on where you spend your unconscious hours. For the one appetizer, two entrees, and dessert, the total came to $94 after tip. We agreed as we headed out the door, it was worth every cent.

One criticism must be leveled, though: Pure Food and Wine isn’t 100% raw. Huyen complained that their bathroom sink’s cold water faucet didn’t work, so she had to deal with scorching hot water to wash her hands… water that was clearly above raw food’s upper-limit of 110 degrees. (Ba-dum-dum… I’ll be here all week, folks! Try the Brazil Nut Crusted Mushrooms!)

12 Responses to “Restaurant Review: Pure Food and Wine”

  1. Summer Blues

    They probably need hot water over a certain temp. to wash dishes. The health inspectors insist.

  2. VeganMomma

    I will have to keep that restaurant in mind on my next trip to New York.

    My food intake is at least 80% raw. I use a dehydrator, juicer, spice grinder, and food processor. I prefer the flavor of uncooked vegetables/fruits to cooked foods.

  3. Isa

    OK, I’ll bite the raw bullet and give it a try.

  4. chef 'em out

    I’ve got to hand it to Matthew Kenny: he disappeared off the screen for years and has come back with a great concept.

  5. Cody Brown

    Ha, I’m glad you guys liked it! I worked there for a month and never got tiered of the food, especially the juices (they have a juice bar around back) I strongly recommend an avocolada, it’s my favorite juice in the world. I will probably be working there again next summer.

  6. Ginger

    Wow – thanks so much for sharing your experience with us! I lived vicariously through your narrative….Now I know where to make my Dad take us next time we’re in NYC

  7. carol

    went in september to Pure food and Wine unbelievable! have since gotten there book Raw Food Real World. Everything I have tryed has been great. I just wonder what will happen when winter sets in. Do they order fresh fruits from South america?i want to go for Thanksgiving

  8. Los

    My wife and I do indeed take every out of town friend to Pure Food and Wine — it is an AMAZING restaurant — we absolutely love it. It isn’t cheap, but considering we pretty much don’t eat out anywhere else (being raw has some major money-saving advantages) it is worth it every time. The best part is that with their un-cookbook, you too can be a raw food chef extraordinaire. Glad everyone likes it, it’s the best.

  9. Jon Jary

    Pure Food and Wine is amazing. The snacks that we carry in our store are among the most popular of all the snacks we have. A few people have issues with maple syrup (because it is not raw), but they are following 100% raw diet and good for them! If it could be changed to agave, i’m sure the taste would not change and it wouldn’t alienate the dedicated followers on the raw food diet, which are the people that are helping get this information out there.
    But anyway, check out this restaurant if you haven’t been!

  10. helen thurman

    am going to nyc in may and cannot wait to go to pure food and wine i started raw food a month ago, am losing weight feel great sleep better and enjoying retirement, more than ever!! it is now a way of life for life……..

  11. AnalogKid17

    I found this cozy little restaurant by chance. I was looking for a “nice” place to take somebody and this seemed like the right one. It was again by chance that I ended up in a vegan restaurant, but being vegetarian this was a pleasant surprise. Given that I’ve been vegetarian for years and that I’ve eaten in 4 other vegan restaurant in NYC, I can safely say that while the food was good it was not excellent at all. I saw people disappointed about strips of nori on their salad, I was disappointed by my lasagna being just a pile veggies with no actual pasta layers, there was no bread or other carbohydrate whatsoever and this is NOT advertised outside. We ordered Pinot Grigio by the glass and the waitress, in a non apologetic way, said they don’t serve it “by the glass”, she didn’t offer an explanation or an alternative.

    The experience was over all bad enough that I know won’t go back or recommend it. Further it was made worse by a painfully slow service and a 3 digit bill for a dinner that left me wanting for more.

  12. Queen Elizabeth

    I went To PFW on Valentine’s Day. When we first arrived we checked our coats with the friendly hostess. ( both where friendly) We where early so we sat at the bar and ordered drinks.We ordered the $16 Chocolate Cream Tini and the $16 Three Dots SAKE (hot). The hostess came up to us and said would you like to sit in the private dining area or wait for a table in the main dining area. We took the private dining area. We had to walk threw the kitchen to be seated. Private was correct. The space was quiet, warm and only could sit 16 people at a time. The 3 dots Sake was Great but the chocolate Cream tini tasted like chocolate milk. We ordered the $13 Shiitake and Avocado Sushi Roll And the $13 Spicy Thai lettuce Wraps to start. That’s when the Horror began. The problem wasn’t that the Wraps was missing the Spiciness. It was the Sushi that had a Long Straight black hair wrapped tight in one of the pieces. It was dark in the restaurant so I didn’t notice until I started putting wasabi on the roll and the hair was noticeable then. I tried to make excuses for the restaurant because of all the great things I heard of it and how expensive it was. But I have curly tight hair and I tried hard to fight with that hair in my sushi. It just wouldn’t come out. We called the waiter over and my boyfriend looked like he was going to argue with him so I stopped him. He quietly told the Waiter the problem. Even the waiter was disgusted. He said he will get the manager right away. She came over bend down closer to us and softly apologies for what happen. She was sincere and I was looking forward to this place for a long time so we accepted the apology and decided to stay.
    We ordered next 2 glasses of wine which where $30 and the $24 Zucchini an Roma tomato Lasagna plus the $23 White Corn Tamales. Both good not great. We finished off with the $15 classic sundae and 2 dessert wines. ($15 Auslese and $11 Bonnie doon Framb) very nice.
    When we received the bill we were surprise that they took care of us for what had happen. I didn’t expect the generosity they showed. It was a good experience minus the hair. Prices should match the dishes. The dishes need more taste in them. They need lessons from RAW SOUL located in Harlem. Dishes are tasty and prices are great and this place is only a hole in the wall. Oh! We did notice that no one had hair nets in the kitchen. Hmmm! I think that was the problem behind the whole hairy sushi roll. By the way, I can not believe the $15 Classic Ice Cream. IT IS to DIE for.

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