Restaurant Review: Vegetarian’s Paradise 2

Vegetarian’s Paradise 2
144 West 4th Street
(between 6th Avenue and MacDougal Street)
Greenwich Village, Manhattan
212-260-7130

Vegiboys Rating (2/4)

Every previous time we’d considered eating at Vegetarian Paradise 2, the siren song of neighboring restaurant Red Bamboo had drawn us away. Interestingly, both restaurants are part of the Wong family’s NYC mini-empire; VP2 being their original Chinese-style venue, and Red Bamboo as their Americanized follow-up (the Wongs also own Soy & Sake, and were owners of the shorter-lived Red Bamboo Brooklyn outpost).

This time, armed with the willpower of our evening’s culinary companions, Natalie and Daisy, we escaped the Red Bamboo vortex, got ourselves through the doors of VP2, and were seated at a comfortable table near the back of the dining room.

The interior of the restaurant inaccurately suggests the sort of generic, nondescript experience found with any typical sit-down Chinese establishment. However, that label doesn’t do justice to their offerings; the menu is an expansive laundry list of every imaginable mock meat, from faux chicken nuggets to crab cakes. Neither is the cuisine best categorized as Chinese: the dishes are an eclectic mix of Asian, American, and European-style creations.

To start with our drinks: my pineapple iced drink (whose name I unfortunately neither recall, nor wrote down) tasted like syrup siphoned from canned pineapple (replete with pineapple chunks at the bottom of the glass). Others at the table were less adventurous with their perfectly adequate lemonades.

The appetizers were the highlight of the meal. The camarones y coco (coconut-breaded mock shrimp) had a crisp and tasty exterior, and the interior bore a convincing resemblance to the taste and texture of actual shrimp (attested to by pescatarian Natalie). The sugarcane drumsticks (breaded soy protein wrapped around a bone of raw sugarcane) were delicious and unique.

The creativity unfortunately did not carry over into the entrées. The tastes were good, but the dishes were too monotone. Brian ordered the crispy soul chicken (aka chicken nuggets), which is exactly what he received: a plate of chicken nuggets on top of a few lettuce leaves. The taste of the protein in my Shiitake mushroom vegetarian duck was indistinguishable from the surrounding sauce and vegetables (I also didn’t care for the “duck’s” skin-like texture, though this was a matter of personal taste; Natalie wholeheartedly approved of their form).

Natalie’s mango chicken was creatively plated: vegetables mixed in a mango shell bowl, but again, the taste was monotone throughout; every bite similar to the last. Daisy had the most luck with a bean curd hot clay pot. The tofu and vegetables could be distinguished in texture, taste, and appearance, and the clay pot made for a fun presentation.

The desserts were also of mixed quality. The ice cream (we tried the chocolate mint and the cookies n’ cream) lacked any resemblance to expectations; the scoops would be better described as flavored water ice. The cheesecake was more memorable, but was also an import from Pennsylvanian-based Vegan Treats (with all respect to the quality of Vegan Treats’ products, the outsourcing of dessert has become regrettably common for many of the city’s vegetarian restaurants – I’d like to see greater bravery with a return to in-house pastry production as an unquestioned expectation).

The bill came to about $26 per person. We didn’t leave hungry, but we didn’t leave amazed either. Anywhere else geographically, this restaurant might be worth an occasional revisit, but with so many other more attractive options within a few block radius (including the Wong’s Red Bamboo two storefronts away), we can’t recommend that VP2 make the top of your list.

Food (2/4)
Atmosphere & Service
(1.5/4)
Value (2.5/4)

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