I have a habit of taking a long time to write reviews about my favorite meals. Takes a while to find the right words to do the experience justice, so I procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate. This dinner at Avant Garden is one of those meals, and even though we’re barely into 2016, I can guarantee that this place will be showing up on my Best of 2016 list at the end of the year.
Located in the heart of East Village, Avant Garden is charming restaurant that serves refined vegan dishes in an intimate setting. The chairs sure look comfy, but a seat at the counter with a full view of the kitchen is the way to go. Not only will you have a front row seat to the action in the kitchen, you’ll also get a chance to speak to the chefs as they’re preparing your food. Here’s our maitake mushroom dish in progress…
The menu is divided up into three sections: toast, cold, and hot. Dishes are served one at a time and are perfect for sharing. Order at least one dish per section for the true Avant Garden experience. Truth: I fell in love with this place almost immediately. Even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian, I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to resist their magic too.
First up, the toast with sunchokes, olives, pistachio and quince ($12). There’s no butter on this toast, but it makes a very satisfying starter with a blend of different flavors and textures. The olives were an especially good salty kick.
The cold baked sweet potato ($16) is a nice alternative to a leafy green salad. Topped with jalapeno, jicama, meyer lemon, and cilantro. The perfectly baked sweet potatoes have a naturally creamy texture that’s balanced by the brightness of the other ingredients. Bonus: there’s a fabulous green sauce at the bottom that will make you want to lick the plate clean.
Next up, the maitake mushrooms with parsnips, broccoli rabe, cipollini, onions, and apples ($20). Clearly a dish for hardcore shroom fans like myself, and the tender, juicy maitake mushrooms did not disappoint. The puree is tasty, and the other ingredients were nice accompaniments, but the maitakes were clearly the star of the show.
Last, but not least, the gnocchi with butternut squash, brussels sprouts, pears, and black garlic ($22). This dish may look small, but the melt in your mouth gnocchi is quite satisfying. The combination of ingredients was interesting and surprisingly hearty. The shavings of what I assume must be a nut cheese were a nice touch too.