I’ve been to a lot of 4-Course Vegan dinners over the years, and each one is better than the last. If you’ve never been, you don’t know what you’re missing! Chef Matteo is a vegan artisan, crafting gourmet delights from organic, seasonal ingredients, and compassion runs through everything he does.
Matteo shops, preps, cooks, serves, busses and cleans throughout each dinner, all by himself. It’s a lot of work, but the pace lends itself to a leisurely experience. And yes, that’s an avocado on his forearm.
After 9 years, however, 4-Course Vegan will close its doors in January, when Matteo and his trusty sidekick, Winston, pack up and move to the West Coast, where they’ll serve his specialties from their very own kitchen, right in the middle of wine country. (Road trip!)
The fair Winston usually greets visitors at the door and barks orders at Matteo throughout the night, but this past Friday he had a bum leg, so he observed calmly from the comfort of his cushion.
Until then, Matteo will be serving up dinner as usual on Saturday nights in his Williamsburg pad: a spare yet cozy space with several hammock chairs up front (with which a friend of mine is obsessed). Because seats are going so fast, though, Matteo will serve up his deliciousness on the occasional Friday night, too. In the past I’ve waited for the menu to come out on Monday before making a reservation for the following Saturday (you can sign up for the newsletter by emailing here), but if you don’t reserve a spot now, you might not get in at all.
The menu speaks for itself.
I went this past weekend, my first time on a Friday, and instead of the usual four tables seating about 40 people, there was one table for 12. Matteo’s dinners are always intimate (and BYOB), but this was especially nice—it was actually possible to talk to everyone there. That’s the other nice thing about Matteo’s dinners: They’re not just for vegans. Everyone from vegetarians to curious omnis to plain-old foodies go, and with good reason: The food is exquisite.
The conversation ran the gamut from vegan weddings to New York transplants to the best new shows on HBO.
The meal started off with Matteo’s infamous Cashew Cheese Ravioli With Basil Puree—a freebie, as it were, making his 4-course dinners 5 courses in actuality. The starter is light yet delectable, slightly rich but fresh at the same time, and Matteo makes and ferments the cashew cheese himself—thank the gods for people who can cook like this!
Course 0: Cashew Cheese Ravioli With Basil Puree.
Our first official course was something that had immediately gotten my attention when I saw the menu: Chestnut Soup With Salsify and Cranberry Relish. Anything with chestnuts is okay by me, and this soup was thick and delicious, and the garnish added just a hint of sweetness and tartness.
I need Matteo’s recipe for Chestnut Soup With Salsify and Cranberry Relish.
Next up was the Roasted Beet Salad With Micro Greens and Pine Nut Butter. I love beets, too—it was super cold out that night, so it was perfect weather for all these hearty root vegetables—and their earthiness was balanced perfectly by the crunch and tang of the greens and the slight richness of the pine nut butter.
Roasted Beet Salad With Micro Greens and Pine Nut Butter is the perfect salad for a cold winter’s night.
The main event was the Spiced-Sunflower Croquette With Sage Polenta and Shiitake Gravy. Could this meal get any better?! On a beautifully arranged plate complete with edible flowers, the croquette disc sat, so inviting, atop the polenta square, in a sea of mushroom gravy and topped with spiced popcorn. (If you ever want to see Winston roll over, show him popcorn. Even an injured leg couldn’t stop him from log-rolling for his favorite treat Friday night.)
Where to begin? Spiced-Sunflower Croquette With Sage Polenta and Shiitake Gravy.
Then came dessert: Pumpkin Cheesecake Tart With Lemon Verbena and Vanilla Sour Cream. Wowee!!! I’m not a sour cream fan, but the tartness of the topping was a nice counterpoint to the creaminess of the pumpkin—this was the most delicate, elegant pumpkin pie I’ve ever tasted—and the flaky, slightly crunchy crust.
Matteo’s Pumpkin Cheesecake Tart With Lemon Verbena and Vanilla Sour Cream will knock your socks off.
So 4-Course Vegan will soon come to an end, and it’s our loss. Pick a date now (there’s no time to wait for the menu) and RSVP, lest you miss the boat entirely. Dinner is $40 per person, and reservations can be made by email or by calling 718-599-5913.
The banner says it all.
Check back soon for my Q&A with Matteo, when he’ll talk about shutting his doors after almost a decade, cooking vegan for African warriors, and what’s next for him and the wonder pup.