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Vegetarian options at top restaurants

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Old Nov 2, 11, 11:13 pm
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Originally Posted by Ancien Maestro View Post
I should clarify.. I meant that the restaurant itself thinks that different combinations of veggies don't matter to vegetarians.. but really, the combination of veggies does.. matter to the customer..

Subway is bottom of the pile example.. but even Subway customizes is my point..
Originally Posted by Ancien Maestro View Post
Can't say that I've ever tried a veggie burger, or patty.. Although I should, and understand from some of those I've talked to that the patty tastes sort of like meat..

I'm changing up my diet and eating alot more vegetables nowadays.. So with a steak dinner, I don't mind getting a large side salad, carmelized veggies, and no carbs..

I've done 3 meals in the past couple of weeks straight seafood and veggies..
And here I think that we have part of the problem; people who think that vegetarians want to eat items which taste like meat, or who think that seafood is vegetarian, or that offering a 'choice' of veggies for a veggie plate is sufficient. It isn't, and especially not at a high end restaurant. That veggie plate at 21 Club is embarassing. All the times I walked past and considered eating there I would never have thought that would be the result.

(I believe that it is the Boca burger which is so common in the US which tastes like meat, unlike the Gardenburger which does not. Any decent restaurant which serves a veggie burger tends to make their own 'patty' and not use a manufactured patty)

Several of us have had excellent meals in high end restaurants, often when the chef offers to make something off the cuff. Many chefs enjoy the chance to be creative and craft something unique. However, being vegetarian and working in a decent kitchen can often be a challenge, and may lead to some of the problems we find in restaurants (lack of understanding, lack of creativity, lack of balanced meals). Often being a vegetarian and starting out in the kitchen may mean a career in the garde manger. Fortunately there are some chefs which do encourage and consult their vegetarian staff, but I suspect that those opportunities are still somewhat uncommon unless in a vegetarian or ethnic kitchen.
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Old Nov 3, 11, 7:33 am
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Originally Posted by themicah View Post
Did you like it? I thought one or two of their dishes (particularly the carrot one) were pretty darn good, but found most of it just so-so.
I have been there a few times and always been very pleased with all of the courses. I did not try the vegan items, only the vegetarian menu.
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Old Nov 3, 11, 7:47 am
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Originally Posted by themicah View Post
Did you like it? I thought one or two of their dishes (particularly the carrot one) were pretty darn good, but found most of it just so-so.
Ditto. I thought Dirt Candy was just OK. Too many other good places in NYC.
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Old Nov 3, 11, 8:18 am
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The ones I like best are the ones where you can see the veggies in the burger, rather than it attempting to be 'meat'. Fallen out of favour now it seems are bean burgers, I used to get a really good spicy bean burger in one of my favourite cafes.

I haven't eaten meat for a long time so can't claim to know it it tastes like 'beef' but the brand I do sometimes buy for home, I am assured, taste nothing like meat, by carnivores!

I generally find faux meat burgers bland, so what I taste are the onions, tomatoes, ketchup etc. but sometimes it is the easiest form of lean protein to be found. That said, I'll still only order of it is nuked or frying pan cooked!

Originally Posted by crimson12 View Post
The veggie burger issue raises another question: whether vegetarian food should be trying to imitate non-vegetarian food? I think soy, seitan, etc., can imitate meat decently in some cases (Mexican Radio in SoHo has a good "carne asada" with seitan), though I think the best vegetarian entrees are those that try to do well on their own and not just because they manage to look/taste like meat.
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Old Nov 3, 11, 8:18 am
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Originally Posted by l'etoile
Originally Posted by themicah View Post
Did you like it? I thought one or two of their dishes (particularly the carrot one) were pretty darn good, but found most of it just so-so.
Ditto. I thought Dirt Candy was just OK. Too many other good places in NYC.
Suggestions?
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Old Nov 3, 11, 9:44 am
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Originally Posted by GadgetFreak View Post
Suggestions?
I really enjoyed my meal at Fat Radish. Not an all-veggie restaurant, but an excellent selection of gorgeous veggie small plates. And gorgeous waitstaff (of both sexes), too--something I usually don't notice.

