Is it over-the-top to describe a dining experience as transformational? Maybe so, but I feel I was changed by V-Note on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. This restaurant is a sister/brother of such beloved vegan restaurants as Blossom and Cafe Blossom. However, quite honestly, I feel those two places pale in comparison to the meal I had.
Imagine, if you will, a sophisticated, contemporary-style restaurant with its wine glasses and softly-lit candles. Its meaningless, chaotic modern art. White sofas lining the walls; which appear to be leather from afar, but are probably faux or fabric. Red. Black. White. Nothing says class quite like contrast does.
That woman is raising her hand to attest to the power of contrast. Praise spectrum! Praise complementary colours!
It was that sort of mind-altering experience. However, as I entered, the woman’s cries changed to, “There goes the neighbourhood….”
Don’t get me wrong- I dressed the part. I was looking fly! However, I hadn’t considered the reality that before my 8 PM reservation, I was going to be cleaning cat litter and dusting some nasty, old shelves. I was just hoping I didn’t leave a trail of grey fur in my path. You wouldn’t have known I was a mess, though. I was treated with respect and courtesy throughout the evening. I felt like a real winner. Especially when I told the hostess I had a reservation and I was offered the window seat. Maybe I wasn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe I felt like a hairball spat into a dust pan and rolled through gasoline, asphalt, and the contents of someone’s innards, but to others, I had my life together. It also helped that the restaurant was pretty much empty. Just the two snowy-haired lovers and me.
I will now let you in on a secret: I can’t afford V-Note. I mean, I could, I can… but I wouldn’t. The trick is, on the website Groupon (groupon.com) there was a deal. I spent $15 for $30 worth of food. Eyeing the menu, it quickly occurred to me that $30 was not going to get me as far as I had hoped. Unsure if the Groupon covered tip, (it turns out, it didn’t) I subtracted $6 from my initial amount, just to be safe. Wine was not even an option. Dessert was a necessity, so I subtracted another $7-$10…. Let’s be real, I wanted the $10 dessert. This left me with $14 for my main meal. Problem was, all the worthwhile entrees were over $14. Most were in the $20-range. I could pay overage charges, but then my coupon would be wasted. I would feel cheated! So, I bit my lip, I took a deep breath, and I ordered the Wilted Spinach Salad. The large size was actually $15, but I was willing to splurge just a bit on this special date with myself. If you love someone, sometimes you have to let go of that which is most important to you.
The Wilted Spinach Salad didn’t sound too shabby, actually. Spinach, of course, shiitake mushroom, roasted corn, tempeh, cashews, soy bacon, and a warm vinaigrette. Glad it’s a warm vinaigrette, I don’t DO cold vinaigrette. I’m no animal.
When the salad came, and it was fairly prompt, I was overjoyed with how beautiful it looked and even more so, how incredible it smelled!
This was not my grandmother’s salad. I mean, my grandmother would never use tempeh. Honestly, I’ve never been a huge fan of tempeh. The bumpy, crumbly texture and slightly odd taste typically don’t work for me. However, I went for a bite of the tempeh first because I am a glutton for punishment, and I was looking for something to whine about. I was sorely disappointed, because this tempeh was so yummy! The bumpiness that I hate so much was barely detectable, and the flavour was overpowered by the smokiness of the “bacon” and the vinegar. Which, to my surprise, was a great combo. The smokiness makes the vinegar less intense and the vinegar sort-of sweetens the smokiness. The warm spinach was moist and satisfying to chew on. I didn’t feel like a cow in the fields. By this point, I was so in-love with the “meat” of the salad that I had completely forgotten about the cashews, which when re-discovered, gave me a little jolt of ecstasy. Cashews are, so as not to underestimate them, extremely sexy. I may be the first and last to describe them as such, but they are just that.
As I went to town on this absurdly delightful salad, I thought of the scene from the animated film ‘Ratatouille’ when the food critic tastes the final meal. In the scene I have in mind, he has a memory of a meal his mother made him and he is filled with joy and happiness, and a few tears are shed. That was what I felt throughout this meal. The same experience, except, my mother cooked me roasted chicken and pasta when I was kid. There were no wilted salads with warm vinaigrette. If I had a mother who stayed home cooking me delicious meals, this would have been on my plate.
When my plate was taken away, I nearly leapt on top of the waitress as I requested the parfait. “Gimme dat parfayt! Imma eat dat ting!”
My *gluten-free* parfait was made-up of: layers of brandy infused peach and mango, (see? I got my alcohol after all!) pecan oat crumble, port-infused berries, and finally, topped with coconut cream.
Do you see that? Are you seeing this parfait with this and that and those things in it? That is delicious. Light and fluffy, but succulent. Can I say that? Well, I did, and I’d say it again. It had life to it. Layers of texture, colour, flavour…. This wasn’t just a dessert that you gobble up like a chocolate cake or ice cream. You must take part in a conversation with the treat. Where were the oats grown? What part of the mango was used? How much coconut cream is too much? That was a trick question, there is no such thing as too much coconut cream!
Clearly, this was one heck of a good meal. Now, here I come with the bad news…. According to V-Note’s website,
“We are saddened to announce that after five years here on the Upper East Side, we will be closing V-Note at the end of October. Facing the end of our lease and the increasing cost of organic food and wine, it is no longer practical for us to remain in business.”
Is that not the saddest thing you’ve ever read? I get it, though, themz rent is cray-cray. Fear not! V-Note will return. I mean, I imagine it will, in some way, shape, or form. If nothing else, the chef needs a job. Maybe he/she will be looking for private work. You could have wilted spinach cooked in your very own kitchen! Imagine that.
Nonetheless, I am so glad I got to try V-Note before its unfortunate demise. It was an absolute pleasure.
Tune in next time when I review something else!
Rating: 10/10 unicorn hugs
Check out things you’re not eating right now: