Picture from Avant Garden, Facebook
To be seated at the bar at Avant Grande, restaurateur Ravi DeRossi’s vegan establishment is to survey a food empire from one of its loftiest watchtowers. Overlooking the open kitchen, you see cooks tossing colorful veggies, arranging them into artful compositions. On the right are wine shelves bristling with bottles only of the finest, above us a branch chandelier, around us waiters and hosts jostle about with precarious little plates.
It’s a great vibe and energy! The conscious crowd that swore off meat and dairy altogether looks ecstatic. The vibe extends to the charming and eclectic neighborhood of East Village. Once a punk paradise, East Village (from 14th Street southward to Houston Street) is now a hot bar and culinary territory with mom-and-pop stores and everything else that has made it.
Avant Garden is one of the few vegan restaurants from the people behind Candece, Saramsam, and Soda Club just opened up on Avenue B. Okay! Back to the restaurant, right down to the open kitchen, tiny tables, and soft lighting. Our wine took a little while to arrive. Our server gets us a classic, Cosse Maisonneuve 2015 Cahors La Fage. A great Malbec, full-bodied with classic dark fruity, tobacco, and leathery notes. If you're planning to drink, note that this is a wine-focused restaurant with a few beer options and BYOB.
It’s quite a show at the open bar kitchen. Plants aren’t just a centerpiece of the menu, but the food plating is worth talking about. Plates adorned with greenery hover over the eight-seat bar area with plum chairs. Apart from the seats indoors, their outdoor dining area is equally great to enjoy the pleasant weather.
On the menu, the seasonal small-plate menu is made for sharing, and the server recommends order four dishes for a party of two. The menu is divided into three parts: toasts, cold and hot plates. The plate is a visual delight, and every bite is as innovative as it’s bursting with flavors.
Drop the visions of sad greens on your plate and look at these.
One of their signature dishes with vegetables that you may or may not have tried before. Paella, a classic Spanish dish, is originally a rice dish topped with ingredients they could find, mostly seafood, chicken, or chorizo. This vegan version of Paella looks sinful. A bed of authentic Calasparra rice topped with tossed almonds and pepper, the plate is dotted with red pepper cream and spicy cooked royal trumpet. Overall this dish brings your a delicious version of the Paella; the royal trumpet is well flavored, the paella rice is well cooked, and the cream adds to the taste.
The first part of the menu features three toasts, which are served on artisan bread that comes from Balthazar. (info: the infatuation)
We tried the Cremini Mushroom (toast loaded with grape, onion marmalade, herbs de provence, and walnut puree). It wasn’t anything like an ordinary mushroom toat we’ve tried before. With ingredients like onion marmalade, it was definitely made with a bit more care than you’re probably used to. This section of the menu is simply extraordinary; make sure to try one.
Suggested by the server and a fan of shiitake mushrooms, this one was on my radar.
This dish is sure to make it to your Instagram stories. Thin matchsticks of celery root cooked in rich, creamy shiitake veloute topped with mushroom tossed in lemon zest, minced garlic, and minced parsley. The cheesy texture makes the dish unique, and the shredded celery root holds sauce and tastes as delicious as pasta. Dishes like this one can easily make a meat eater fall in love with a plant-based lifestyle.
While the menu offers salads, toasts, scorched cauliflower, and other small plates, round out your order with the dessert. For desserts, the Ginger cake with chocolate pastry cream and pear butter has its devotees.
Vegan and vegetarian eateries have been popping up all over. We’re happy about the trend, as long as it means there’s something for everyone. Avant Garden is a vegan foodies paradise, as Michelin Guide quotes: "This is excellent food that just happens to be vegan."
Getting there:130 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009
Check them out on Instagram.