430 E 9th St, New York, NY | Directions 1000940.727481 -73.983452
Neighborhoods: East Village, Downtown
The city's coolest vegetarian restaurant is wholly a product of Amanda Cohen, the spunky chef who redefined what meatless cooking could be like through her embrace of modern technique and the liberal use of butter and cream. (Don't ever mistake Dirt Candy for vegan.) It's small to the point of being cramped and by no means cheap, but if, like me, you have vegetarian food, come here and change your mind.
The Customer is Always Wrong Here – Was excited to go to this restaurant based on friends' reviews and celebrating a birthday with a vegan friend. It's a tiny place and they sat us at the end right next to the kitchen and bathroom and wouldn't change our seat. Personally, I don't want to be in the path of oncoming servers when I dine. I really hate getting my chair kicked all evening and then when the bathroom door opened and I realized I was 4 feet from the toilet which I was now looking at (I could reach the doorknob from my seat), I was told "No one ever complained about this before..." I really don't want my meal to be that close to the toilet and I really don't want to hear people pee all night. There were other tables available but for more than 2 so they would not change ours. The owner claimed this was the "Chef's table" and I would have the great honor of talking with her all evening...I will not return ever.
Clean, Crisp Atmosphere & Attitude FTW – Having been a vegetarian and raw vegan for several years throughout my life, I was super-excited to discover this restaurant last year. Far too often, vegetarians have to suffer through well-intentioned "healthful" but bland salad and rice bowls while being lectured about the dangers of sugar and fat. No wonder Michael Ruhlman calls vegetarianism an eating disorder.
DirtCandy puts an end to that notion. Flavor wins out through exceptional ingredients, there's innovative use of technique and humor, yet a canny eye in the kitchen looks ahead towards current trends in high-end dining.
A few visits to DirtCandy will give you a chance to work through the standard menu items like the jalapeno hush puppies and the grapefruit pops, which are stunning bursts of heat and sweet. The flavor-challenged set will have a problem ; >
An amazing, silky mushroom pate arrives in the form of a perfectly shaped cube, squaring up the essence of earthy mushrooms with a drizzle of reduction and truffled toasts. The kaffir buerre blanc (oh no, BUTTER!) is a life memory that comes with its own spoon. Spot on is its pairing of a crispy-topped tofu from a local provider. Dishes vary based on seasonal availability, so it's clear the chef is putting some thought into current "best of" ingredients.
I have attended twice now with strict vegans in my party, and everyone came away thrilled with the menu and its easy conversion if requested. Table service was smart: modern handhelds upload orders to the kitchen, reducing foot traffic in an already tight space.
Chef Cohen keeps the menu manageable with usually four choices in first, second and dessert courses. Given the smaller size of the restaurant and kitchen, this is understandable. The wine list is also somewhat small; it would be nice to see it expand a bit to include some more in-depth pairing choices. It would also be nice to see Cohen put together a tasting menu which would give her creativity a chance to spread out further through the pacing of a longer dinner. I'd be willing to pay more for that : )
Conclusion - This restaurant is a stellar addition to NYC's dining scene, and all the vegetarians I know are neither embarrassed nor confused about its intentions. If you want a good bowl of brown rice with miso, no salt - Angelica will be happy to serve you. If you would like to check out what the new vegetarians are doing, this place is for you.
Cold atmosphere, bland vegetarian food – I went to Dirt Candy the other day with a couple of friends and we were all excited at the prospect of a new kind of vegetarian restaurant in the east village. The food lacked flavor, the space was very cramped, and the staff was quick to rush us out when we said we didn't want dessert. It wasn't a relaxing dining experience and the woman who I spoke to on the phone to confirm our reservation was downright rude. Not worth the price....better local options!
we should have gone to counter – I was very excited about the concepts behind Dirt Candy for months and genuinely anticipating our visit all week. I am a life-long vegetarian, and, although I have lived in NY for a while, I am used to being catered to on the West Coast and I fully support more vegan/vegetarian option in NY, especially options that emphasize seasonal vegetables rather than fake meat, which I think is lacking in general in NY.
As soon as we walked into the restaurant I was disappointed. The decor is basically the same as Pink Berry, completely sterile with fluorescent lighting.
The service was awkward and not what would be expected for a place that charges $16-$18 for an entree. The server only really talked to us when she wanted to interrupt our conversation to force us to hear a 5 minute oration of the description on the menu of each item as she brought it out. They also rushed us, bringing out our bread with the appetizer and the salad out before we had even started eating the appetizer.
