Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Green Zebra

Most of the time when I think of vegetarian food, I think of a lot of salads, mushrooms, tofu, and a lot of very bad fake meat. In a word, boring. Green Zebra is a vegetarian restaurant but the food that they serve doesn't fall under the boring category at all. While it does serve a lot of salad greens, mushrooms, and cheese, their food is well seasoned, inventive and they don't even pretend to imitate meat. Located in a storefront in Westtown, the place has a minimalist modern design and uses downtempo electronica for background music. On Tuesday nights, they do a tasting series. The series started featuring a specific vegetable, it then added spices and drinks. The series for the winter features the cuisine of a specific country. On the night that I went, they were featuring the cuisine of Spain which is what I ordered. Before I ordered though, the amuse bouche came out. It was Lemon Popcorn. While I will eat almost anything, I don't care for popcorn. To me, it tastes like styrofoam. If I am out and served something I don't care for, I will try it to see if it has been done in a way that allows me to like it. As it sounds this popcorn was very lemony. It also had butter, salt, and I will guess sugar because it also tasted a little sweet. It tasted very good and while it still felt like I was chewing styrofoam, the taste took my mind away from that. I could eat this popcorn at any time. The first course of the Spanish menu (of four) was essentially a salad. It was a Manchego and Spiced Almond Salad with grilled greens (radicchio), marinated olives, crispy capers, and sherry vinaigrette. It was tart, smoky, spicy, and very crisp. The flavor was very bright and changes the idea that salads are bland and boring. My tongue was excited and I anxiously awaited my next course.The next course was a Gratin 'Espanola' it was kind of a cross between a Spanish tortilla and Au Gratin Potatoes. The thinly sliced potatoes and eggs were topped with charred espellette peppers, and was served with Pata Cabra Goat Cheese, Preserved Lemon, and Parsley. The flavors for this were also very bright, spicy and tart and it was served with a Balsamic Reduction. It was exciting, very good, and the lack of meat was not missed.The final savory course was a stew. It was a chickpea potaje containing herb roasted potatoes and a spicy sauce with grilled pita bread on the side. When it was served, a saffron yogurt was poured over the stew adding a very nice floral taste and aroma. the beans and potatoes were well cooked, the sauce had a nice tang to it and the bread provided a good way to sop up the extra sauce.After such a good meal, I was excited for dessert. Unfortunately, while it was good, it really didn't compare to the rest of the meal. It started with a Blood Orange Crema Catalan and while it tasted good, I am not exactly sure what it was. It was served cold but it wasn't ice cream. Texturally, it was between ice cream and pudding. On top as a hazelnut tuille cookie and it was surrounded with pomegranate cells and thyme sauce. Everything went together well and it was a good finish to a great meal.

If it isn't already obvious, I really liked this meal. If all vegetarian meals could be this good, I could easily eat vegetarian more often. I really like this tasting series and if nothing else, I will definitely make it back for another of these meals.

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