Monday, February 26, 2007

Quantum Leap Brunch

We recently sampled Quantum Leap’s brunch menu. Quantum leap is a mostly vegan, almost vegetarian (they serve fish) restaurant located at 226 Thompson Street in Manhattan.

Corn Pancakes Medley
There were so many tasty brunch options I had a tough time deciding what to get, but I finally went with the Corn Pancakes Medley. This came with one blue, one white, and one yellow pancake plus scrambled tofu and a choice of meat. Only the ham was vegan so I went with that. The pancakes were great. They were a good size and nice and fluffy. They even had corn niblets in them! The blue corn, while tasty, was my least favorite because it was more dense than the others. The yellow and white ones were divine- super soft and fluffy. I should mention I ordered a side of mixed berry compote to put on top instead of syrup. It was so delicious! The firm fruit and syrupy sweetness went well with the soft and slightly savory pancakes. The ham was a little scary looking as all veggie ham is apt to be but I was surprised to find that it tasted pretty good. (Still, I think next time I’ll sub hashbrowns for the meat.) The tofu scramble was delicious but it was reeeeeaaaallly salty. Almost too salty to eat and definitely too salty to finish. I don’t know if it’s usually that salty or if it was just a fluke. -Ev

The Vegan’s Choice
Not all of the brunch dishes are vegan at Quantum Leap, but I figured “The Vegan’s Choice” was a pretty safe bet. This dish consisted of scrambled tofu, hash browns, grilled veggies and whole wheat toast. The grilled veggies were just grilled veggies and the toast was just toast. Nothing exciting there. I could also say the hashbrowns were just hashbrowns, but I’m a big fan of hashbrowns, especially this kind, in which the potatoes and onions are shredded and fried into a solid, crispy sheet. So that was nice. What I was really looking forward to was the scrambled tofu but, as Ev said, it was overly salty. I’m convinced they had somebody new in the kitchen who messed up the recipe or something, because if something is too salty for me (I’m a total salt addict), then other people would find it downright inedible. Overall, I wasn’t wowed by this meal, but it was a lot of food for nine bucks and, assuming the tofu isn’t always that salty, I could imagine getting it again if I’m in the mood for a simple, hearty brunch. -Jim

The Bottom Line
Well, Quantum Leap is two for two! This was a biiiig and tasty meal. I was surprised at just how much food and the variety of food I got for a reasonable price ($9.75 plus $1.95 for the fruit). I definitely want to come back and try the buckwheat pancakes. -ev
Quantum Leap has a big brunch menu and I think a lot of it is vegan. It would be nice if they specified what was vegan right on the menu, and I think next time we get brunch here I’ll just ask our waitperson to list all the dishes that can be prepared vegan. If nothing else, the pancakes seemed to be popular and I’m happy knowing there’s a good place to get vegan pancakes in NYC. -Jim

Monday, February 19, 2007

Curly's Lunch

We went to Curly's Lunch at 328 E 14th St in Manhattan between 2nd and 1st Ave. Curly's has lots of tasty diner fare and a lot of it is vegan or easily made vegan.

Un-Buffalo Wings
These were the least impressive part of the meal, but I thought they were still pretty decent. They were strips of soy meat battered and fried, doused in a very tangy and somewhat spicy sauce, and served with a creamy vegan version of blue cheese dipping sauce. The buffalo sauce was a bit strong for my tastes, but it was contrasted nicely by the cool dipping sauce. -Jim
The taste and texture of the chicken strips were excellent. They were slender, tender, and breaded just right. The only unfortunate thing was the sauce. But before you don’t try these, I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t like buffalo wing sauce. I don’t like it on Kate’s wings, I didn’t like it here. The only time I do like it is at Red Bamboo, but that’s because it’s more of a BBQ sauce, which I could drink by the gallonful. So if you like buffalo wings at Kate’s, these are even better. But if the sauce grosses you out, skip it. -Ev

School Lunch –New School
This was an order of vegan Mac & Cheese and a side salad. You could opt to add broccoli for a little extra, but I decided to keep my Mac & Cheese pure. Mac & Cheese is one of the only things I miss being a vegan, so I’m always on the hunt for that perfect fakie version. This was an interesting and delicious surprise. Thankfully, it was not just gobs of fake soy cheese. Instead, this was a hearty almost stewy version with breadcrumbs and nutmeg! Yes, nutmeg! This lent a slight sweetness to the dish and I really enjoyed it. Best of all, it didn’t taste like junk food. The salad was great as well. I had mine with a mango poppy dressing which was light and creamy. YUM! -Ev

Open Faced Turkey Sandwich
I really loved this dish. It might not look like much in the picture, but man was it good. We’re talking seasoned soy cutlets over cornbread stuffing on toast, smothered in savory gravy with sides of cranberry relish and super-garlicky greens. The flavor and texture of the soy cutlets was great and the stuffing was sage-y and delicious. The cranberry relish seemed very fresh and had a hint of ginger, which went great with the sweet tangyness of the cranberry. And did I mention the gravy was super savory? This was comfort food at it’s best (I know I say that a lot, but I have to say it about this dish because it’s SO true). I do have to report one odd thing about this dish, though: there seemed to be a layer of soy mayonnaise on the toast. It didn’t really affect the flavor, but was a bit weird in the context of this dish (“What’s that white stuff?”). Next time I might ask them to hold the mayo. And oh yes, there will be a next time. I’m definitely ordering this dish again. -Jim

