Friday, April 29, 2011

NYC Vegetarian Meetup at John's of 12th Street

I had no experience with a Meetup group and so with typical abandon I jumped into the deep end and went to the NYC Vegetarian Meetup at John's of 12th Street in NYC.  Of course I chose not to just start out slowly where there were 5 or 10 people in a nice quiet setting but 80 people cranking away on vegan Italian food.  It's even better than your typical get-together because unlike many social situations where you know no one and have nothing in common, a bunch of vegans and vegetarians seem to go from awkward hellos to engaging and interesting conversation pretty quickly.  The only downside of a meeting this big in a place like John's is that there is nothing on the walls, as you can see in the picture, to absorb the sound and it can get pretty noisy.  After 9000+ hours in and around airplanes I'm used to saying, "What?"

The back room of John's

I forgot which beers were vegan and so did the waiter but came back in less than a minute with the answer and I started my evening with a Peroni.  I haven't had a decent Eggplant Parmigiana in a restaurant pretty much since I started eating a vegan diet.  It's either dipped in egg or milk or there's cheese in the breading so with John's vegan offering in front of me I saw this as an offer I couldn't refuse.

The only snafu was that the waiter put my tablemate's Seitan Parm in front of me and my Eggplant Parm in front of her and we both delved in for a few bites before we realized we didn't get what we ordered.  After a plate swap all was set right at our vegan table.  I never thought to ask if she had ordered the real cheese or Daiya.  This omission on my part is just another example of however hard we try, when eating in a non 100% vegan restaurant there is always room for error.  (Click here for my rules for eating vegan in a non-vegan restaurant).

Eggplant Parm disguised to look like Seitan Parm.   No wait, it IS Seitan Parm!
The last time I was at John's I had the Seitan Rosa.  The few bites I had of the Seitan Parm were on the softer side texturally.  The seitan was a thin cutlet and although breaded and I'm assuming deep or pan fried there wasn't much of a crunch.  I found the same thing, in terms of a crust, lacking on the eggplant. I do think the sauce is delicious with a rich tomato base, light seasonings and a hint of sweet.  My vote still goes for the Seitan Rosa as the star of the seitan offerings.

My eggplant parm was like going home again culinarily.  I love eggplant and although the texture of the dish could have been improved slightly by a bit of crisp on the eggplant, from a flavor standpoint it hit the mark dead center. If you like Daiya, and I do, this dish can be described as a creamy soft, (very soft),  meld of all the flavors.

Eggplant Parm lost it's way on the table but finally, a few bites lighter, comes home.

Eggplant Parm a bit closer.
And what can I say about the genius who invented this vegan treat.  A little grainier than real ricotta it still satisfies the vegan sweet tooth.  It's rich, sweet, creamy, and crunchy and with a cup of good coffee ended the meal perfectly.

Cheese-less delicious cannoli
This was my second visit to John's in about so many weeks.  Click here for my first review.


Jason Crane | said...

Based on this and your previous review, I'm going here with some friends tonight. Thanks!


Jason Crane | said...

The verdict: Amazing!

My sister and I went to John's on the strength of this review. Right from the first moment we walked in and co-owner Nick greeted us, we knew we were in the right place. The vibe, the decor, everything said quality and care and relaxation.

We talked with Nick and I told him about your blog and that I had come specifically because of the vegan menu (my sister isn't a vegan). We asked Nick why they started serving vegan food. He said so many people had asked for it that they decided it was time. They spent more than a year developing the menu with a vegan chef and dietitian.

And the food! I had the Seitan Alla Rosa. I originally ordered something else because I don't drink alcohol and I never like the taste of things cooked in wine sauces. Nick asked what I had ordered and I told him about the wine thing. I barely had the words out of my mouth when he was jogging to catch our waiter to tell him to sub out the wine with a slightly different sauce. The dish was incredible. I also enjoyed the vegan garlic bread and vegan canoli, and my sister loved her stuffed mushrooms and eggplant parm.

Will I go back? As much as my wallet will allow. Highly recommended. And thanks, Marty!