Jules eats world.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Pure Food and Wine

It's hot outside. What better time to eat food that hasn't been heated over 118 degrees? That's right kids, it's time for a trip to the magical world of raw food, where nuts masquerade as cheese and "ice cream" is a figurative term. Restauranteurs Matthew Kenney and Sarma Malngailis opened Pure two years ago to try to elevate their chosen cuisine to a haute-r level.

The restaurant's design was a good place for them to start: it's a low-ceilinged, zen-lounge kind of space with red walls. The ambiance is soothing yet elegant, as if it's been vetted by a feng shui master. There's a large, attractive patio space in the back, but only a few brave souls sweated through their meals the day I visited. Pure has an extensive list of organic and biodynamic wines, and we ordered a decent bottle of rose followed by a very nice Riesling. The service was friendly and relaxed, and the staff didn't seem to mind that part of our group arrived late.

After surveying the tempting-looking plates arriving at neighboring tables, we made our selections: a chanterelle "ceviche" for me, which arrived in a martini glass, and Thai lettuce wraps for Mr. H -- the better choice of the two. For main courses, I chose the lasagna, much-touted in other reviews and on message boards. The still-crisp zucchini and thickly sliced tomatoes were layered with sweet sundried tomato sauce; pesto; and pine-nut "ricotta." Mr. H had the chili-lime tortilla wraps, which were simple yet tasty, with an avocado and tomato filling. He loved them.

He also looked forward to dessert. My Mr. H, very unlike myself, has an aversion to dairy for various reasons, and a vegan dessert is a special treat for him. Of course we had to order the dark chocolate layer cake, which arrived with chocolate "ice cream" and was as decadent as we could have hoped.

A tasty meal? Yes. A completely satisfying one? I'd have to say no, and I can't put my finger on exactly why. I ate at another of Matthew Kenney's ventures, a short-lived vegan place called Heirloom, maybe 6 months ago. There, I found the food bland, unable to stir excitement in my palate. It's not the idea of vegan; I've been to other vegan spots, like Gobo or Counter, that I found more satisfying, the flavors more full somehow. Pure was several steps above Heirloom, definitely. And I would go back. But who knows, maybe I just prefer 119 and up.


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