July 3, 2021

I was delighted to get a reservation here, so soon after shocking the world that they were to become a vegan restaurant. The burning question is: how does a restaurant provide a food quality that  3 Michelin diners have come to expect without using any animal-based products? Can that even be done??

I should say upfront that I applaud EMP for their vision and commitment here. Whatever one may think of the decision on its face, we all must acknowledge that they have put their entire business on the line to forge a new path, with the goal of shaping a more sustainable future ahead. Gutsy. They also provide 5 meals for the food-insecure for every 1 they serve - something more and more high-end restaurants are doing these days. Bravo.

So did they succeed? I would say...not quite yet. But they are certainly farther along than I anticipated. A few dishes in there are definitely 3-star. The pea lettuce wraps and bread/butter were absolute standouts. Others were clear misses to me. Many relied too heavily on acid (in attempt to pack flavor, I imagine). Others simply seemed to need more refinement. Not surprising for such an early delivery of a brand new menu and vision.

I will be interested to return in a few year and see how the meal has progressed here. I would encourage you to go - if for no other reason than to open your mind to what vegan cuisine can be.

Heirloom Tomato tea, lemon thyme
Tomato, red currant, dosa, pine nuts, green zebra tomato
Forgot to write down what this was. Rice crackers of some sort.
Front one is from pine nuts. Very similar to mayo. Back one is a relish of zebra tomatoes.
Broken rice porridge, Elysium flowers, celtuse (cross between lettuce and celery) strips (crunchy, which offset the creamy rice), celtuse broth. I wish I had taken a picture of what was underneath. This dish was outstanding. 2nd best of the night.
Wow!! The entire dinner worth it for this dish of food. Peas (super crisp and crunchy), tomburri on top (like the caviar, each individual sphere is peeled by hand). Paired with the next two dishes.
Lemon/almond cream, pea and miso puree.
Gem lettuce with red sorrel leaves, scallion chutney
The resulting lettuce wrap. This is an incredible bite of food.
Bread is made from white, wheat and sunflower flours, toasted yeast, infused with nonalcoholic sake, glazed with the aquafava (chickpea juice). Might be the best bread I've ever had. We got 4 rounds and they sent us home with 6 more.
Sunflower butter, aquafava (chick pea juice), sunflower glaze (miso, sunflower, water, sugar). This butter was incredible - and vegan!
Their signature dish. Cucumber, avacado salad, smoked dichon radish, pickled honeydew melon, cilantro, tarragon. The knife work was jaw dropping.
All of their dishware is custom made, and gorgeous. Created by a company in France, appropriately called Jars.
Sesame tofu, 3 preparations of squash, lemongrass broth. Once again, the knife work was the standout here.
Stuffed and fried sweet pepper on a bed of swish chard and portabella with 4 pepper relishes (next pic)
fermented Anaheim peppers with a Sunflower milk culture (upper left), chili crisp (pepper seeds toasted with cumin, nori, sugar and cascabel, bottom right. This was outstanding!), yellow pepper relish (yellow pepper juice, ginger, tarragon, saffron, bottom left), red pepper crema (almond creme fresche, cascabel pepper paste, red pepper paste, upper right)
Our next preparation. It's a 3 day process to make this...
The resulting dish. Beets (grilled, dehydrated, smoked, roasted, rehydrated, then baked in clay pot) wrapped in lettuce, pickled apple, mustard, horseradish, beet greens in a clay vessel with beet and red wine jus. The beet greens were incredibly acidic (vinegar) which dominated the flavors. Once I removed the beet from that wrap, the dish improved a lot.
Eggplant with eggplant puree and pickled eggplant. I'm not an eggplant fan in general, so this was difficult. It was also super acidic, which didn't help. They cleared two mostly uneaten dishes and didn't seemed shocked by that, nor did they say anything. I'm guessing they are aware and that this dish won't last long on the menu.
Summer greens with onions
Garlic and corn grits. That corn on top was awesome! The grits underneath...also acidic.
Strawberry filled with plant based smoked strawbeery and vanilla yogurt, fingerlime,thyme
A ring of coconut semifredo with mochi balls, meringue kisses and blueberry gelato inside, topped with a disc of elderflower brushed with vodka
Chocolate pretzels sesame paste. Crazy good.
House made apricot vermouth. Had I not been driving, I would have enjoyed a LOT more of this deliciousness!
Welcoming us into the kitchen! Every single staff member stopped what they were doing and warmly greeted us on our way in. We were provided gin cocktails and the chef de cuisine came over and chatted with us for about 10 minutes, sharing the journey they went on as a restaurant over the last 16 months.
This is half the kitchen. The other side is even larger with more chefs and the expediters. 125 covers a night, 45 chefs, 65 front of house creating a staff to guest ratio of 1:1. They had to increase their chef staff by 25% because vegan food requires so much more labor. This was NOT offset by food costs, which also increased when they went vegan.
The beet clay pots. They are made by an artisan in Staten Island and used one time only. The broken pieces are sent back to the artisan who uses them to refashion the next batch of clay pots.
The house made granola they send you home with. "For your breakfast tomorrow." It was fantastic.
The menu from the evening. (See the next pictures.)

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