The Legumes du Marché at DB Bistro Moderne, as tasty as they are pretty.
I’m assistant managing editor at a Big Fancy-Pants Magazine, and I have the corporate card to prove it. This means that occasionally I have to take people to lunch, at high-end restaurants in Midtown. You know what that means: not a whole lot of options for the token vegan.
Now, you’d think that when you’re paying that much for a meal, you’d have better options than asking them to leave the cheese out of the salad. But at places like these, meat commands respect, the rarer the better; the soups are all made with some kind of animal stock; and maybe they can make the vegetables with oil instead of butter, but doesn’t that get boring after a while? Plus, it always leaves the omnis looking at you like, Is that all vegans can eat?
Recently I had back-to-back lunches in which I had to play well with omnivorous others, and I hit three of the top spots around our office. The first was The Lambs Club (I know, even the name…), a very who’s who in the magazine world kind of place with a huge fireplace. While my lunchmate dined on a lobster roll sandwich (and I apologized to the poor little crustacean in my head), I had a side of corn and a side of lentils. Maybe a salad sans chicken, egg, hanger steak or tuna would have made a better showing, but I just didn’t feel like asking for Item A Minus Pretty Much Everything Besides the Lettuce. And there were French fries, but what’s the fun in that? And then of course, came dessert: none for me. No surprise there.
Next up was DB Bistro Moderne, also elegantly decorated but a little less stuffy-feeling. Aside from there not being much vegan-friendly fare, things like foie gras, country duck pâté, escargot, and rack of lamb were on the menu. And what did my dining companion order? Coq au vin. I know I live in the world at large, and I know I was once a meat eater too, so patience is a virtue, we need to accept people where they are, blah blah blah. But there are certain menu items that are just harder to stomach, so to speak, than others, and the aforementioned ones are at the top of the list. (Note: I know that no animal-based meal is “worse” than any other; all of the animals suffer and die so that people can eat them, end of story. But the younger the animal and the more cruel the practice, the more difficult it is to be compassionate toward the misguided.) I ended up ordering the Legumes du Marché, young garden vegetables with lemon confit and arugula coulis, without the ricotta cheese. The waiter kindly offered to make the plate, which is an appetizer, a little bigger. And it was tasty, I’ll give them that, as well as pretty (see photo above). But having no options was getting more than a little annoying. And having to smile and choke out a “How’s your food?” was quickly becoming the hardest part of my job.
So how surprised was I when I went to Bond 45—billed as “New York’s Best Italian Steakhouse Seafood Restaurant and Prohibition Bar,” with the decor to match—and found a selection of vegan pizzas on the menu??? Well, there were two: Olive Pizza, with arugula, roasted tomato, and basil, and the one I went with, Seven Vegetable Pizza with artichoke, asparagus, broccoli rabe, hen of the woods mushrooms, eggplant, roasted peppers, and zucchini, all served up on an amply sized, thin-crusted dough. And man, was it good! I was truly shocked. Of course, there was a piece of mozzarella on the side of my plate that looked suspiciously like dairy cheese, so I pushed it away. But the pizza was delicious. So if it is truly vegan (is it just me, or do you think that chefs are in the kitchen laughing their heads off about fooling the unsuspecting vegan too?) and you have to take a bunch of corporate omnis out to lunch in Midtown, I highly, highly recommend Bond 45. The pizza was so good, in fact, that I took the rest with me and finished it as a midafternoon snack.
Bond 45 also has a huge antipasto bar, which is on your left as you enter, plus the usual sides; that said, I don’t know if the vegetables are prepared in oil or butter. There are also French fries, fitting with the steakhouse vibe, and I guess you could get the bruschetta without the cheese. But for once it was nice to be able to order something just as it appeared on the menu, without any questions about preparation or exclusion requests.
Not that I have a problem doing that; my ethics trump ease every time. That said, when you live in NYC and can walk into 50-plus veggie restaurants and never have to ask a question, you get a little spoiled. It would be nice to be able to experience that when I eat at a restaurant that doesn’t specifically cater to us, too, you know? Hope springs eternal.
Have you had a good experience at a restaurant that’s not outwardly veg-friendly? Please let us know in the comments!