Just Add Cheese is having a bit of a vegan week this week. Not on purpose, just coincidentally. Maybe the excessive Turkey binging last Thursday had something to do with it? I don’t know. Anyways, my vegan friend Laney and I had been meaning to try out True Bistro, the new vegan restaurant that just opened a couple weeks ago in Teele Square of Somerville. After discussing it for a week, and finally finding a night that worked, talks of our vegan dinner date had gotten around work and curiosity ensued. Before we knew it our dinner date turned into a dinner party. (Which I was totally psyched about because more people = more dishes for me to try mwahaha.)
Our group consisted of vegans, vegetarians and a few omnivores (like me!) who were all curious to see what the upscale vegan eatery had in store for us.
Anyways, I’ll get right into it….
Starting with me vegan beer: Blanche de Chambly. It’s a wheat beer from Quebec, similar to a Blue Moon or an Alagash White. It was the perfect libation as I deciphered the menu. And this time when I say deciphered, I mean deciphered. The menu was pretty hefty, and everything on it (from the wine, the beer, the starters to desserts) was 100% vegan, made completely free of any animal products. Needless to say there was a few words on there I didn’t understand (ie. Seitan, Gardein, Phyllo, Pave…. what is this? A test?) but luckily the menu had an index on the back.
Once we started figuring out what everything was, we starting to realize that everything sounded pretty damn good. We decided to share a few appetizers to start. First to arrive was the ravioli filled with roasted butternut squash and caramelized onion, topped in a sherry cream sauce. It was just as amazing as it sounds. In fact it was so amazing it was pretty much devoured before I could get my camera out of my bag. The sauce wasn’t too heavy and the flavors were perfect. Bravo!
Next we tried the black bean plantain torte, served with salsa verde and sour cream.
Ugh so good! The plantains weren’t too sweet and the crunchy top layer adding a great textural element. We also ordered the salad made with granny smith apples, pomegranate, cashew cheese, walnuts and raw cider vinaigrette.
It was phenomenal, probably one of my favorite salads to date. I’m also going through a serious obsession with pomegranates right now (hey they’re in season!) so this was perfect for me. And coming from a girl who likes her cheese to be actual cheese, this cashew cheese was pretty legit. I wouldn’t really say it tasted like cheese, it was more of a whipped topping similar to cream cheese that had a nutty after-taste. And I liked it!
Then came our entrees. I’l be honest, I didn’t get a chance to photograph them all but here were some of our favorites…along with a few definitions of what they are 😉
The Phyllo Purse had seitan*, quince, roasted squash, mole and arugula all wrapped inside a crunchy pastry shell…. which sort of looked like a mini purse. It looked like the vegan version of a monster-sized empanada. And it tasted like one. It might have been my favorite entree actually. Why am I so in love with all things crunchy and fried?
Next up was the Seared Spaetzle with fennel sausage, tomato, lacinato kale, kalamata olives, chives and terragon. It tasted like something you would order anywhere; a hearty Italian pasta with lots of veggies and some great-tasting faux sausage.
I had the Grilled Gardein* cutlet which came with warm panzanella, oregano oil and garlicky green beans. It pretty much looked like grilled chicken and tasted like grilled chicken, but apparently it was a bunch of plant ingredients mixed with some soy and wheat protein that were magically transformed into a chicken-like object. I liked it, and to be honest I didn’t really mind that it wasn’t real chicken. I’m willing to bet money you could fool a lot of people with this “Grilled Gardein.”
And just when we were starting to feel full, we remember dessert!
Our meal at True Bistro was a huge success to say the least. Everyone loved it, including all the non-vegans. It was a great display of creative vegan cuisine at it’s finest and our service was also excellent. And although the food tends to be a little more upscale in comparison to other vegan joints, the prices are not. Overall I was majorly impressed. But don’t worry fellow foodies, I’m not ready to make a full time commitment to eating an animal-free diet anytime soon, in fact I’m leaving for Puerto Rico tonight and anticipate a weekend filled with lots-o-pork 🙂
And now a couple references to help interpret some of those entrees…
*Seitan is what vegans refer to as “wheat meat.” It’s made from cooked gluten, which is one of the concentrated proteins in wheat. It’s essentially a meatless steak, that looks/feels/tastes like steak, but obviously is not. According to history, it dates back to ancient China and is believed to have been developed in the 7th century for Mahayana Buddhists monks who are strict vegetarians
*Gardein is a tasty, plant-based food that has a meaty texture. It’s made from a combination of soy, wheat and pea protein, vegetables and ancient grains. Free of cholesterol, trans fats, saturated fats, animal and dairy products, it is a good source of fiber and is also low fat.