On the all-veggie front, my sister is a big fan of Angelica Kitchen, although I think it's also just so-so (kind of old-school crunchy-hippie vegetarian style). I'd put Dirt Candy a notch above it.

I still haven't been to Pure Food and Wine or Kajitsu.
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Old Nov 3, 11, 2:57 pm
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I disagree with the notion that top chefs could whip up a vegetarian meal by just being crreative- not when I am paying top price for it!
What I notice is that usually vegetarian whipped up items are a) a table spoon of rice, b) a few pieces of. Arrows, c) parsley, d) some free leaves with lots of thorny rough edges, and a bunch of poorly cooked beans. If a chef can't cook beans, I don't care how good he is as a generic chef. It is even worse when you just ate a salad before your vegetarian surprise. I also have often noticed that top chefs have no idea about how much salt a vegetarian dish could take; at least they could taste before serving what they created.
Of course soups are all based on meat stock!
I forgot to mention in my earlier posting that Italian and Mexican restaurants also offer good vegetarian dishes.
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Old Nov 3, 11, 8:07 pm
  #53
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Originally Posted by emma69 View Post
Veggie burgers are one of the things I almost never order, because most kitchens don't have a separate grill for 'flame grilling' veggie burgers. Sometimes when there is no other option, I will ask that the burger is cooked in a frying pan, or, on occasion (and one well known fast food chain certainly used to do this for its veggie burgers) microwave!
Originally Posted by exbayern View Post
And here I think that we have part of the problem; people who think that vegetarians want to eat items which taste like meat, or who think that seafood is vegetarian, or that offering a 'choice' of veggies for a veggie plate is sufficient. It isn't, and especially not at a high end restaurant. That veggie plate at 21 Club is embarassing. All the times I walked past and considered eating there I would never have thought that would be the result.

(I believe that it is the Boca burger which is so common in the US which tastes like meat, unlike the Gardenburger which does not. Any decent restaurant which serves a veggie burger tends to make their own 'patty' and not use a manufactured patty)

Several of us have had excellent meals in high end restaurants, often when the chef offers to make something off the cuff. Many chefs enjoy the chance to be creative and craft something unique. However, being vegetarian and working in a decent kitchen can often be a challenge, and may lead to some of the problems we find in restaurants (lack of understanding, lack of creativity, lack of balanced meals). Often being a vegetarian and starting out in the kitchen may mean a career in the garde manger. Fortunately there are some chefs which do encourage and consult their vegetarian staff, but I suspect that those opportunities are still somewhat uncommon unless in a vegetarian or ethnic kitchen.
I don't claim seafood with veggies is vegetarian.. although, I think eating seafood is slightly healthier..

I've had straight vegetarian, at the local restaurant just to change things up.. I think creativity is lacking, on vegetarian dishes.. although on meals that have vegetables as part of the sides, I have seen strides in the cooking process over the year..

But straight vegetarian, could use a bit more creativity, focus and effort..
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Old Nov 3, 11, 8:37 pm
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Originally Posted by Gynob001
I disagree with the notion that top chefs could whip up a vegetarian meal by just being crreative- not when I am paying top price for it!
What I notice is that usually vegetarian whipped up items are a) a table spoon of rice, b) a few pieces of. Arrows, c) parsley, d) some free leaves with lots of thorny rough edges, and a bunch of poorly cooked beans. If a chef can't cook beans, I don't care how good he is as a generic chef. It is even worse when you just ate a salad before your vegetarian surprise. I also have often noticed that top chefs have no idea about how much salt a vegetarian dish could take; at least they could taste before serving what they created.
Of course soups are all based on meat stock!
I forgot to mention in my earlier posting that Italian and Mexican restaurants also offer good vegetarian dishes.
I think we might disagree on what a top chef is.
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Old Nov 4, 11, 10:50 am
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Originally Posted by GadgetFreak View Post
Suggestions?
Talking just New York? And straight vegetarian or vegan?

Pure Food and Wine or Kajitsu, which themicah mentions are both good, with nod going to Kajitsu. I can get tired of raw quickly.

Candle 79 is a good old dependable standby as is Blossom. I love Babbo's vegetarian pasta tasting menu.

