It’s not often that I review a restaurant twice, but Pure Food & Wine merits a second look. Sure, it looks pretty much the same, from the entrance built into the ground floor of an apartment building, to its somewhat dark interior, to its verdant and relaxing outdoor garden. And I would imagine that the menu is pretty much the same that it was the last time we were there, about a year ago.
But for me, it is such a revelation to find someone who does raw food so well, that I can’t say enough times how much this restaurant impresses and delights me. As I’ve said before, were it not for the somewhat high prices (and let’s be honest, true to its status as a top-flight restaurant with a menu of exceptional quality, it is pretty pricey), we would go there all the time. As it is, our visits to Pure Food & Wine are a treat that we look forward to all year.
Our friend Faith was coming to New York to spend the weekend with us, and that gave us the perfect excuse to make a reservation to have brunch in Pure Food & Wine’s garden.
Therese and Faith were already sipping glasses of sangria when I arrived. The fact that the restaurant’s name concludes with the “& Wine” indicates to me that this is not a place that focuses on privation and eating strictly for its nutritive properties. Rather, Pure Food & Wine is all about experiencing the pleasures of eating vegan and raw.
We began our delightful meal by sharing a dish of Brazil Nut and Sea Vegetable Croquettes.
My favorite part of this dish was the tangy puree that I dipped my bites of croquette into. I also made a point of eating a decent helping of the arugula salad that accompanied the croquettes.
For our main dishes, we each ordered separately. Therese chose the Zucchini and Greenhouse Tomato Lasagna.
This was such a beautiful and imaginative re-thinking of lasagna, with the slices of zucchini replacing the noodles, and a mixture of sun-dried tomato sauce and pistachio basil pesto accenting the pumpkin seed macadamia ricotta cheese that held the dish together. I regret that I didn’t get to taste this, but Therese assured me that it was quite delicious.
Therese had told Faith about the cauliflower grits she ordered the last time we were there, and Faith was excited to try them.
As for me, I decided to order two entrees. Not to be a glutton – but just so I could get a taste of more of the restaurant’s intriguing offerings. I chose the Portabella and Hemp Seed Burger and the Spicy Thai Lettuce Wraps.
The sprouted manna bread that served as the burger’s bun, one of the few items anywhere on the menu that is neither raw nor gluten free, was the least successful part of what I ate that day. It was just way too thick, and overwhelmed the mellow flavors of the portabella mushroom filling the burger. I did like the chewy texture, but I think it would’ve worked better if it were maybe half the thickness of what it was.
The burger also came with another healthy serving of greens. I had already scarfed plenty of greens with the croquettes, so my reaction to that was, how much greens can one man eat? Besides, my Thai lettuce wraps were pretty heavy on the green element as well. The mint and basil definitely made them for me. The cashews that served as a rice substitute worked pretty well, and the tamarind dipping sauce was rich and intense. All I had to do was just barely dip the end of a wrap in that sauce, and there was enough powerful sauce flavor for me.
We had already feasted, but I had to have dessert. After all, how many times do I eat out at a restaurant where everything on the dessert menu is dairy free? Faith also felt like treating herself to dessert was the right thing to do. She ordered the Lemon Bar, and I chose the Chocolate Ganache Tart.
Wow, this was a dessert to remember. Now, I can make a decent rich chocolate ganache, which was at the center of this tart. But that dollop of vanilla vegan cream was so smooth and mellow – it was a perfect counterpart to the crazy rich chocolate. And then there was the crust on the bottom. I don’t know what it was, but it was a crunchy continuation of the marvelous chocolate (ok, I guess it’s pretty certain that there is cocoa in the crust, but I don’t know what else).
Faith loved her Lemon Bar as well, and agreed with us that this is one of the best restaurants at which she has eaten. For me, it was the highlight of the weekend. Yes, we did see the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum the next day. But that was just balloon animals. Pure Food & Wine was true artistry.