There are many things I enjoy about omusubi, Japanese rice balls with goodies within. They are handheld, small, and contain the flavor punch of an entire meal… and, lastly, they are not a meal. I had a dinner reservation on the horizon, after all. At Hanamizuki, a pretty cafe near the commuter rail, they’ve got a soothing space with vegan omusubi options. They also let you know which soups have fish stock and which vegan-seeming omusubi have hidden animal pieces. This is always well-appreciated! My great rice ball bites: The Wakame: with wakame-seaweed, yukari (seasoning made from Red Shiso leaves), and shisonomi and shibazuke pickles. And the Ume: with ume-plum pickles, salted seaweed, nozawana and dill pickles. Perfect bites for a salty fix!
I want to take a second to acknowledge the high-end vegan growth spurt New York City is having. I’ve long criticized her for lacking vegan options compared to smaller cities and locales I’ve traveled to. She was stuck in a rut, similar to new vegetarians who haven’t yet expanded their palate. Packaged mock meats and their inherent homage to meat-centric dishes and ideals with thoughtless piles of vegetable reigned supreme. Now now, things have changed… and it’s a busy time for a vegan food blogger.
Well-accoladed chefs and restaurateurs are embracing plant-based food at an exciting (understatement) rate. James Beard awarded Brooks Headly’s Superiority Burger, Ravi DeRossi’s mind-blowing expanding vegan plight… Avant Garden and now veganized Mother of Pearl (which will be my next post!) Michelin-starred chef John Fraser is opening an all-veg restaurant by Union Square soon. Jean-Georges Vongerichten will open the all-veg (no mock meats, no veggie burgers: “Vegetables themselves, mushrooms, grains, roots, will be the stars.” Imagine that!) ABCV early next year and now… Matthew Kenney’s 00+Co in the East Village, an anticipated eatery I watched from afar with great anticipation…
We sat in cramped communal tables in the bustling space to try this new all-vegan high-end pizza spot. Here were the high points… and mid points. Our choices: The Almond Cream Potatoes Capers Shiitake Anchovies Oregano Baby Kale and The Tomato Farro-fennel Sausage Cashew Mozzarella.
First, the Tomato Farro-fennel Sausage Cashew Mozzarella
This was a scrumptious basic pizza. Soft, pillowy 00 flour crust that is downright perfect, as it should be since it’s the eatery’s namesake. The sauce, delicious with thick coverage and flavor. The farro-fennel sausage is salty and delightful. This grain helps contribute a crumbly, panfried texture that is so satisfying. It is these plant-based tricks that I appreciate. Not processed, not packaged. Just a grain. The cheese was more like a cream drizzled atop. I expected substantial nut cheese dollops with a mellow tang. Relatedly, the menu’s cheese plate was not available. So maybe they were out of the good stuff. Overall, it was a great pizza.
Next, the Almond Cream Potatoes Capers Shiitake Anchovies Oregano Baby Kale
This is one salty, briney pizza! Which is great for a few bites. The downfall was that the almond cream nor the potatoes offer any relief or balance. So it becomes a bit one-note. The fresh greens are another opportunity for nuanced flavor. But in their raw state, they offer little to the flavor mix. A bitter green or a sauteed green might serve the pizza better… or a thicker nut cheese with some tang. Again, the nut cheese lacked in sharpness and delivered a pizza aesthetic only.
The crust is certainly a star at 00+Co. I’ll be back to try the other pizzas soon…
Lastly, the semolina cake we split for dessert had great flavor but was pretty dense.
See you later, East Village.