The Natural Gourmet Institute is not exactly fancy, but a fun experience that's a bargain. On Friday nights the students who are ready to graduate prepare a three-course vegan dinner. It's $40 and BYOB. The dishes are usually pretty good, but service can be lacking, but for $40 ...
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Old Nov 4, 11, 12:08 pm
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Originally Posted by themicah View Post
I really enjoyed my meal at Fat Radish. Not an all-veggie restaurant, but an excellent selection of gorgeous veggie small plates. And gorgeous waitstaff (of both sexes), too--something I usually don't notice.

On the all-veggie front, my sister is a big fan of Angelica Kitchen, although I think it's also just so-so (kind of old-school crunchy-hippie vegetarian style). I'd put Dirt Candy a notch above it.

I still haven't been to Pure Food and Wine or Kajitsu.
Originally Posted by l'etoile View Post
Talking just New York? And straight vegetarian or vegan?

Pure Food and Wine or Kajitsu, which themicah mentions are both good, with nod going to Kajitsu. I can get tired of raw quickly.

Candle 79 is a good old dependable standby as is Blossom. I love Babbo's vegetarian pasta tasting menu.

The Natural Gourmet Institute is not exactly fancy, but a fun experience that's a bargain. On Friday nights the students who are ready to graduate prepare a three-course vegan dinner. It's $40 and BYOB. The dishes are usually pretty good, but service can be lacking, but for $40 ...
Thanks for those suggestions. Straight vegetarian is what I have in mind. Im not strict about it but I try to minimize (by a lot) my beef intake especially but all meat in general. So nice vegetarian places can be a real treat.
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Old Nov 4, 11, 1:09 pm
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Originally Posted by GadgetFreak View Post
I think we might disagree on what a top chef is.
Well, I don't consider veggie burgers or vegetable lasagne generally indicative of a 'high end restaurant' but they seem to be brought up as examples on this thread...

Even in a better restaurant, the kitchen may be limited by ingredients on hand, experience of the person making the dish, knowledge of the person making the dish, time available to dedicate to an individual item, the flexibility or creativity permitted by the chef, etc etc etc.

I will also disagree that 'all' soups are chicken or meat based stock. There are very decent ones with vegetable based stock available, but generally soup isn't something which can be prepared on very short notice. I've had excellent vegetarian soups however at Käfer, and courtesy of Bocuse and Schuhbeck to name a few.

But the steamed vegetable plate linked on page 1 is an embarassment which shouldn't appear on any restaurant as a 'vegetarian entree', high end or not. Often those types of dishes are overcooked and underseasoned, and lack balance.
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Old Nov 4, 11, 7:28 pm
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Originally Posted by exbayern View Post
But the steamed vegetable plate linked on page 1 is an embarassment which shouldn't appear on any restaurant as a 'vegetarian entree', high end or not. Often those types of dishes are overcooked and underseasoned, and lack balance.
Even if it was perfectly cooked and seasoned, it's still an embarrassment. You can't -- or at least shouldn't -- hold yourself out as a top restaurant if the best you can do for a vegetarian entree is a mishmash of several side dishes.

Also, and this won't be on the blog, I was recently at Bouley. One of their entrees was Kobe beef served on a bed of gnocchi. The vegetarian entree was... gnocchi. As my (vegetarian) friend put it to me, "Your meal is what's underneath his meal" is not a very good effort.

This, by the way, after I called Bouley and was told that the chef prides himself on making great vegetarian food.
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Old Nov 4, 11, 7:41 pm
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Originally Posted by crimson12 View Post
Even if it was perfectly cooked and seasoned, it's still an embarrassment. You can't -- or at least shouldn't -- hold yourself out as a top restaurant if the best you can do for a vegetarian entree is a mishmash of several side dishes.

Also, and this won't be on the blog, I was recently at Bouley. One of their entrees was Kobe beef served on a bed of gnocchi. The vegetarian entree was... gnocchi. As my (vegetarian) friend put it to me, "Your meal is what's underneath his meal" is not a very good effort.

This, by the way, after I called Bouley and was told that the chef prides himself on making great vegetarian food.
I dont pay much, well any, attention to places that "hold yourself out as a top restaurant". I think a better way of determining places to check would probably help. Reviews and such are much more useful than any places opinion of themselves in my opinion.
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Old Nov 4, 11, 9:46 pm
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