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13 Mar '16

The Vegan Tasting Menu at Dirt Candy: A Life of Abundance

Posted by Cayla Mackey

Anyone who thinks that vegetables can't be filling needs to go to Dirt Candy and order their tasting menu. Vegan food gets a bad wrap for leaving you hungry and wanting more, but that couldn't be more the opposite of our meal last night at this vegetarian/vegan haute cuisine establishment in Manhattan's lower east side in New York City.

First opened in 2008, Dirt Candy is the first vegetarian restaurant in 17 years to receive 2 stars from the New York Times, was recognized by the Michelin Guide 5 years in a row, and has won awards from Gourmet Magazine. This restaurant and it's punky, unapologetic aesthetic and attitude is making vegetarianism/veganism mainstream in the most awesome way.

Dirt Candy, chef's table

Chef Amanda Cohen is rocking out and having fun, and it shows in the food. (It also helps that she has a picture of a unicorn as her profile picture on the company's website.)

We checked it out last night and were blown away with the creativity and inventiveness of the menu and dishes. Here's a full insiders look at the menu and what we had as we watched Amanda plate away at the chef's table.

Pre-course: bread with smoked olive oil
Course 1: Bok choy with fermented black beans and pickled Jerusalem artichokes
Course 2: Korean fried broccoli
Course 3: Portobello mousse with sautéed asian pears, cherries and truffle toast
Course 4: Kale matzoh ball soup with shishito peppers and okra
Course 5: Rainbow cauliflower and curry with green pea paneer, papaya chutney and pappadam
Course 6: Brussels sprouts on a sizzling stone with lettuce wrappers and accompaniments
Dessert: Vegetable ice cream salad of lettuce sorbet, cucumber sorbet, yellow beet ice cream, grilled radicchio ice cream, walnut cake croutons, and maraschino grapefruit

Dirt Candy, pre-course, bread with smoked oilve oil  Dirt Candy, Course 1, bok choy with fremented black beans and pickeled jerusalem artichokesDirt Candy, course 2, Korean fried broccoli  Dirt Candy, course 3, Portobello mousse with sautéed asian pears, cherries and truffle toastDirt Candy, Course 4, Kale matzoh ball soup with shishito peppers and okra  Dirt Candy, Course 5, Rainbow cauliflower and curry with green pea paneer, papaya chutney and pappadamDirt Candy, Course 6, Brussels sprouts on a sizzling stone with lettuce wrappers and accompaniments  Dirt Candy, dessert, vegetable ice cream salad

The bread was delicious and not bitter, with a pungent and light smoked oil. The bok choy in the second course was heavy on umami in little chewy bursts, paired nicely with the vinegar crunch of the sunchoke pickles. In the third course, the sour and subtle spice of the korean-inspired sauce gave good balance to the fluffy pillows of broccoli tempura.

But the fourth course was the star, taking center stage. The two tiny orbs of mushroom pâté were protein-y, overlapping beautifully with the cherry purée, undulating folds of grilled mushroom, crispy toast medallions, and bursts of micro sage, leaving a gentle pillow of aroma on the back of the palate.

The menu finished brightly after that with a superfood kale matzoh ball soup as the fifth course, more reminiscent of a green miso, with spicy crunches of shishito and a clear aftertaste. In the fifth course, the rainbow cauliflower heaped out of an indian-inspired circular lentil cracker, balancing the papaya chutney and broth-like curry pool.

By the time the sixth course was served, a monster platter of make-it-yourself brussel sprout taco lettuce wraps, we couldn't even accept it, asking that it be boxed up. (It tastes awesome for breakfast... with the citrusy sprouts serving as the centerpiece of a delicate ballet of toppincs like kimchi red onions and smoked guacamole.)

We did leave room for the vegetable ice cream salad, a palate-cleansing confetti-like bowl of mind boggling vegetable sorbets. The flavors of each ingredient were distilled down to their basic elements and captured in ice - a refreshing and light way to leave meal.

As the website says: anyone can cook a burger, leave the vegetables to the professionals.  

Dirt Candy's website.

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