Banana Chocolate Chimichanga
Holy crap! Or should I say “Crap Santo!” ? Bananas. With chocolate chips. Wrapped in a tortilla. Deep-fried. Sprinkled with powdered sugar. Served crispy on the outside, ooeygooey hot on the inside. With vanilla soy delicious ice cream. Omigod. The contrast of textures and temperatures was ridiculously good. And there were about 5 different kinds of sweetness going on, but they each had their own things to say. This was so amazing. You must get this. -Ev

The Bottom Line
The first time I tried Curly’s Lunch (shortly after they opened in 2005), I wasn’t really impressed. But they’ve added and taken away some stuff on their menu and I was really happy with my food this time. That turkey dish knocked my socks off and the dessert was just fantastic. And I think there are more vegan options than there were before, though their menu is still weighted more in the direction of lacto-vegetarians. If you haven’t tried Curly’s yet, I recommend doing so. If you tried it when they first opened up and haven’t tried it since, I recommend trying it again. -Jim
This was a great meal. If you’re seeking hearty stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, this is the perfect spot. I loved my dinner (and Jim’s too-YUM!) and I’ll bet their brunch is darn tasty too. Oh, and you can draw on your placemats with crayons. Just sayin’. -Ev

Monday, February 12, 2007

The V-Spot Cafe

We recently checked out The V-Spot Café. It’s a 100% vegan restaurant in Park Slope Brooklyn located at 156 5th Ave. It was a birthday celebration for our friend Isa from the PPK! Also, big upz to Isa for being guest photographer for this review. Yes, it was her birthday and we made her take all the pictures.

Chicken Noodle Soup
It was a chilly day and I was paranoid I was getting sick so I went with the good ol’ cure-all, chicken noodle soup. Though a little sweeter than most soups I’ve had, I really enjoyed this. The broth was light, the celery was sweet, and the noodles were nice & chewy. The chicken provided a nice heartiness without overwhelming the other ingredients. -Ev

Nachos are one of the great inventions of mankind. The chips are salty and crunchy, and the toppings can be savory, sweet, sour, creamy, saucy, chunky or pretty much anything else. I love ‘em. So when I review Nachos, the question I’m asking isn’t “Are these Nachos good?”, because the answer is almost always yes. I’m asking, “Are these Nachos especially good?” Well guess what? The Nachos at V-Spot are especially good. They’re topped with salsa, guac, sour cream, beans and ground veggie beef. The toppings are pretty standard and they’re pretty decent, but they are not what make the V Spot nachos stand out. It’s the homemade chips. They fry their own at V Spot and it shows. These three-color chips have the perfect crunchiness and a wonderful toasty flavor. I could definitely see myself ordering nachos again next time I’m here. -Jim

Breaded Chicken Cutlet
I really enjoyed this dish. The mashed potatoes were chunky but not dry at all. They had great texture and flavor. The spinach was absolutely delicious, especially when mixed with the other parts of the meal. I liked how it was soft but still really green and fresh-tasting. Also it was well oiled without being greasy. The chicken was really crunchy and almost flaky inside. I want to say it was more reminiscent of fish than chicken, but maybe that’s because I was more used to fried fish dishes growing up. Regardless, it was delicious and made a great snack later on in the car ride home and again at midnight. Yum. -Ev

The Chorizo entrée is the most expensive item on the menu at $14. In addition to the Chorizo, you get brown rice, beans, plantain and avocado slices. I wasn’t particularly keen on the chorizo itself. It was smoky and salty, but texturally it was a little tough and chewy. The rice and avocado were pretty basic. The real stars of this dish were the beans and the plantains. V-Spot’s homemade black beans are cooked with tomatoes, peppers, cilantro and spices. Very tasty. And the plantains were deep-fried to sweet perfection. Overall, this dish was decent, but the awesomeness of the beans and plantains doesn’t quite make it totally worthwhile. I sampled other dishes that our friends got and I’d say there’s definitely better food to be had at V-Spot. So I recommend getting a side of the beans and/or plantains but maybe passing on this entrée. -Jim

The Bottom Line
I didn’t know what to expect coming to the V-spot, having heard mixed reviews from friends. I was first surprised by the really cute décor- high ceilings and funky art in a warmly painted space. I was also surprised by the variety on the menu- you could get staples like fried chicken dishes and burgers, or empanadas, plantains, and even pastas. I really liked everything I tried here. Especially, those slammin’ nachos and plantains. They even stuck a candle in Isa’s brownie (no, that’s not a euphemism) and sang Happy Birthday. YAY! -Ev
I’ll be a little more blunt than Ev: when V-Spot first opened up, we heard it was really bad. We heard it from first-hand accounts and internet reviews. This made me sad, because anyone who opens a 100% vegan restaurant obviously has a passion for vegan food. And that means that, if they were indeed really bad, it was probably just as disappointing for them as it was for their customers. But the good news is that we recently heard reviews that they’d gotten better, so we gave it a shot and I think it was pretty good. The food was tasty, and I definitely see myself coming back here again next time I’m in the neighborhood (probably ordering what Ev got, or maybe the Meatloaf that Isa got, with a side of those plantains!). -Jim


Sunday, February 04, 2007


This is our second review of one of our favorite restaurants, Pukk. Pukk is a trendy, all-vegetarian (almost all vegan) Thai place located at 71 1st Ave between 4th & 5th in Manhattan. We ordered a ridiculous amount of food, fortunately we had our buddy Eppy (creator of ENnie award-winning roleplaying game, Dread) along to help us eat it all.

