Sunday, March 15, 2009

Restaurant Review (Dirt Candy)

Last night, after taking in the extravaganza of Lola Montes at Film Forum, my foodie pal Lisa and I headed to Dirt Candy hoping for some yummy vegetarian goodness. Until stumbling upon its 5-star review in L-magazine the night before, I had never even heard of the 3-month old East Village restaurant.

Although I’m an omnivore, I often order vegetarian entrĂ©es so I was more than open to restaurant’s philosophy: “What is dirt candy? Vegetables, of course. When you eat a vegetable you’re eating little more than dirt that’s been transformed by plenty of sunshine and rain into something that’s full of flavor – candy from the dirt.”

We arrived at the tiny bistro a little after 10 p.m. and almost got turned away because we didn’t have a reservation! Fortunately, one of the 9 tables opened up and Lisa and I started our great tradition of menu debates—we usually eat family style so there’s always a fair amount of negotiation with me being the pickier eater of the two.

We eventually settled on:
Portobello mousse with fennel pear compote and mini-toast
Spinach soup with smoked tofu dumplings, lemon confit, and water chestnuts
Carrot risotto with carrot drops and carrot curls (that’s a lot of carrots!!!)
Ricotta fritters with green tomato marmalade, lemon olive oil ice cream

Every single morsel was delicious and an adventure in unexpected tastes and textures. The spinach soup was especially smooth and didn’t taste as healthy as it must have been… and that a good thing! I was skeptical of the carrot risotto, but it’s earthy sweetness never became cloying or tiresome. The chef Amanda Cohen, formerly of Angelica’s Kitchen, Teany, and Heirloom, has this to say: “It’s the carrot’s revenge, a way for the poor maligned root to blow your mind… If you do not feel your entire body fill up with carrot taste while eating this dish, then I’ve failed.” Well, she did not fail, by a long shot!

Oh, they also have a pastry chef Debbie Lee who is doing some amazing stuff of her own. The ricotta fritters were light and super tasty with the tomato relish and lemony goodness of the ice cream. Due to my tragic lack of the chocoholic gene, Lisa was deprived of trying the chocolate cake with sweet potato sorbet and chocolate chili ice cream, but even I had to admit it sounded darn good.

To top it off, our server was informed and attentive. I love when refills of bread and water magically appear before I even know I need them. Lisa was also quite happy that they offered half glasses of wine, some of which were organic.

I really loved Dirt Candy and can’t wait to go back! Please check out their menu and Amanda’s blog at

Kemi Ilesanmi (Turf friend and supporter)
Brooklyn, NY

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