Restaurant Review: Eat your Veggies at Dirt Candy

By | May 4, 2012

One of the things I love most about living in NYC is that it’s chock full of incredible restaurants. Unfortunately the city’s culinary playground doesn’t often lend itself to being super vegan-friendly.  So there are inevitably those times when I get to a restaurant and there’s virtually nada for me to eat. Nearly everything’s either centered around meat, or comes served in a cream sauce, or both. But really, that’s fine. There’s rarely an occasion when I can’t concoct a (great) Mariell-friendly meal out of the menu’s offerings, and I like to think that I’m practical and tactful enough in my delivery that it’s not a huge pain for the kitchen, nor a total buzzkill to my carnivorous dining companions.

And then there are those times when it’s is a complete non-issue. Like at Amanda Cohen’s Dirt Candy.  Here, the vegetables are the stars, and while it’s technically a vegetarian restaurant, everything can easily be made in vegan form as well. For me, my dinner date with E (the hubs) at this adorable shoebox-sized East Village restaurant was like a dietary double rainbow. Here’s what we ate:

Portobello mousse (Image courtesy of Dirt Candy)

Portobello mousse, truffled toast, pear compote: This dish was beautifully (and deliciously) composed: a square of silky mousse, a few perfectly roasted whole mushrooms, a mound of sweet compote, and truffle-laced toast. Photos really don’t do it justice. If you like mushrooms, you must order this.

Steamed bbq carrot buns (Image courtesy of Dirt Candy)

Steamed bbq carrot buns and cucumber salad with sesame seeds and carrot halvah: YUM. These buns were sweet, fluffy, delicious pillows of carrot-y filled goodness. I loved them. The the accompanying cucumber salad with halvah was a huge winner as well, and I’d gladly order an entire plate of it alone for any meal.

Chard gnocchi (Image courtesy of Dirt Candy)

Chard gnocchi, grilled chard with garlic granola and drunken fig jam: When we asked for recommendations, our waitress steered us toward the gnocchi, insisting that the dish was incredible. She was right. The gnocchi were fluffy and carb-y like a gnocchi should be, but the chard provided an element of earthiness that made you feel like you were still eating your vegetables. The flavor combo of the chard + granola + fig jam was an intriguing pairing on paper, and plate-licking good in practice.

Coconut poached tofu (Image courtesy Dirt Candy)

Coconut poached tofu, shiso galangal sauce, salsify, and hearts of palm: This was the least exciting of all the dishes we ordered. I make tofu at home all the time, and this preparation wasn’t so exotic that it left me weak in the knees. That said, there wasn’t a morsel left over, so we definitely liked it a great deal.

Eggplant tiramisu with rosemary cotton candy (Image courtesy of Dirt Candy)

Rosemary eggplant Tiramisu , rosemary cotton candy, mascarpone: The science nerd within us lit up when we read the description of this dessert. Eggplant IN the tiramisu? Rosemary IN the cotton candy? So while yes, it contained dairy, we went for it anyway. Especially since I was pretty full at this point and really, really wanted the cotton candy. I love rosemary and cotton candy separately, and my taste buds didn’t really know what to do with the fusion of the two flavors at first. But then I had another bite and was undeniably addicted. I found myself wondering how much counter space a cotton candy machine would take up in our apartment so we could make it at home. Seriously, this cotton candy is a star.

I’d wholeheartedly recommend Dirt Candy to vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, as the food is thoughtful and delicious and just truly special. I’m already jones-ing for a repeat visit.