It’s not often that my wife Jun and I go to a vegan restaurant, although Jun does incorporate plenty of vegetables into her cooking at home. One of her friends recently started dating a vegan, so when we were looking for a double date spot for dinner, I was tasked with finding a vegan restaurant. New York City already has some outstanding vegetarian restaurants that I had visited before (for instance, see my reviews here https://kenscale.com/2015/12/06/avant-garden/ and here https://kenscale.com/2016/06/14/nix/) but I wanted to find a new place. Ladybird, a vegan cocktail and small plates restaurant behind the same restaurateur who owns Avant Garden that I very much liked, had long been on my radar so I figured this is the ideal time to check it out. The overall experience wasn’t too bad, although there were certainly some misses that Jun and I wished we hadn’t ordered.
I certainly give credit to the creativity behind some dishes at Ladybird. As a playful imitation of the pork buns popularized by David Chang’s Momofuku empire, the buffalo maitake buns were quite fantastic with the robust texture of mushroom and the spicy kick of buffalo sauce working surprisingly very well together. Baby corn with chickpea parmesan, almonds and Calabrian chili was another very delicious dish that Jun and I wished we had more of. The signature dish at Ladybird seems to be one of the vegetable fondue options, and we chose the one with mushroom and onion. When you get the fondue, give it a little bit of time before it warms up; afterwards, you can dip a variety of vegetables into the fondue for a pretty nice dish to share for a large party.
Other dishes were, however, largely forgettable, such as the cauliflower toast with cauliflower puree and balsamic glaze that failed to highlight cauliflower’s unique texture, or the fried mac and cheese that came out pretty flat despite our high expectations. Fried eggplant with marinara sauce was serviceable, but then as Jun pointed out it was hard not to like a fried vegetable. If you have a room for dessert, the dessert flight (consisting of chocolate and peanut butter mousse, strawberry chessecake and macerated fresh barriers) was pretty delightful and worth checking out, as my sweet tooth wife approvingly savored these combinations that were not too sweet the way I like.
Getting a reservation at Ladybird wasn’t too difficult although the fairly small dining space got quickly packed after we sat down so if you want to book during prime time, I would still recommend booking a table in advance. The cute décor of the restaurant on the quieter side of East Village will certainly help if you are looking for an intimate date night. There is full bar with a vegetarian-based cocktail list; we just ordered a bottle of French red wine to share but it seems like the restaurant is pretty putting the cocktails out there for the diners to try. Ladybird has some dishes that are worth trying, but on our visit it felt more like a good, casual date spot for sharing some snacks with cocktails if you are taking out someone with dietary restrictions.
KenScale: 7.75/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.75/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 7.5/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 111 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10009
Telephone: (917) 261-5524