By Veronica Chavez and Cody Fenwick
In the spirit of Unprepared Week, BTR ventured into the world of raw, uncooked vegan foods. Though the concept might sound exotic, this includes some of the most common foodstuffs one can think of. Fresh garden salads, unroasted nuts, sunflower seeds, and ripened fruits are featured frequently in a completely raw diet.
Since some people follow this diet exclusively (the merits of which we investigate here), it is no surprise that adherents find ever more creative ways to serve up uncooked appetizers, entrees, and desserts. BTR staff convened at a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Quintessence in Manhattan’s East Village, serving all-vegan and mostly raw food, for a taste of what they have to offer.
Though the portions are a bit smaller than is typical and the prices are not the easiest on a budget, the quality is undeniable. You’ll be planning your next trip before the check arrives.
Photos by Ashley Rodriguez.
Topped with sprouts, this dish was refreshing and mild. In the fresh vegetable blend, the cucumbers take center stage, with kale, avocado, and celery rounding out the flavor. The obligatory lemon juice and olive oil are as satisfying as they are predictable. Served chilled, it’s not a far cry from many an unsweetened green smoothie, only incidentally paired with a spoon rather than a straw.
Chipotle Cheese Roll
Wrapped in nori, the chipotle cheese roll has a definite resemblance to Japanese cuisine. Although the edible seaweed overpowers the palette a bit, the combination of soft avocado and cashew cheese with crispy romaine lettuce, cucumber, and bell pepper is a nice balance of creamy and crunchy. The chipotle cream livens up the dish with a slight spice.
Nacho dishes in other restaurants usually consist of a mountain of tortilla chips with toppings oozing down in every direction. Quintessence, on the other hand, takes the mess out of eating nachos without sparing any of the deliciousness. The dish includes four rosemary flax crackers, topped neatly with hummus, guacamole, guajillo pepper hot sauce, and kalamata olives. Although the portion looks small, the flax crackers provide a filling base for the salty snack.
The golden flax and corn tortilla is soft and flavorful, and besides the fact that the dish is served cold, it’s hard to believe that the “refried beans” are actually a spiced blend of bell pepper, onion, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, and sprouted garbanzo beans. Drenched in a zesty mole sauce, this dish encompasses traditional Mexican-style flavor even sans heat.
Q Club Sandwich
This wholesome item is an inspired riff on the traditional club sandwich. Cashew cream cheese is the default option when choosing a raw schmear and it provides the perfect complement to the salty kalamata olives. Avocados, peppers, and cucumbers provide bulk to the sandwich that, though pleasingly fresh and surprising, is not as filling as one might hope for an entree.
Chocolate Lava Cake
This chocolate cup packs more of a crunch and deviates from the usual velvety smoothness associated with lava cakes. It is comprised mostly of pecans, dates, coconut, and cacao, whick makes the shell of the cake resemble a sweet, chocolate-y granola bar. Once you begin eating, rich, dark chocolate cream oozes out from the cake’s inside—a perfect coating for the dish’s crumbly pieces.
Ice Cream Parfait
Only order the Ice Cream Parfait if you’re prepared to be disappointed by every other brand of ice cream, vegan or not, for the rest of your life. Made from a mix of coconut, avocado, or nuts, this sweet and heavily creamy dish, topped with fresh fruit, had the BTR team fighting for the last bite.