Restaurant Review: Bread-A

August 27, 2011

41-46 College Point Boulevard
(between 41st Avenue and Sanford Avenue)
Flushing, Queens
718-886-1888 x14

Vegiboys Rating (2.5/4)

In its earlier life, Bread-A existed as a small bakery in an industrial area of Flushing with a few hot dog cart-style offerings. The restaurant has since morphed into a large full service restaurant that’s particularly notable for its all-you-can-eat weekend brunch buffet.

The interior is oddly arranged. The restaurant seems to have expanded into what once had been a residential apartment, so the dining room includes a full residential kitchen, and the flooring is mismatched as you move through the venue. The staff very well could have been a family drawn from that apartment; everyone is very friendly, though we witnessed some amusing infighting between staff as they debated amongst each other what dishes to recommend to us.

To help give Bread-A a true test of its culinary skills, we brought along my cousin (and avowed vegetable hater) Daniel to join us for this review. We arrived for the brunch, and after one look at the assortment of insanity on the buffet tables, Daniel ordered a fruit smoothie and vegetarian sushi as à la carte items from the non-buffet menu. The smoothie was very good, and the sushi also didn’t disappoint; some of the pieces included sweet elements like pineapples and raisins, but they worked well as ingredients.

Brian and I exercised more bravery and went for the buffet. Our table was kept well-stocked with water and free green tea, though the buffet also provided dispensers for fruit juices and iced teas (including a fun, sweet jasmine iced tea).

Choosing from the buffet was a roll of the dice; it was difficult to identify what most of the platters involved, and the staff had trouble in communicating the identity of dishes (beyond exhortations to definitely try anything we asked about).

We had delicious dumplings, and some of the seitan-based creations were also quite good. Similar to Daniel’s plate, the sushi in the buffet was unique and enjoyable. We found most of the stir-fry steam trays to be safe bets.

However, a seaweed-wrapped bread pudding was bizarre and inedible. Our servers tried to pass a bowl of mashed peas off as a must-have sweet dish, but we couldn’t get ourselves past more than one spoonful each.

Their in-house bakery produces desserts that are well worth trying: the vegan cupcakes were playfully decorated and tasted great.

Overall, at $18 each, we received a lot of food for our money and the good food was really good, though the shot-in-the-dark buffet made this more of an experiment than a brunch. The buffet might be fun for braver vegetarians looking to try something off the beaten path, but otherwise we might recommend sticking to well-known menu items or their bakery creations to assure for a good experience.

Food (3/4)

Atmosphere & Service

Value (2.5/4)

Restaurant Review: JivamukTea Café

August 25, 2011

JivamukTea Café
841 Broadway, 2nd Floor
(between 13th Street and 14th Street)
Union Square, Manhattan

Vegiboys Rating (3/4)

On the serene second floor of a building near Union Square, the Jivamukti Yoga School uses a beautiful corner of their complex to offer vegetarian fare to the public with their JivamukTea Café. The café has greatly expanded in scope since we had first visited; they originally offered just pre-prepared foods and quick beverages in a dull cafeteria-style space. Now, the café is richly designed to show off the tall windows, playful paint colors, and nice accents (particularly the stained glass works that help to bring a lot of elegance to the experience).

The menu has also expanded significantly, with an operating kitchen supplementing the baked goods and pre-made options. The café still maintains counter service only, so place your order with the cashier who will provide you with a playing card (which will later be called out when your order is ready).

We started with fresh grapefruit and orange juice to drink, and the server seemed to somehow concentrate the flavors of their fruits into a very potent concoction. The juices were great, though seemed very strong.

For my brunch, the taco toast was an open-faced sandwich of avocado, tomato, and beans with a spicy green salsa on toast. A spread of vegan sour cream coated the toast underneath these ingredients. To experiment with their baked treats, I also tried a scone. It offered no surprises, though apricot jam and cranberries helped to add some flavor and moisture.

Brian’s BLT included the best tempeh bacon we’ve encountered at any NYC restaurant so far; the texture was crisp and the flavor was appropriately smoky. The BLT included a dollop of a well-made vegan mayonnaise and a simple side slalad.

All of JivamukTea’s food had basic flavors, nothing was complex or unique, but all of the tastes were refreshing and fresh-tasting. At about $16.50 each for the brunch, we hoped to see a little more creativity in the kitchen, but the restaurant is still a pretty space with good food in a great location. It’s perfect for some post-yoga grub or as a relaxing rendezvous spot in the Union Square area.

Food (3/4)

Atmosphere & Service

Value (2.5/4)

Restaurant Review: Raw Star Café

August 23, 2011

Raw Star Café
687 Washington Avenue
(between Saint Mark’s Avenue and Prospect Avenue)
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Vegiboys Rating (3.5/4)

Brooklyn’s Raw Star Café, located only a few blocks from the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkways, deserves the awareness of the NYC vegi-loving crowd. Raw vegetarian cuisine tends to be offered only at a premium cost in the city’s restaurants, but Raw Star is a diamond in the rough world of raw food, offering an amazing experience at a great value.

