Tag Archives: true bistro

True Adventures – Part 2

After enjoying our drinks and appetizers, it was time to get down to the serious business of dinner – the entrees.

Valerie ordered the Vietnamese Crepe:
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Filled with honshimeiji mushrooms, fried tofu, and mung bean sprouts, this crisp pancake was light, flavorful, and tasty with its spicy dipping sauce.

Several folks at the table ordered the Green Curry with fried tofu, mizuna & bok choy, maitake mushrooms and black rice cake:
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The curry was pleasant, mild for green curry but with a terrific hint of lime. I found it slightly salty but the black rice cake was nicely chewy and it was all well-balanced.

Speaking of balance, the flavors in the spaghettini melded perfectly:
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Another popular choice at the table, it combined smoked tofu, English peas, blanched almonds, and a “cream sauce” made from cashews. The smoked tofu was incredible, with a flavor and texture like smoked gouda, a perfect complement to the sweet English peas. To my taste the homemade pasta was a bit too soft; a function, I think, of being made without eggs. Other than that, this was close to my favorite dish.

The ultimate honor, however, ended up with my own entree:
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This the phyllo purse! Stuffed with seitan, roasted zucchini, and caramelized onions, surrounded by a red mole, fire roasted peppers, arugula & pepitas, this was an outstanding combination of flavors and textures. The phyllo was crisp and golden, opening to all of the treats inside. Seitan, which is made from wheat gluten, is often used as a meat substitute, although personally I like it just fine on its own merits. The mole was smoky and complex and brought out the best in all of the ingredients. Should I return to True Bistro I may have a hard time ordering anything else…

When the time came for dessert our waitress asked us if she could make some recommendations. Naturally we agreed – who better to help us make our choices? She recommended, and we ordered, the following:
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The coconut pie. This was pretty much a no-brainer anyway; it’s always raved about in reviews, and it’s even won vegan baking praise from PETA. A blood orange sauce is swirled around a slice of what almost resembles a firm coconut pudding topped with toasted coconut; the crust is some sort of short bread or crumble. It’s NOT meant to be coconut cream, and so it is not, but it IS creamy on its own right. Not being the world’s biggest coconut fan (I like the taste, but the texture of dried coconut squicks me out) I liked this just okay, but LOVED the blood orange sauce. Drip that on some good vanilla and we’d have a serious winner. If you DO love coconut, this is pretty outstanding.

Her second choice was the newest dessert on the menu, a raspberry Napoleon:
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Traditional Napoleons are made with puff pastry layered with pastry cream or whipped cream, and iced. Puff pastry = butter and pastry cream is out for the obvious reasons, so this was instead sugar phyllo dough with a filling of white chocolate “mousse” and topped with raspberries and a raspberry reduction. Again, the fruit here was the big winner, sweet and tart at the same time and very, very fresh. The sugared phyllo was a hit too, crispy and not too sweet. The white chocolate mousse was good and creamy, but a bit unexciting in the way that white chocolate always is.

However, the final recommendation was exciting indeed!
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That, my friends, is the “death by chocolate” cake. Covered in creme anglaise and shattered caramel, this blew me away. In part this was because I was expecting chocolate cake, as in birthday cake. I do not really care for chocolate cake. It is always disappointing to me, because it doesn’t really taste like chocolate, and cake is just not my jam. It’s like sub-par, sugary bread. THIS chocolate cake, on the other hand, was a riff on flourless chocolate – creamy, intensely cacao-flavored, barely sweetened, and covered on top with one of my favorite desserts, burnt sugar. Hard to go wrong with that combination, and I was all the more impressed when I found out that it’s made with silken tofu! If I can ever get my hands on this recipe, look out!

All in all, True Bistro exceeded my expectations of what a vegan restaurant can do. My favorite dishes were those that didn’t try to replace animal products so much as demonstrate that you don’t always need them to make great food. Thank you to Mr. Menace, Elise, Valerie, Dan, Aime, Gary, Sarah and Andrew for sharing this adventure with me!

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True Adventures – Part 1

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:
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The sisters Sacchetti ordered the very picturesque peach sangria:
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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!

We ordered several appetizers for the table. The ravioli in lemon-thyme “cream” sauce had been much talked about, so we ordered a couple:
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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:
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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.

We also had a gorgeous plate of malty pickles:
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And some of the best fries I’ve ever eaten in my life:
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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…