All Green Salad
This delectable salad was chock full of so many different ingredients I wrote them all down…and then promptly lost the list. Please excuse the abbreviated list that follows: lettuce, mushrooms, corn, beans, tofu, tomato, cucumber, mandarin oranges, red onions, ummm…that’s all I can remember. But they all worked really well together and the peanut dressing was perfect- not too peanut butter-tasting and not too oily. The combination of the dressing and the mandarin oranges was especially good. -Ev

Duck Salad
This is one of my favorite dishes at Pukk, even though it’s so spicy I have trouble eating it. Also, I’m not sure why it’s called a salad. If it was served warmer with rice, you could easily call it “Spicy Sweet and Sour Duck”. The key players in this dish were veggie duck, cashew, pineapple, a small amount of lettuce and, of course, the spicy red dressing (which I want to call a “sauce” since this salad was so un-salad-like). I think the great thing about this dish was the contrasts. The dressing was tangy and spicy, but this was contrasted by the earthyness of the duck, cashews and lettuce and the sweetness of the pineapple. The mix of textures is really satisfying, too. Overall, there’s a lot going on in this dish but it adds up to a very satisfying (and filling) starter. -Jim

Spinach Toast
Just when I though the mushroom puff was my favorite appetizer here, there comes along the spinach toast. This was somewhat of a misnomer because I was expecting something toast-like. Instead I was greeted by crunchy little fried goodybags full of spinach that were in a mildly spicy/sweet chili sauce. They were so YUM and almost creamy tasting. These are my new faves and you should definitely try them.-Ev

Watercress Duck
This is actually my favorite entrée at Pukk, but before you run out and order it for yourself, be forewarned that it might not be what you expect from a Thai restaurant. First of all, there are three ingredients besides the sauce: watercress, mushroom and veggie duck. That’s it. And the sauce is not your typical Thai sauce. It’s super savory and mushroomy, almost like a salty mushroom gravy (but not thick like a gravy). I think this dish has a very gourmet vibe to it. If the duck, mushrooms and watercress were separate on the plate rather than stirfried together, this dish could easily be something you might order at Blossom. But I’m glad it’s at Pukk, where gourmet only costs eight bucks. -Jim

Duck Massaman Curry
Jim always gets Massaman curries and they smell so good (and taste good too) but they’re usually too rich for me to get a whole order. Pukk’s Massaman was not only light but they give you a nice amount. Not too small, but nice. The curry was creamy and dee-licious and all the bits inside soaked up the flavors well. I especially liked the potatoes. If you’ve been curious about Massaman curry, but have been scared to try it, I think Pukk is the safest bet.-Ev

Apple Fritters
This dessert was, to be quite frank, a little weird. It was apple slices. Ok, that’s simple enough. And there was a light caramel sauce. So far so good. But the batter… very interesting. It was sesame-flavored, and somehow it just didn’t taste like something you’d expect to find in a dessert. That being said, it wasn’t a miss, it just wasn’t a hit for me. It was just… interesting. Not bad. But if I had the opportunity to order these again, I’d order the Thai Tea Cheese Cake instead. –jim
It tasted like a chicken nugget that the chicken fell out of so they jammed a squishy hot apple up there. Go with the cheesecake. -Ev

Blueberry Cheesecake
Speaking of heaven in your mouth, the Blueberry cheesecake is mayyyybe, just mayyybe better than the Thai Tea cheesecake. Maybe? I don’t know. It’s too soon for me to commit. I’m going to need several orders of both to reach my final verdict. In the meantime, order this and decide for yourself. If it was better, and I’m not saying just yet that it is, but if it was better, it would be because it had the same light yet uniquely flavored taste of the Thai Tea cheesecake, and had blueberries and whipped cream on top. Oh my god I just looked at the picture again. I want to lick the screen. This was really good. Possibly the best cheesecake in the city. -Ev

The Bottom Line
We looove Thai food, and Pukk is a staple for us. It’s veg, it’s tasty, it’s inventive, it’s cheap, the menu is huge and they have surprisingly good homemade desserts. Ok, the Apple Fritters were a little weird, but I think we can excuse them for that since everything else was pure awesome. Go to Pukk! And if you’re ready for a super-savory masterpiece, try that Watercress Duck. –jim
Pukk is one of my top five favorite restaurants in NYC. It’s a fun place to order lots of things and share. I think we should go there more often, Jim. -Ev