Jules eats world.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Broadway East

'Localvore' comes to the deep L.E.S.

Localvore (or locavore) is a new buzzword for a phenomenon that's been around for a while: the focus on seasonal, local food. Locals on the Lower East Side -- not known for its indigenous edible produce -- have been eagerly awaiting Broadway East, a restaurant long in the making that specializes in food and drink of the Northeast, and New York state especially. After a long construction and a chef change before it even opened, the restaurant finally raised its curtain last Friday. Mr. H and I went on Wednesday.

If you happen to be mired in the thinking that vegetarian cuisine is simple, bland, beloved only by dreadlocked-topped tree-huggers -- Broadway East's decor is the first element to shoot that down. The restaurant has three rooms, all sleek and modern. The front, done in wood and white, greets diners (and drinkers) with a long bar and several tables. Pass through a short hallway to the main dining room, with space-age hanging lamps, red plush booths and long wood planks on the ceiling. At the back is what looks like an outdoor garden; it's actually enclosed, and the greenery is revealed as plants covering the top 10 feet or so of a two-story wall. At the bottom, on the lower level, a rectangular lounge.

All of the beer and wine is local (there's sake but no liquor), and I had a good Cabernet Franc from Long Island. Mr. H and I had a hard time choosing, since the menu has lots of intriguing-sounding options, spanning different types of cuisines. It's not totally vegetarian; there are a couple of fish choices, and a chicken. To start, I settled on the fennel and blood orange salad, which like all of the dishes, arrived in a healthy portion. It was accented with seitan chorizo, which was delicious but a little too salty. Mr. H chose the beet salad, a deconstructed dish with a golden beet tartare; sliced red beets dressed in miso; wasabi cream; and "mountain caviar," which a google search reveals to be a seed called tonburi.

For mains, he had the Mysore thali, a sampling of Indian dishes. I tasted the fingerling potato masala and smoked tofu tikka: both had delicate and complex spices. I had the crispy coconut tempeh, one of those dishes that shows vegan food doesn't have to be austere: it was hearty, coated in coconut and presumably fried, and served on a bed of whipped sweet potato, sauteed greens, and curried lentils.

We finished with a chocolate cake with (vegan) black sesame seed ice cream. The cake wasn't as chocolately as I would have expected, but did have a pleasant lightness. The ice cream was great, like frozen tahini.

The service was efficient and friendly, and I was also a fan of the servers' outfits: white linen shirts with gray vests.

Hooray! Our 'hood continues to evolve as a culinary destination.

Broadway East
171 East Broadway between Jefferson & Rutgers Sts.