Sunday, March 3, 2013

Table Verte Elevates French Bistro Fare. The Veggie Way.

Even though I'm far from a vegetarian, I do frequently enjoy eating vegetarian fare and sometimes even cook sans meat at home.  That's why I was pretty psyched when I got invited to a press dinner at the new East Village haunt called Table Verte, run by accomplished Restaurateur and Chef, Didier Pawlicki and Executive Chef, Ken Larsen.  

Providing a fresh spin on veggie cuisine in a French Bistro style, Table Verte offers something new and innovative for any kind of palate.

Situated in the heart of the East Village on 7th street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A, Table Verte has that quintessential small, intimate bistro feel, which I welcome.  It's a little hard to notice when you're walking down the street, and especially when distracted, but when you do find it, you'll be glad you came.

The dining room is small but charmingly inviting with classic butcher block tables adorned in signature, Kelly green.  I think it's a perfect place to come to with your special someone and because it feels so personal, you can't help but bask in its privacy. I loved the simple but classic decor elements such as the tea light candles, an oversized mirror up front and some natural accouterments, which came in the form of mini gourds.  It all feels natural and organic, providing an accurate preamble for things yet to come.

Chef Larsen's pride in his intelligently thought out menu was unmistakable, and truly exemplified through each course in our tasting menu.

Appetizer - I loved this pretty medley of cold salads including a celery root remoulade, a vegan lentil salad, beets with horseradish and a shredded carrot salad too.  They were all lovely and although disparate, they were fun to pair together, reminding me of a mezze tasting I'd have in a Greek restaurant in Astoria.  

My two favorites were the carrot salad with chickpeas and raisins that was refreshing and slightly sweet, as well as a beet salad, which I always enjoy.  The latter was flavored with fresh tarragon, which gave it that distinct licorice flavor and of course a welcome kick from the horseradish.

Entrees - It was fun to try a few different entrees, as we all shared everything, and I definitely had a few that stood out to me.  

First thing's first - the cauliflower was totally out of this world.  Roasted perfectly and showing off a beautifully golden exterior, it was incredibly filling - and almost meaty.  Resting on a bed of fragrant quinoa salad with rosemary as well as the piece-de-resistance, the roasted yam cake, it was a well-rounded meal that satisfied any hungry belly.

The other favorite, which was served in a smaller portion than usual just for our tasting was the gnocchi Parisian Au Gratin.  Verte's take on gnocchi was a few notches above the norm, as Chef Larsen explained they make the dumplings individually, like they would a profiterole for example.  As soon as I took a bite, I understood the difference, as these were truly little pillows of heaven.  The cheese was totally gooey, delicious and so over the top, further embellished with a real truffle on top.  What a treat!

Dessert - A big highlight of the dinner was the sweet finish, and we enjoyed three distinct desserts.  The most exciting for me was the banana creme brulee, which you see above and that had chunks of real banana in it, reminding me of my all time favorite banana pudding trifle at Buttercup Bakeshop.

A close second was their semolina cake topped with velvety caramel and a rum, creme Anglaise sauce.  Despite it feeling incredibly French (aka indulgent), it was actually quite light on the stomach--the semolina holding its own next to the rich sauce.  It reminded me of the incredible semolina cake I used to enjoy at Mundo, but I think this was even better.

Service and Cost:
Just like the restaurant's comfortable and intimate dining room, the service is just the same. It's evident that the folks who work here genuinely want to, and they have a great passion for the food on the menu.  I enjoyed hearing Chef Larsen tell us the story behind each dish and the infectious smile on his face made us really curious and happy to dig in.

Prices are reasonable for what I'd call a fine dining experience:

Appetizers - $4.75 - $9.50
Entrees - $14.50 -$19.75
Desserts - $5.50 - $8.75

Before I forget to mention, Table Verte is still a BYOB, which is an added bonus in my book.  

3 Mmmms

Table Verte - 127 East 7th Street, New York NY 10009
L Train to 1st Avenue or 6 Train to Astor Place

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