New York City offers distinctive dining opportunities around every corner. And the June 2004 opening of Pure Food and Wine, an organic raw vegan restaurant, was a delightful surprise for those who thought that they’d seen and tried them all.
Restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow partnered with chefs Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis in creating a dining experience that is at once inventive and enlightening. A restaurant with no oven might be inconceivable to many, yet pulling out the gas lines was one of the first steps in kitchen-building at Pure Food and Wine.
The restaurant’s raw cuisine makes use of fresh organic vegetables and fruits, sprouted grains, nuts, seeds and herbs. The dishes, all prepared at heat below 118 degrees F., creatively employ blenders, dehydrators, and marinades. “The prep is enormously time-consuming, as each item is assembled by hand when ordered,” says Melngailis, “and the ingredients always have to be perfect.”
Candles and outdoor lanterns light up the night for al fresco dining, and wooden benches topped with plush, crimson cushions surround the tree-lined garden. From a small bar in the corner of the garden, one might look out upon the lively crowd of diners, or gaze up at the unobstructed view of the Manhattan sky.
For the winter months now upon us, there is the subtly-lit dining room, warmed by Brazilian wood panels and deep vermilion walls. Dark, wooden tables and the signature red hemp cushions lend a Zen-like atmosphere, and a wall of pictures of joyfully waddling ducks will soothe busy New Yorkers and sight-seers alike.
The menu promises “organic ingredients and handcrafted flavors that rejuvenate the body, mind and planet” — a promise matched by the refreshing beauty of the dishes. To start off with the spicy Thai Lettuce Wrap with tamarind chili sauce, mango, Napa cabbage, ginger and cashews is to enjoy a work of edible art. Fresh and vivacious, its crisp, green lettuce jauntily encloses a creamy Napa cabbage filling blended with a tangy, slightly sweet tamarind chili sauce. An equally impressive appetizer is the Tart of Lobster Mushroom, Asparagus and Fava Bean with Orange Zest, prepared with a touch of cardamom in a crisp chayote crust. Then, the main course. Red Beet Ravioli with cashew cheese filling, tarragon and pistachio is a satisfying choice — vibrant and beautiful with its paper-thin, magenta ravioli shells artfully arranged and decorated with a zigzag of yellow pepper purée.
For dessert, your host might recommend the Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart, served with black mint ice cream. Ganache is a French term referring to a smooth mixture of chopped chocolate and heavy cream; this version, however, is purely vegetarian. The intensity of the chocolate is perfectly balanced by the mint ice cream, which is refreshingly smooth, clean and tangy.
Pure Food and Wine, with its peaceful and elegant ambience, its exquisite food, its accommodating staff, and the noble vision of its creators, is a welcome addition to New York’s fine dining scene. Enjoy a meal at this restaurant and see for yourself: Purity can be a luxurious experience.
Pure Food and Wine
54 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003
Pure Food and Wine is open seven days a week
Sunday-Wednesday 5:30pm-11:00pm; Thursday-Saturday 5:30pm-12:00am
65-seat Dining Room
Pure Food and Take Away
Located just around the corner from the restaurant, this casual version offers many signature dishes from the main restaurant’s menu, in addition to smoothies, juices, snacks, and homemade ice creams. The tiny shop also sells books, products and ingredients relating to raw foods.
125 ½ E. 17th St., between Irving Place and 3rd Ave.
Open seven days a week from 11:00am-11:00pm