Restaurant Review: Home On 8th

Here’s the next in the series of very-late restaurant reviews from our trip to New York last month. I’m determined to get them all done before we go there again.

After we got our free tickets for the Upright Citizens Brigade show, we stopped by Home on 8th to grab a couple of appetizers for a snack before the show. The restaurant serves up standard Asian fare in a nice atmosphere, but also pimps a hefty vegetarian offering. The mock crispy chicken drumsticks caught Huyen’s eye, so we ordered one of them as well as a citrus beef skewer along with some green tea. They were short on wait staff (one waiter for the whole place) and, unfortunately, it showed. Our green teas seemed to be sweetened with honey, even though we specifically asked for no honey, which made them barely drinkable (have I mentioned recently that putting sweetener in your green tea is heresy?). Then, we were told that they had just run out of the drumsticks. Indeed, we saw another table get served the very last ones. So, we opted for some super-tiny spring rolls in addition to our beef skewer.

The skewer’s seasonings and seitan texture was just right while the spring rolls were fine, but unremarkable. The portions were small, but appropriate for appetizers.

For a quick stop in, we were pleased enough, though we’d really like to try that crispy chicken sometime…

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!)

Subway’s muddled menu

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This is annoying: Subway’s Vegetarian & Seafood page features two seafood sandwiches, one vegetarian sandwich, and the “Cold Cut Combo” (sliced turkey bologna, turkey ham and turkey salami with your choice of vegetables, condiments, etc. served on freshly baked bread). It’s annoying enough that they lump vegetarian with seafood, but then adding a “Cold Cut Combo” that has nothing to do with anything (it’s a “local special”) on the same page really muddles things up.

And where the heck is the VeggieMax that the used to offer? It’s now called the Veggie Patty, but I can’t seem to find it on their web site. I visited a Subway the other night for the first time in well over a year (I instated a personal boycott when they were in bed with Atkins) and they couldn’t tell me what was in the Veggie Patty because they hadn’t saved any of the boxes the patties are shipped in. They literally showed me the patty to show me to see what was in it. “There are carrots in there, I think,” they told me. I ended up having their Veggie Delite with mustard, sans cheese.

To find anything remotely helpful for vegans, you’ve got to go to their “Ingredient Information for People with Food Allergies” PDF. The good news: all their bread is vegan, except for the ones whose names obviously indicate otherwise (“Italian Herbs and Cheese,” “Monterey Cheddar,” and “Parmesan Oregano”). Some sites I’ve seen have said that the wheat bread has honey added to it… not sure, though, since that’s not shown on the allergin chart. It gets a little trickier with their condoments and dressings, as the only vegan choices there are the yellow and brown mustard, oil and vinegar, and sweet onion sauce.

Subway seriously needs to get some faux meats in the mix. And a vegan saffron aioli. Hey, I can dream, right?

Singapore Vegetarian closing

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Just got word in the comments of this entry from Cynthia that one of my favorite restaurants, the Singapore Vegetarian Restaurant in Cherry Hill, NJ is closing this weekend. I’m assuming it has to do with the simple case of “not enough business.” Every time I ate there, the place was almost completely empty. When I was there a year ago with my parents, the owner told me that they were considering adding some meat-based dishes to the menu in an attempt to drum up business. Guess it didn’t work.

So, I’m bummed. But my parents are coming in town this weekend and I tried to convince my mom to pick up some of their great yam-based shrimp one last time on their way down.

Update: Cynthia has given me some new information on the closing:

They will be closing for good this Sunday, January 16. However, the good news is that they are not closingdue tolack of business. I don’t know if you know this, butthere are 2 Singapore restaurants – the one in Cherry Hill, and another in China Town in Philly. Both are run byone family, and both locations require a lot of work. They’ve decided to close this branch, so they can dedicate all their efforts to the one in China Town. Apparently the problem isn’t too little business – but too much!

Though this is a great relief to me (i also thought they were closing for lack of business), my friends and i are still heartbroken. This is the second vegan restaurant to close in Cherry Hill in 2 years (there was another called Evergreen that was really nice, but it was no Singapore), and it just stinks that the final great vegan local for us is going to be acrossthe bridge. Why must Philly get everything wonderful! They already have Kingdom of Vegetarians, sheesh!

Next time you are in Cherry Hill, I’d reccommend the trip to the Singapore in China Town though. It is really nice, and if the owner is there (which he usually is) he almost always brings extra food to the tables! Also, he said that with the extra time, his family will be able to come up with new dishes, which is pretty exciting!

Sticky Fingers

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I live in Northern Virginia, but don’t really get into DC very often. And when I do, I don’t often have time to visit any of the vegetarian restaurants in the city (though I have been to the excellent Soul Vegetarian a few times). A couple of weeks ago, though, I was fortunate enough to finally be able to stop by Sticky Fingers Bakery, a small vegan bakery just north of Dupont Circle.

I tried out a number of their goodies, including a fresh oatmeal-raisin cookie (tasty!), a half-price day-old cookie (pretty hard, but hey, half price), their creme-between-oatmeal cookies Cowvin Cookie (absolutely outstanding and sweet enough to make your teeth hurt), a muffin (great for breakfast the next day), and their soft serve ice cream (mmm… vegan soft serve). Interestingly, all that only came to $11. Eleven bucks for several days of sugary goodness? Not bad.

All of Sticky Fingers’ foods are 100% vegan and made with non-hydrogenated oils. Sweetening comes primarily from evaporated cane juice.

If you’re in the DC area, do yourself a favor and take the Metro to Dupont Circle, walk north to 1904 18th St NW, and get yourself some sweets. It’s well worth the trip.

(Sticky Fingers also does mail order for many of their items.)