Thursday, May 27, 2010

Angelica Kitchen Restaurant Review

As I mentioned in My New York Adventure, I recently visited famed New York restaurant, Angelica Kitchen, with the fiance.  Angelica Kitchen is organic and vegan, and sources most of its ingredients locally.  It also has exceptionally low prices for a New York restaurant, probably largely due to the fact that they don't serve alcohol and only accept cash (meaning no credit card fees).  The menu has great variety - it's seasonal and features both cooked and raw options as well as Asian, Mexican, and South American influences and daily specials.  All together, this made me extremely excited to try Angelica Kitchen - I planned the whole day's adventures around our dinner.

Well, Angelica and I got off to a bad start.  Before we even ordered, I felt like the staff was watching at us.  I kept looking up to find one or more of them staring at us - not checking on us, not glancing aimlessly - but watching.  And no, I'm not a paranoid person.  I don't generally feel like I'm being watched.  I even thought they might be staring (and pointing and laughing at one point!) out the window, but there was nothing going on out there.  Okay, that's a lie.  At one point there was a woman breastfeeding on a bench, but they weren't staring then!  Besides, their eyes were definitely on me.  There was no mistaking it.  And this was before I even pulled out the camera!

I did my best to ignore them and we ordered.  We started with the "special appetizer," Agrarian Salgado.  According the menu, this is "Baked rounds of mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and herbed seitan, with a parsley-almond pesto center; topped with dill-tofu sour cream & garnished with piquant marinated kale.  Brazil's mass social movements are mobilizing forces to end hunger.  A portion of the proceeds from this appetizer goes to FRIENDS OF THE BRAZILIAN LANDLESS WORKERS MOVEMENT (MST) to support their implementation of agrarian reform and widespread development of sustainable agriculture."  So not only is it an appetizer, it's a way to feel good about yourself.  If you're going to eat good food, you may as well help somebody in the process right?  And these were good.  They were a little on the cool side and the flavor was unlike anything I've had before.  The sour cream didn't taste much like dairy sour cream, but it was good none the less.  The fiance wasn't a big fan of the actual fritters but loved the kale, whereas I found the kale to be nice but preferred the fritters, so we struck a good balance.

I followed the Agrarian Salgado up with Miso-Morphosis, a special of the day.  (The other special was "Fronds Kafka" - how cute is that?!  I hope they have literary specials every day!)  The menu description: "Tender sweet miso glazed tofu, served wuth sushi rice studded with sweet corn, carrots & toasted black sesame seeds. Accompanied by broccoli, roasted sweet potatoes; an avocado salsa including daikon, scallions, arame, watercress & wasabi; garnished with green radicchio leaves."  Whew!  That's a lot of stuff! This was kind of like a deconstructed sushi roll.  There was the sticky sushi rice, the fishy seaweed flavor in the avocado salsa, and the possible fillings of marinated tofu and sweet potato (mmm, sweet potato sushi...).  I really like the rice.  I've never had sushi rice on it's own, but I really enjoyed the stickiness.  I'm not usually big on rice, but I think I might start making it like that at home, especially if I can find brown sushi rice.  The sweet potato was delicious, although I think that's more thanks to the sweet potato than to Angelica as all they did was roast it.  And the tofu was good which is saying something as I'm very picky with my tofu.  The sauce was a little creamier than I expected but had a really nice flavor.  I could have done without the fishy avocado though.  I love avocado sushi, but just avocado and seaweed is a bit much for me.  I was never a fan of fishy tasting anything, so I'm not surprised by this.  It's too bad though, because I really love avocado (I could just hug it!).  The broccoli I could have done without.  If I want plain steamed broccoli, I'll make it at home.  Otherwise though, the meal was satisfying (especially the rice!).

The fiance had a large bowl of the three bean chili: "Piquant chili made with homemade seitan, kidney and pinto beans & lentils slowly simmered with sun-dried tomatoes and a blend of chiles topped with lime-jalapeno tofu sour cream.  Served with fluffy Southern style cornbread & butternut squash-red onion salsa."  This was ... okay.  The flavor was a bit off and the beans weren't as creamy as I'd like - they clearly hadn't been simmered for as long as they would lead us to believe.  Plus it had far too many kidney beans, which I'm not a fan of.  He subbed the cornbread out in favor of sourdough bread, which turned out to be made with whole wheat flour.  We love whole wheat bread, but this was just a little weird.  And the salsa?  Meh.  The fiance was so unenthused about it that he couldn't even finish the bowl.  Overall?  Good enough, but we'll stick to the chili I make at home.

Everything we had at Angelica Kitchen was good.  Good, not great.

And that was a heinous lie.  I (of course) finished my meal with a hot cup of chai.   This was incredibly disappointing.  It was bland and not nearly creamy enough.  Chai should, in my opinion, be 1/3 - 1/2 soy milk, and this contained maybe a splash.  Maybe.  Notice the dearth of foam in the picture.  It was more watery than creamy.  I asked for more soy milk, which they happily provided, thinking that that might improve it.  It did not.  Well, it did, but not enough for me to actually drink it.  I hate wasting food, but there was no way I was drinking a whole cup of watered down soy milk with barely a hint of spice.

So all in all?  I didn't hate my dinner but I didn't love it either.  My entree was the best thing we ordered but it's nothing that I would go out of the way for.  I was pretty disappointed since I've heard such great things but you win some and you lose some.  The same thing happened with Candle 79 - I liked it but didn't love it.  Maybe the problem is that both restaurants try too hard.  Just look at those lengthy descriptions!  Sometimes simplicity is better.  Candle Cafe, which is much more laid back, I loved.  Loved, loved, loved.  Seriously, I had the best sandwich of my life there and still babble on about it months later.  I even bought their cookbook (in store, to fully support the restaurant).  But this isn't a review of Candle Cafe (unfortunately).  

Despite my happy wallet, I will most likely not return to Angelica Kitchen, though if I were invited there by a friend I'd be happy to oblige.  Life's too short for simply good food when there's great food to be had.

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