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Winter 2005 - Act•ionLine

by Edita Birnkrant | Winter 2005

Restaurant Reviews: Melanie's Vegan Eden, Providence RI & Radha, NYC

Restaurant Reviews

Radha: A Vegetarian World on New York’s Lower East Side

In the East Village and Lower East Side of Manhattan, one is never more than a few streets away from a vegetarian restaurant. The opening of Radha in April 2005 has provided yet another oasis for the diner in search of intriguing vegetable-based fare.

Located on the bustling and hip Ludlow Street, Radha is named for the Indian goddess of love and devotion, whose soothing presence might explain the warm glow that envelopes all guests — or perhaps it’s the sunset-colored walls with their rows of crimson and white beaded lamps. Or the sound of flowing water from a wavy waterfall sculpture that’s affixed to one wall. It’s Indian décor with a funky twist, where the diner can peruse a menu comprised of Indian, Asian, Mediterranean and classic vegetarian dishes while a combination of classic Indian and new-age music flows softly through the air.

Most of Radha’s menu is vegan, with vegan items clearly marked as such. The East Indian Dahl soup is rich and creamy, with a perfect blend of smokiness and spice. The Veggie Filet and Couscous appetizer is a hearty soy cutlet, grilled and served on a bed of mixed vegetables and lightly seasoned couscous, topped with homemade tomato sauce. Another good start is the Savory Samosas — a dish of pastry turnovers with curried cauliflower and pea filling and served with a side of Tamarind Date Chutney sauce. The Italian Market salad refreshingly combines seasonal vegetables marinated in lemon juice, artichokes, olive oil and herbs, served with fresh cubed tofu. The variety of dressings includes a remarkable vegan almond recipe.

The list of main courses offers the full range of cuisines that Radha so wonderfully marries. The Mediterranean Delight offers spaghetti pasta with savory “Kofta” balls made of delicately spiced grated cauliflower topped with homemade marinara sauce. The macrobiotic Bowl of Plenty overflows with steamed vegetables and grilled tofu on a bed of organic brown rice, with tahini miso sauce. Asian Temptation mixes stir-fried, seasonal vegetables and grilled tempeh, topped with sweet and sour teriyaki sauce, and served with soba buckwheat noodles or organic brown rice. Then there’s the American Classic Veggie Burger, a homemade vegan burger served on an organic whole-wheat bun with a side of fries. The Barbequed Tofu comes with steamed greens and mashed sweet potatoes.

Desserts at Radha are just as diverse in scope. I sampled the Indian Style Halava of the Day, a semolina-based marvel served in two generous violet-hued scoops, with a drizzle of raspberry sauce. There is the Organic Zucchini Cake with maple walnut frosting, and truly unique are the Vegan Cream Cheese Truffles, filled with roasted pecans and Medjool dates, and rolled in shredded coconut.

Radha offers Sunday Brunch from eleven until three in the afternoon, including a Vegan Tomato Omelette, made from chickpea flour and served with a side of tomato chutney sauce and hash browns, Multi-Grain Pancakes served with blueberry sauce or maple syrup, and Scrambled Tofu served with soy sausage and hash browns, along with such staples as granola and fresh fruits, hot oatmeal, bagels and tofu cream cheese.

As Radha will please fans of the exotic or the traditional, it’s the perfect place to bring a group of people who can’t agree on the kind of food they want. So take the crew downtown, for a world of vegetarianism awaits you at Radha.

Ready to Go?
173 Ludlow Street (between Houston and Stanton Street)
New York, NY 10002
Tel: 212.473.3374

Dinner Hours
Tuesday & Wednesday 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.; Thursday 5 p.m. - 12 a.m;
Friday & Saturday 5 p.m.- 1 a.m.; Sunday 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Brunch: Sunday 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Delivery service and catering available.

The Ocean State's Hidden Gem: Melanie’s Vegan Eden

By Laurel Lundstrom | Winter 2005 - 2006

From the outside, it’s nothing extraordinary. Capped by a small black-and-white striped awning on the outskirts of Brown University, most passing by wouldn’t give the place a second glance. Yet behind this modest façade is a the first-ever vegan restaurant in Providence, its bright purple and green walls reflecting the lifestyle of co-owner and chef, Melanie Burtt, who believes that “life should be entertaining.” Accordingly, Burtt cooks without cookbook or pen, and talks of plans to add a leopard print motif to the kitchen.

Burtt, 24, along with mother and partner Kimberly Burtt, opened Melanie's Vegan Eden in January 2005. The pair's teamwork is putting Rhode Island on the map for the country’s ethical diners.

Burtt, seated in front of an array of glass tile imprints of some of the world’s most revered vegetarians, including Mahatma Gandhi, Gloria Steinem and Albert Einstein, says, “These are some of my heroes.”

The restaurant's five tables were filled throughout my three-hour dining experience. Melanie is visible from the kitchen, from which generous dishes appear on stylish, rectangular plates.

The Magic 8 Ball ($5.50) is a nice start — a dish of soy drumsticks served with home-made ranch dressing. For a chilly day, I’d pick Melanie’s Southwest Soup, a tomato-based chowder topped with a dairy-free sour cream.

Fear and Loathing in Philly ($8.00) is a vegan rendition of a Philly Cheese Steak, spiced and served on homemade bread. Other sandwiches include restyled versions of clubhouse fare: a Cajun Shrimp Salad Sandwich; a Turkey Club ($8.00 & $6.50). A Boy Named Sue is a liberated version of a chicken, artichoke and cheese quesadilla served with salsa, sour cream and fresh greens ($8.00).

The most popular main dish is The Stinky Cheeseman ($11.00). Named after a children’s book, it's a generous soy cutlet sautéed with herbed lemon and garlic, and served with mashed potatoes, gravy, and grape tomatoes seared with garlic and mozzarella. Other dishes feature creamy macaroni, or bowtie pasta tossed with walnut and basil pesto.

For the ice cream lover, the Breakfast of Champions combines soy ice cream, homemade caramel, and walnuts. The Steel Pulse features chocolate brownies crumbled over vanilla soy ice cream. The vegan cheesecake menu includes creamy oreo, pumpkin, and peanut butter chocolate styles.

Ready to Go?
Staff and hours are limited: Melanie’s Vegan Eden is open Wednesdays through Fridays, 1 - 8 p.m.; Saturdays 1 - 7 p.m.; and Tuesdays by appointment.

From Route 95: Take Route 95 North to Providence to the route 195 exit. Take 195 East to exit 2. (Wickenden Street, India Street Exit). At end of exit, take a left onto Wickenden Street. Go through 2 lights and 2 stop signs to a blinking red light. Take left onto Ives Street. Melanie’s is one block from Wickenden on the left. On-street parking is available.

Edita Birnkrant

Act•ionLine Winter 2005

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