Where To Bite Raw – [Manhattan, NY]

Elegant plating design, raw fresh ingredients, and a seasonally-inspired menu make this upscale vegan restaurant a popular spot for veggies and carnivores alike.

Elegant plating design, raw fresh ingredients, and a seasonally-inspired menu make this upscale vegan restaurant a popular spot for veggies and carnivores alike.

What I’d heard about Pure Food and Wine is that they had a no-noodle lasagna on the menu.  You know how much I love zucchini-noodle pastas and lasagna dishes, and on that premise alone, I joined a friend for dinner there when I first moved to the city.

It’s not just a vegan restaurant, and it’s not just allergen-friendly. Pure Food and Wine goes all the way, in just about every way possible. They’re known as New York’s first upscale vegan and raw restaurant, and there’s only one dish on the menu that isn’t gluten-free. Many menu items have nut-free variations, and there is no trace of tofu, tempeh, or seitan on the menu, because every dish is unprocessed, prepared at 118 degrees or less to preserve essential enzymes, and completely high-end.

I didn’t even order the Zucchini and Tomato Heirloom Lasagna when I dined at Pure Food and Wine. No, despite the temptation of a basil pistachio pesto, I was too overwhelmed by the extensive menu of innovative, plant-based dishes with ingredients and preparations I’d never even dreamed of.

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Recommended Dishes: It wasn’t placed in front of me,  but the Zucchini Lasagna was beautiful. And delicious. It’s my friend Sirma’s entree of choice at Pure Food and Wine, and it with her company that I first tried the restaurant. I opted for the Portobello Mushroom dish. Two thick caps, marinated in barbecue sauce and filled with kale chimichurri and peach salsa. WIth a side of cauliflower horseradish aioli and green beens, my meal was a vibrant play on a Mexican-inspired burger and the crunchy green beans were a healthy substitute to the steak fry.

You won't find this summer special on the menu anymore. For a light appetizer, try their Tuscan Kale Salad with Shaved Fennel and Orange, also nut-free, or their Asian-flavored Papaya Salad with tomatoes, carrots, corn, and sesame-salted peanuts, dressed with lime and ginger.

You won’t find this summer special on the menu anymore. For a light appetizer, try their Tuscan Kale Salad with Shaved Fennel and Orange, also nut-free, or their Asian-flavored Papaya Salad with tomatoes, carrots, corn, and sesame-salted peanuts, dressed with lime and ginger.

The Not-So-Good-Bite: No mater how raw or organic your ingredients are, an oily dish does not a healthy little bite make. While my entree was delicious, I found the mushroom caps and green beans to be too oily for my preference. I much preferred the freshness maintained in my salad, which was a plate of whole romaine leaves with grapefruit and crisped onions strings, on a thin avocado puree with lavender blossoms.

The Good Bite: If you splurge on the most expensive entree, it will only cost you $26 – more than reasonable by NYC standards. While the appetizers are expensive by comparison (typically between $15 and $19, almost as much as the most inexpensive entrees) the menu, more or less, is well-priced given the quality and portion of each dish.

In comparison to the lasagna and salad, you can see the heavier preparation of this dish. But at only $23, it was a hearty and flavorful entree, that even survived in a to-go container to star as the following day's lunch.

In comparison to the lasagna and salad, it’s evident that this dish has a more oily preparation. But at only $23, it was a hearty and flavorful entree, that was split and half and survived in a to-go container to star as the following day’s lunch. So really, let’s call it $11.50, shall we?

The Best Bite: Aside from boasting their ambitious raw, vegan, gluten-free menu, Pure Food and Wine also proudly describes themselves as a fine dining establishment. I’m happy to say that here, they hit the mark perfectly. Executing such a specialized, ingredient and ecology-conscious menu is a feat in it of itself. But the contemporary, modern interior with its sleek exposed wood finishes and candlelit bar – and the famed back garden – makes the experience above and beyond. In the Big Apple, it’s not hard to find raw ingredients and juice bars, or a vegetarian meal to eat on the fly. But to find those foods elegantly plated in a high-end restaurant is a rarity, and the one most worth celebrating.

I don’t just love food – I love healthy, good-for-you-food, and I love dining out. While I have been merrily making my way through all the raw salad bar options New York has to offer, it’s always a treat to dine out with a friend and enjoy a true, upscale restaurant experience, without overspending or over-indulging. When I first said goodbye to meat nearly 8 years ago, I felt like I was waving away all chances to eat out at a classy, sophisticated restaurant (think Morton’s Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, etc). But Pure Food and WIne is resurrecting the restaurant experience for those who appreciate a different type of food on their plates. No steak knife required.

Until next time,

Melanie

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