The food was, overall, not creative, and where it was creative, the result was not appetizing. We had the hushpuppies, which were good, but they placed no emphasis on vegetables, just on being deep fried and coming with sweet, fatty maple syrup dip. The mixed green salad was boring, nothing really stood out, except that it came with candied grapefruit. The grapefruit was presented awkwardly on skewers, impossible to eat without it disintegrating, and far too sweet, once again with no emphasis on bring out the natural flavors of fruits and vegetables.
The entrees were probably some of the most unpalatable entrees I have ever been brought out at any restaurant. The carrot risotto tasted like dimensionless nothing. I felt like I was eating glue and could only eat half of it. My boyfriend got the crispy tofu. I tried some of the coconut sauce and it was so unbalanced it felt like I was drinking coconut milk straight from a can.
We tried to see if the restaurant could redeem itself in some way so we ordered dessert. We got a dry chocolate cake with sweet potato sorbet. The sorbet was by far the most unpalatable item on the menu, and I couldn't eat more than 1 bite.
Overall, I would consider this place to be an embarrassment to the vegetarian/vegan community in NY. I think that you can have a menu that emphasizes natural, seasonal ingredients that is also healthy and tastes wonderful. I think Dirt Candy enforces stereotypes about vegan/vegetarian food tasting completely inferior to nonvegetarian food and obviously I will never go here again.
Delicious & Decadent – I've been a vegetarian for ten years, and I too am tired of "faux meats." There's nothing like that at Dirt Candy, and despite chef Cohen being from Pure Food & Wine (healthy, chic raw food), she has decided to make intentionally "unhealthy" cuisine; that is butter-drenched, deep-fried, veggie decadence!
Definitely get the hush puppies with maple butter, they are crunchy, spicy and sweet. We also liked the portobello mousse, grits with tempura egg, and the crispy tofu - the ragout of greens beneath the tofu was perfectly balanced and wonderfully flavored. There was Peak Organic Ale available as well, and it was superb.
I'm excited to see what Chef Cohen can do when the City finally turns on her gas, everything on the small menu is made with electric appliances.
As noted by other patrons, it is tiny inside, so be sure to get a reservation - I had to wait a month to get in, but it was worth it!
Loved it! – The service was great, food was tasty and the environment quaint and comfortable. Cant wait to go back.
AMAZING MEAL!!! – This was an amazing meal from start to finish. The space is beautiful--very clean, simple lines, with an attention to detail. We started with the hush puppies, the mousse and a grapefruit pop salad. Everything is so gorgeously arranged and colorful, you just marvel at the presentation. I wasn't crazy about the salad, but the hush puppies and mousse were amazing. My friend had the grits, which were fabulous, and I had the crispy tofu, also incredibly.
Seriously, after leaving my friend and I felt amazing. It's one of the best dining experiences I have had in the city in a long time that didn't cost an arm and a leg.
The service is great too. Attentive but not over-bearing. And Amanda the chef comes by each table to check in.
Extraordinarily inventive! – This is the most innovative vegetarian food I have ever had, but beyond mere innovation the meal was delicious! The portobello mousse combined the luscious savory and sweet flavors of a fois gras (obviously vegetarian) with pear. The carrot risotto, well, it has to be tasted to be believed because the description of carrot dumplings with carrot rice with carrot crisps sounds like overkill but it is an unexpected delight. The popcorn pudding was a sour note; actually it was sweet, terribly, terribly sweet. Alas not every experiment is a success but overall I was greatly impressed with Dirt Candy. One warning, if you book the early seating, be prepared to vacate after two hours, promptly. The restaurant is tiny and there is simply no room, literally, for waiting or lingering.
Chef Amanda Cohen from Pure Food & Wine serves up gourmet vegetarian cuisine at this East Village restuarant. – In Short
Dirt Candy, while technically a vegetarian restaurant, seeks to distance itself from the horrors available at some of the other vegetarian restaurants in the East Village. Chef/owner Cohen has a strong culinary background and spares nothing by way of butter, cream, and technique to this clean, modern-looking restaurant, which attracts a more upscale crowd than most East Village haunts. Dishes like the portobello mousse, mixed greens with grilled cheese croutons, or crispy tofu with green ragout and kaffir lime beurre blanc may even please an off-duty carnivore.
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