Last night Mark and I went out to dinner with friends. This was a planned adults-only night where I was going to wear a dress. So, yes, it was big!
Last week I emailed the chef of Restaurant 213 and asked if he could accommodate a vegan. Since his response was a resounding yes I called for reservations for the four of us and informed them that one of our party was a vegan. The person who answered the phone seemed so normal about it that I was hopeful that they really could, in fact, accommodate me. But I’ve been here before. I always call or email first if I am hoping for something good. Once I got an email from the owner saying the chef would contact me but I never heard back. Once I had a fine meal and I’d go back, but it was nothing amazing. And once my entire meal was a plate full of steamed vegetables, no oil or seasoning. It was half green beans and half broccoli and I was, to say the least, disappointed.
So we got dressed up and dropped the kids at my parents’ house. We met our friends there and were ushered to a lovely little table. 213 is a small intimate place with cloth tablecloths and napkins and where Frank Sinatra music is played out of ceiling speakers. Definitely more upscale then our usual dinners out with the kids. (In fact, the towels in the bathrooms are cloth and you put them in a hamper. I love that!)
Our waiter mentioned, when he came over, that he knew there was a vegan. Since I’m the one who spoke up he smiled and said “I assume that’s you?” Yep! There isn’t anything specifically vegan on the menu and there weren’t any main courses on the specials that, to me, appeared easy to veganize. But I waited. Ordered my sparkling water (I have a *problem* with sparkling water. I would drink it constantly!) and a mojito. (My rheumo says I can have 1/2 glass of wine a week on the methatrexate. I drink almost never these days so I decided 1 small and mild, though delicious, mojito was ok.)
When I asked about the vegan options the waiter said he knew the chef had something in mind. So, being the adventurous sort, I closed the menu and said “I’m up for anything!” We had bread and olive oil while we waited that was hot (the bread – not the oil) and very fluffy.
My salad was a roasted lettuce salad from the specials menu without cheese. It was lovely, though it was different to bit into lettuce and get a little bit of a charred flavor. I think it’s something I could grow to love. No picture of that, though, because I just jumped into eating it!
But when my main course came I was mesmerized and impressed.
I wish the picture was better, but let me tell you that this was incredible. There is eggplant, tomato, and mushrooms stacked with a tomato chutney (?) over both couscous and pasta with a balsamic sauce. The grilled chili pepper was divine. Seriously. I think I made little happy noises through the entire entree. And I know that I seriously considered ducking under the tablecloth to lick the plate. It was that good. The fact that there were different textures and flavors on the same plate was really wonderful. It was a meal I would have loved had I been a vegan or not.
The chef came over to our table and I told him, in all seriousness, that this was the best meal I had eaten since going vegan. His response was an easy “Well, you deserve it.” He talked about how some people just don’t know what to do but that there are tricks to bringing out flavors in vegan cooking. And he said that it used to be that chefs wanted to not deal with people with special food requests but that so many are now learning how to do wonderful things within restrictions.
When it was time for dessert Mark spoke up for me and asked if there were any choices for me. The waiter happily said “Berries? With some chambord?” So yes, I did have a little more than my 1/2 glass of wine but this is about once every year so I feel like my liver can handle it, even with all the RA meds. The berries were ripe and sweet and the liquor was a nice complement. Once again no picture as I just dove in.
We spent a happy three hours at 213 last night. The chef came by again later and we complimented him on his garden. It sits right outside the window where we were sitting. It’s 10 feet wide but probably a few hundred feet long. In fact, during our dinner, one of the waiters went outside to the garden and came in with something green that I am going to guess was herbs. The chef talked about his heirloom tomatoes and summer squash, and we were all impressed at the way “Farm to Table” was really being realized.
We had a wonderful dinner. Was it pricey? Yes. But this was one of the better meals I’ve ever eaten and I’m willing to pay for a truly top notch experience. Plus we went all out and had drinks, appetizers, and desserts too.
Thanks so much to the chef and staff of 213 for making me feel like I was just another diner, not one who created difficulties for them. We will be back!