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Summer 2005 - Act•ionLine

by Edita Birnkrant | Summer 2005

New York City’s Pukk: Vegetarian Thai in the East Village

Since the debut of Pukk in January 2005, vegetarians can relax and enjoy a Thai feast without asking about the sauce or stock in the classic vegetable dishes. Pukk — Thai for “vegetable” — wants people know that vegetarian food is exciting. And for starters, there’s something exciting about entering the first entirely vegetarian Thai restaurant in New York City.

The glass doors offer a full view to a sleek, 36-seat restaurant with modern-Zen décor. The white-tiled floor and dark wood tabletops contrast with green gel seating pads to create a distinctly spa-like ambience. Recessed lighting in the ceilings and floors combines with flickering candle light from each table. A gold, reclining Buddha figure, suspended from the ceiling and bathed in yellow-green light, is a symbol for the traditional-meets-modern style that Pukk creates in both atmosphere and cuisine.

It works. The service is impeccably timed, the dishes are beautifully presented, yet the prices are remarkably reasonable.

“Eat More Greens,” the menu suggests, and one of the owners is happy to reinforce the idea: “Green is good for your health,” says Tanya. “You can still have spicy, tasty food.” To that end, Pukk’s menu includes a few Asian vegetables not normally associated with Thai restaurants. When customers come to Pukk before learning that it’s a vegetarian restaurant, Tanya tells them, “Try the food; if you don’t like it, don’t pay.” And Pukk’s variety of faux chicken, duck, and salmon dishes, in addition to unique items such as Tofu Water Chestnut, is winning these visitors over.

A highly recommended appetizer is the Soft Green Rice Crêpe, with basil and mint marinara sauce, served on a bed of raw cabbage. The crêpes melt in the mouth, their tangy filling cooled by the smooth mint marinara.

A small order of the Sautéed Assorted Vegetables in Mushroom Sauce offers delicately cooked vegetables in a rich sauce. The Thai Papaya Salad, with young papaya and carrot topped with chile-lime vinaigrette, is tangy, crisp, and fresh, with a spicy bite. A cool compliment is the sweet and creamy Thai Iced Tea, made with soymilk.

Perhaps the best-known of Thai noodle dishes is Pad Thai. Here, it appears with smoked tofu, radish, scallion, bean sprout and peanut, with a choice of mock chicken, duck, beef or tofu. Pukk’s version is light and refreshing to taste, yet at the same time satisfying and supremely authentic.

The Perfect Protein Duck, with chickpeas, radish, onion, pepper, peanuts and bean sprouts, is an explosion of flavors and colors. The seitan-based faux-duck is both tender and chewy, with a rich, sweet-and-sour tamarind sauce. The soft and crisp textures of the dish merge perfectly.

A spectacular addition to Vegetarian dining in New York City, Pukk will have diners returning again and again to “eat more greens” and experience its modern charm. Highly recommended.

71 First Avenue (between 4th & 5th Street)
New York, NY 10003
Tel: 212.253.2741 or 212.253.2742
Pukk is open seven days a week, with a Lunch Menu offered daily.
Monday-Thursday 11:30am - 11pm | Friday-Sunday 11:30am - 11:45pm

Edita Birnkrant

Act•ionLine Summer 2005

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