Angelica’s Kitchen

Dear Vegans, Vegetarians and Gluten-free eaters,

Have you ever been frustrated by the lack of selection of foods when you enter a restaurant? Have you wondered what it’ll be like to not have to worry about your classic bowl of ramen containing chicken broth? Alas, your prayers have been answered by Angelica’s Kitchen!

An old guard of the pack of restaurants offering food worthy of the health conscious (they’ve been open since 1976!), Angelica’s Kitchen boasts a local and organic menu that is vegan friendly.

I must admit I was skeptical. Since I’ve already publicly announced my love for bacon (See here), A.K’s menu of all raw sandwiches and brown rice gravy scared me. I was thinking, “What in the world is brown rice gravy? I’m from the land of rice and I’ve never heard of this!” Not surprisingly, I approached this East Village joint with apprehension.

Resisting the urge to run across the street to the Japanese restaurant (Oh Unadon! Oh sweet familiarity!), I stepped into the small foyer. A kind waitress takes my name, and what amazes me is the décor. Its subtle and warm, but immensely practical – coat hangers by your table, anyone? Seating is first-come, first-serve and the atmosphere is convivial.

Once seated, I finally got a good look at the menu. It reflects the innovation of the chefs – running anywhere from curry, cashews and miso dressing to tofu sour cream and chili gravy. The combinations were almost unreal. A word of advice: If you are bringing a date who is mostly a carnivore, watch them cower in fear/confusion. This could be funny. Or not.

But to start, my friend and I split a plate of Angelica’s Cornbread, since we had both been craving it. This was the first test: Appetizers set the mood of the meal and can make or break your impressions of the restaurant.

Alas, we were disappointed. The bread was cold and far too crunchy. The only saving grace was the dip that was provided, which was a carmelised onion spread. But unfortunately it was not enough to save the dish and the cornbread was soon ignored as we moved on to greater things.

Our dinner redeemed itself with this lovely combination of quiche, pickled beets and green beans. It was one of their specials, in celebration of the NY Giants winning the Superbowl. The quiche was vegan, but was nonetheless well-balanced and simple. No sudden shocks of flavour, just plain ol’ potatoes, onions and soymilk. It was well-complemented with the sourness of the beets and the smoothness of the pumpkin purée.

Now this was my selection. I was feeling particularly homesick, so I went for their classic Dashi and Noodles. Soba, carrots, daikon radish and mushrooms, yum! The noodles were served warm and the soup was definitely the star of the dish. It was nice and salty, but also well-bodied, leaving you with a warm fuzzy feeling in your stomach. Unfortunately I was unimpressed – and confused – by their addition of the daikon radish and raw carrots. Noodle Rule #1: Noodle dishes are meant to be eaten in one spoonful. Every spoonful should contain soft noodles, soup and the other condiments. The flavours are meant to come together in one piece. Alas this was not the case. Or maybe I’m just a purist.

This was possibly the best dish of the night: Strawberry mousse. The strawberry purée, vegan mousse and granola chunks were light on the palate and worked well as a finishing touch to the dinner.
Overall, the dinner was a hit and miss. The different combinations of vegan-friendly ingredients and the fusion of different sustainably sourced ingredients were pluses. However, I was mostly unimpressed, because the food seemed disjointed and uncoordinated. Leaving much to be desired.

Final judgement: This is a good place to bring friends, dates or family who are interested in trying a localvore restaurant. If you had/have something that was particularly good and is drawing you back time and time again, more power to you and let me know at jchia@gm.slc.edu . But honestly, as an omnivore, if I can have beef-based soup and still eat locally and sustainably (a la Blue Hill at Stone Barns, pictured in the title), I’d rather do so.

Angelica’s Kitchen is located at: 300 East 12th Street (Between 1st and 2nd Avenue)

Image credit: Jing Min Chia

Jing Min Chia – who goes by Jeamme, which is pronounced Jamie, a name her mother created – is a Malaysian who loves to eat, cook, write about food and ponder about everything related to food. She reads the BBC, Nature and The Economist like its no tomorrow because she believes it is theoretically possible – and important – to understand how the world actually works. At Sarah Lawrence College she studies Economics, Anthropology, French, Agriculture, Development, plus a medley of sciences and tries to convince her mother that the combination is a good idea.

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