I think the thing I like most about Dirt Candy is it’s not trying to be anything other than what it is, a vegetarian restaurant. I feel like when I eat a lot of vegan or vegetarian food it’s trying to be a meat substitute, but here the vegetables really shine on their own. Each dish is created around a specific vegetable and turned into something that will blow your taste buds away. The food is both incredibly creative and just really satisfying. It’s the kind of place you can really take a “carnivore” and show him or her that not every meal requires a slab of meat. Bear in mind though, the restaurant is really tiny and books up about three weeks out, so make sure to make a reservation. It’s more than worth it though, because the food here is really extraordinary. Whether you’re vegetarian or not, it’s the kind of place you want to go to for every meal.
Jalapeño Hush Puppies: These are amazing. Though they stray from a more traditional hush puppy, they are salty and sweet fried goodness bearing a closer resemblance to funnel cake balls. They also have the right amount of heat from the jalapeños. This can come with regular or vegan maple butter and both are good. Make sure these are on the table.
Tomato: This is a tomato cake with smoked feta, cherry tomato leather and spring herb purée. I ordered this vegan, because my friend who I was eating with was vegan, and it tasted as good as I’d imagine it would taste with real feta. The tofu held the smokiness well and had a nice texture and taste against a really flavorful tomato cake. The cherry tomatoes that topped the dish were really fresh and added a nice flavor and texture complement to the rest. Each layer really brought something different to produce a really nice salty/sweet combination. Even the tiny garnish/salad of basil to the side was good with dehydrated yellow tomatoes that had a nice little crunch.
Here is a link to the Dirt Candy website and blog that describes how chef Amanda Cohen came up with the idea for tomato cake: http://www.dirtcandynyc.com/?p=4914#more-4914
Corn: This dish is composed of stone ground grits made with corn cream, pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche and a tempura poached egg on top. The grits/corn combination is fantastic; it tastes a lot like a mix between grits and creamed corn, which is what you’d expect from the description. The tempura coating on the egg was really nice and the egg itself was cooked right. Though less runny than a typical poached egg, the yolk was still runny despite being fried. I think this was for the better because there was nothing to really soak up a runny yolk. My only complaint was that I felt like the sprinkled cheese really didn’t add anything. For possibly the first time, I feel like a dish would have been better off without cheese crumbles. Overall though, I was really impressed that I didn’t feel weighed down by this afterward. I’ll definitely be coming back for this again!
Chard: This is chard gnocchi with grilled chard, garlic granola and a drunken fig jam. I only had a bite of this dish, but my friend really liked it.
Popcorn Pudding: This was a salted caramel corn pudding with salted caramel popcorn on the side, ordered vegan. The pudding itself had a great texture and nice sweet and salty balance, and the popcorn was some of the best caramel coated popcorn I’ve had. I particularly enjoyed dipping the popcorn in the pudding and eating the two together.
Dirt Candy: 430 East 9th Street New York, NY ($$-$$$)