Restaurant Review: Pure Food & Wine

Pure Food and Wine
54 Irving Place
(between 17th Street and 18th Street)
Gramercy, Manhattan

Vegiboys Rating (3/4)

The rise of the raw food movement has given a number of vegetarian restaurants to the city over the past decade. Pure Food and Wine is perhaps NYC’s best known representative of that movement, operating as the de facto temple of haute cuisine for vegetarian raw foodists.

The restaurant’s exterior is an unassuming sunken level entrance on Irving Place, just south of Gramercy Park. Inside the doors, a spacious dining room and outdoor patio are elegantly but conservatively decorated. The space is comfortable and pretty, but the restaurant’s focus is certainly their food.

In the winter, the rear patio closes and a small event space at the back of the restaurant is converted into additional seating (if you have the luck of receiving one of these cold-weather tables, you will actually be brought through the kitchen, where you can catch a glimpse of the staff’s plate assembly techniques).

However, our most recent visit was a warm summer day, and we were seated in a corner of the patio. There is never a want for assistance; if anything, Pure is overstaffed. A full range of persons (including our serer) attended to our table, all of whom were friendly and helpful.

The waiter bragged that their cold summer sake was a must-try; Pure is the only restaurant in New York state with sake on tap. We weren’t disappointed with that experience; the sake was strong but smooth, like a good whiskey. We also tried the non-alcoholic huckleberry fizz, a deceptively strong soda with a very fruity taste.

Ordering à la carte at Pure requires some recognition that Pure’s plates emphasize style, flavor, and experience over quantity. To leave with a full stomach requires some indulgence into multiple elements (at least an appetizer, entrée, and dessert). However, for this dinner, we decided to try the four course tasting menu, giving the kitchen greater creative control over our dishes and our portions.

We began with an unremarkable amuse bouche with morel, black truffle shavings, fava bean, lamb’s quarters (which didn’t seem to fit with the other ingredients), and nasturtium (which was a bit too slimy in combination with these other elements). The bite tasted like the sum of its parts.

The formal first course (a salad) also failed to impress. The hazelnut crostatas felt somewhat substantial, and an apple cider reduction on the crackers added a lot of flavor. A salad with turnip greens and morels had the taste one would expect to get from eating a lawn.

Our second course (the soup) was a butternut squash gazpacho with a green pepper oil. We each received only a small portion, but the richness made our five spoonfuls just about all we could handle anyways. The oil remained separated from the creamy gazpacho in the bowl, and it was neat to be able to taste both as individual components.

For our third course, vegetarian sushi with various vegetable stuffings (combinations of carrot, avocado, spinach, and asparagus) was dressed with a delicious crushed garlic “soy” sauce. A mild ginger and a delightful wasabi also helped to start getting us excited about our meal.

The bowl of pad thai noodles that followed were perhaps not the most delicious Thai-style dish we’ve eaten, but the noodles were made raw from kelp. It was a remarkable construction, and we really appreciated the creativity.

The entrées of our fourth course was where Pure’s kitchen shined for us. A spanikopita composed of spinach, an almond-based “feta cheese”, a flax-seed “phyllo dough”, and coconut was absolute brilliance. A side of cauliflower was braised in some magical concoction to make the vegetable taste cheesy.

A lasagna, though predictable, was also very good. Green and yellow tomatoes, squashes, nut cheese, olive oil, and basil all were layered in raw version of a baked pasta.

After this final course, we received an ice watermelon with blackberry palate cleanser, which was wonderful and refreshing.

The build up from mundane to remarkable throughout the tasting menu ended perfectly with an amazing and overwhelming dessert. We began with a trio of chocolate ice cream treats: a chocolate-cardamom-coconut ice cream cone (the raw cone was made from amaranth flour, and the ice cream was curried for a beautiful flavor), a pistachio gelato ice cream sandwich, and a chai tea creamsicle. The final food brought to our table was a compote with a date and nutmeat base, topped with berries, almond, ice cream, pistachios, and nasturtium. The compote was awesomely refreshing; a perfect summer dessert.

So, while our Pure Food tasting menu experience started on an uncertain note, their kitchen built into strong dishes that demonstrated the staff’s incredible skill. The food was excellent, matching the pleasant atmosphere and strong service. Combining raw food with a haute cuisine approach definitely makes for a high ticket price though; at $106 each, Pure was our most expensive vegetarian food experience in NYC, though à la carte ordering (and sticking with non-alcoholic drinks) can reduce that cost considerably.

Food (3.5/4)

Atmosphere & Service

Value (2.5/4)

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


Copyright © 2012

Green Web Hosting! This site hosted by DreamHost.