Raw Star’s interior is fun with an eclectic mix of garden furniture, café-style lounging chairs and couches, and African-inspired décor, with a soundtrack that fits well with the interior design.

The staff are very friendly and helpful, which proved important traits in helping us to navigate their menu. The menu is a laundry list of possibilities, but only a selected few of the dishes are actually available during any particular sitting.

Working with our server, we got a handle on the kitchen’s offerings for the day, and prepared for an exciting meal. Our delightful ginger lemonade drinks started things off well, but the meal that followed did not disappoint.

From a spinach salad with papaya, beautifully dressed dried kale, a delicious nutmeat appetizer with faux-cheese, nutmeat patties with incredible depth of flavor and texture, and perfectly cooked plantains, the meal was an outstanding raw experience overall.

We unfortunately did not enjoy the strawberry cheesecake. The presentation was nice, but the taste was off; there wasn’t nearly enough sweetness, and the flavors lacked much depth.

Overall though, Raw Star really stood out for us in its warm atmosphere, the quality of its food, and its value (at only $18 each, this is by far the most reasonably priced raw vegi-restaurant option in NYC). The menu can be a shot in the dark (so temper any excitement when you first receive the huge booklet of their kitchen’s full potential), but for a cheap and delicious raw experience, Raw Star can’t be beat.

Food (3.5/4)

Atmosphere & Service

Value (3.5/4)

Restaurant Review: Bombay Fast Food

August 21, 2011

Bombay Fast Food
1013 6th Avenue
(between 37th Street and 38th Street)
Midtown, Manhattan

Vegiboys Rating (1.5/4)

Bombay is one counter in a four-counter mini-mall of Indian and fast-food lunch options near Herald Square. Though the other establishments are non-vegetarian, Bombay’s menu is composed of solely vegetarian options, qualifying it for a visit from the Vegiboys.

Bombay is open only for weekday lunches, and while the venue has seating, it’s more of a quick-eats or takeout sort of place; definitely not designed for a relaxing sit-down meal. Brian placed our order to go, and then paid a visit to my office for a lunch hour assessment of the food.

My lunch platter consisted of rice, bread, and two potato-based main selections; the food was OK, but nothing particularly impressive. A samosa on the side was equally unremarkable (though certainly edible). A kaju pista roll was included as a dessert, though it tasted only of sugar and lacked the expected nutty flavors.

We also tried a yogurt soup that was over-flavored with lime, rendering it inedible beyond the first few sips.

The best thing Bombay gave us was the traditional pickle; the flavor had been Westernized to palatability (relative to our other Indian pickle experiences). It had a sweet and sour flavor without the usual astringency.

Overall, Bombay was a take-it-or-leave-it experience for us. At $13 each for the meal, we didn’t find any strong value in what we received. Bombay might be a nice option for vegetarians working around Herald Square looking for a quick lunch, but plenty of better venues are available nearby for those with more time or flexibility.

Food (2/4)

Atmosphere & Service

Value (1.5/4)


Restaurant Review: Four Seasons

August 19, 2011

Four Seasons
2281 Church Avenue
(between Flatbush Avenue and Bedford Avenue)
Flatbush, Brooklyn

Vegiboys Rating (3/4)

Four Seasons is very much designed as a neighborhood haunt; its location is off the beaten path for anyone travelling from outside of Flatbush, and the cool atmosphere seems designed for hanging out. The venue is Rastifarian at its core, with a retail store at the front, and the restaurant towards the back of the space. Plenty of tables are available for those looking to eat in, though we placed our order for take-out.

We received a ton of food from the friendly server that made for much more than a single meal. While the menu wasn’t particularly surprising (we tried lentils, kale, steamed veggies, okra, a faux-beef dish, and other usual items found in an ‘ital steam tray), the food was noticeably better than the average NYC vegi-Caribbean kitchen. Less grease and more flavor seemed to be the case for each element of our selections.

We were also impressed with their baked goods. A coconut roll we tried for dessert was moist and delicious, with none of the severe density we’ve found in most ‘ital breads and sweets. Overall, the meal was filling, but not heavy, distinguishing the restaurant from most other Caribbean kitchens.

At a mere $7 each, the price was yet another pleasant surprise, making Brooklyn’s Four Seasons among the best values we’ve found for any NYC vegi-restaurant. While its location might put it out of range for most New Yorkers (and most tourists), the restaurant is well worth a visit for anyone that find themselves in the neighborhood.

Food (3/4)

Atmosphere & Service

Value (3/4)

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The Vegiboys have made a mission of eating at every vegetarian restaurant in NYC; all 5 boroughs, dozens of neighborhoods, all manner of cuisines.

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