A Month of Vegetarian Cuisine
Vegivore Month: Three high-end restaurants take vegetarian cuisine from earthy to ethereal.
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I was dazzled, both by what this course did and didn’t do. It looked simple: three different-size rectangles of melon, one watermelon, one cantaloupe, one honeydew. A scattering of arugula and one small mint leaf atop each melon.
But when you tasted the melon, bam! Black salt, slivers of candied ginger and, believe it or not, cumin. Too much cumin and the melon would taste like a taco, but this was the deftest sprinkling. Restraint works.
Course No. 2: Tomato. This was tomatoes any way you could think of. First, a knot of little Ho Farms tomatoes on a round of avocado. Second, a tomato and fennel tartar, on a phyllo cracker, topped with ogo. Third, two spoons of sauce.
One was a spoonful of a more or less traditional Indian tomato chutney, a little sweet, not too spicy. It sat cheek-to-cheek with a chunkier, spicier green tomatillo relish.
Eaten together, rolled on the tongue, these managed to almost blow a fuse on your flavor receptors.
Not enough tomato for you? There was also, in a Hennessy cognac glass, with a bit of crushed ice, tomato water. Just tomato water, a little salt, and olive oil from the farmers of Mani in Southern Greece. You sipped this like wine.
We sipped it instead of wine. Toyama, who coupled the melon course with a pretty, feminine Viognier, had uncorked a Provençal dry rose to complement the tomatoes. He wanted it room temperature to uncover its earthiness, but like many of even the best dry roses, the temperature brought out its bitterness. We didn’t mind, the tomato water was bracing.
Course No. 3: Olive. This was, in essence, a deconstructed Greek salad, only a little lettuce, some nearly pickled baby cucumber (note to Garg: less vinegar), nearly translucent bits of red onion, and black and vivid-green olives. The black olives came with bits of feta. The green were stuffed with goat cheese. Both were some of the best olives I’ve tasted, clean, not too briny, alive.
The waiter said they were Kalamata, but they clearly weren’t. I asked Garg what kind they were. “Don’t know,” he said. “I found them in my pantry at home. Someone sent them to me.” He may by this time have looked at the label.