So many of our adventuresome outings are focused around meat, particularly unusual (to our culture anyway) meat and meat products. Machu Picchu is a chicken grill, with an assortment of offal offerings. The Gourmet Dumpling House trip focused around pig ears and feet, and who can forget the blood-based delights of JnJ Turo-Turo or Cafe Polonia? While each of these has been wonderful, it was time for something truly bold, truly adventuresome. Something new. It was time…for veganism.
Well, to be fair, neither I nor the other intrepid foodmanauts of the Adventures in Food crew actually became vegans. For readers who may not know, vegans are vegetarians who go a step or two farther. Rather than simply not eating meat, vegans do not eat any animal product whatsoever. That means no cream, no butter, no eggs, no cheese. Depending on their reasons for choosing to practice veganism, this can extend beyond food into all animal-based products – no leather shoes, no wool sweaters – or it may be limited to culinary choices. Either way, we did not adopt this stricture for more than the constraints of one meal, but for the course of that meal we ate absolutely no animal products.
The restaurant we visited is called True Bistro, and I believe it is the first of its kind in the Boston area. That’s not to say that Boston doesn’t have any other vegan restaurants. Right down the street from True there’s a little cafe called Pulse, Grasshopper has been serving vegan Chinese food for years, and right down the street from it is Peace o’Pie, which makes vegan pizza. What made True Bistro compelling to me is that its whole purpose is to make vegan food that is upscale – a real fine-dining experience sans meat, dairy, and eggs. A far cry from tofu-scramble and curried lentils, this would be in many ways the hallmark of true creativity in cooking, if they pulled it off. I had to try it.
And so, I rounded up 8 fellow food-adventurers, including Mr. Menace, and off we went!
True Bistro does not accept reservations, so I was a bit nervous bringing in such a large party. Luckily we arrived early enough that despite another very large party dining at the same time we were able to be seated immediately. The staff was extremely courteous and readied our table very quickly, I might add!
The interior is small, but painted in white to make the most of the space and take advantage of the large picture windows that surround it. The tables were appropriately set, for an upscale establishment, with white linens and blue wildflowers in bud vases.
I started my meal with the El Diablo cocktail – normally made with creme de cassis, tequila, and ginger beer. True Bistro’s version featured a housemade black currant liqueur – apparently the commercial product isn’t vegan, and, a bit unfortunately, ginger ale. It was pretty, but a tad on the sweet side due to the ginger switch:
The rest of the table contented themselves with less photogenic beverages in the form of water and beer, so you don’t get to see those!
Bright with lemon and truly tasting of thyme, the cream sauce was amazing, and indistinguishable to me from actual cream. The ravioli themselves were filled with a wonderful pale-green sweet pea puree. The pasta itself was a bit soft, which I imagine is due to being made without eggs, something I didn’t know was even possible, frankly.
We also ordered the cornmeal-crusted oyster mushrooms. These I wish we’d gotten more of, because they were outstanding:
The mushrooms were perfectly tender and sweetly meaty, while the batter was crunchy and flavorful. Though they came with two sauces, a horseradish dill and a smear of curry, they didn’t really even need them.
And some of the best fries I’ve ever eaten in my life:
Now, you may be thinking that the fries aren’t really all that “upscale,” but they were done the style of Belgian frites, as any regular bistro would serve (though usually holding up a large steak, to be fair.) These fries were a revelation – gloriously salty, golden, and crisp. Our meal was off to a fine start!
As is this entry – too long for just one post. Tune in Friday for the thrilling conclusion – entrees and desserts! You know you want to find out the secret to vegan chocolate cake…