Talk about the bad timing! I’ve been looking to check out Avant Garden, a new vegan restaurant from restaurateur Ravi DeRossi and helmed by chef Andrew D’Ambrosi, for a while. I really loved what chef D’Ambrosi has done at the seafood/cocktail place Bergin Hill in Brooklyn, and was really looking forward to what he was doing with the vegetables this time in East Village. Just a week before my visit, however, I found out that chef D’Ambrosi was leaving the restaurant to pursue a new project in France. The restaurant has still been serving the same food put together by him, but I was obviously bummed at first when I heard of the news and debated whether I should wait until the next chef stepped in. Ultimately, I decided to move forward and try the restaurant anyways, and am really glad I did because most of the dishes were fantastic.
The menu consists mostly of small dishes in three different sections: toasts, cold and hot. I was a huge fan of the tasty carrot harrisa toast that came with apple, whipped tofu and tarragon. I could probably eat this every day for breakfast or lunch, with fresh vegetables that were working beautifully together. Beet tartare with mango and avocado in the cold section was another winner, with fresh beets that worked in harmony with the avocado underneath.
It’s in the hot section where the kitchen was doing a marvelous job, however. Farro risotto with butternut squash and baked apple was probably one of the best risotto dishes I’ve had in the city, with elegant and aromatic flavor and impeccable texture of the farro. I didn’t even know what kind of trick the kitchen pulled off, but the king oyster and maitake mushroom tasted almost like flawless grilled meat, with smoked macadamia and crispy leeks to support the mushrooms. The restaurant was serving only one dessert but I wasn’t complaining; bamboo rice pudding and calamansi lime sorbet was delightful, and showed that vegetable-flavored dessert can absolutely work!
Getting a reservation wasn’t difficult, but the restaurant is relatively tiny, so booking in advance is highly recommended. I really loved the intimate, cozy atmosphere of the dining space with dim lights and minimalist setting, and suggest sitting at the counter in front of the open kitchen to see the chefs in action. The restaurant has a full bar, and I found that a glass or two of red goes well with these vegetable dishes. I’m really glad I visited Avant Garden despite the recent shuffle of the chef; I heard that chef Alex Aparicio from Dovetail (another restaurant well-known for its vegetable-focused cuisine) will be stepping in, and will definitely make a return trip to see how much the kitchen evolves over time.
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
Address: 130 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10009
Telephone: (646) 922-7948