Seasoned Vegan, a vegan restaurant owned by mother Brenda Beener and her son Aaron. They are solely dedicated to bringing plant based, organic, trans-fat free cuisine to Harlem. Their motto is: “the food you love, veganized.”
55 St Nicholas Ave at 113th St, New York, NY 10026 (Just north of Central Park)
Parking: Is on the Street. We went at 8pm on a Thursday, so it was busy, but we found a spot within 5 minutes.
When we arrived, there was a 45 minute wait. It was a Thursday and with the exception of Friday, on weekdays they are open from 5-10 pm. It was packed. We waited outside, with the other diners (there is a small place to wait inside, just as you enter, as well, but it was occupied). We chatted and perused the menu, so time passed fairly quickly. The wait ended up only being 1/2 anhour. We were happy.
The Seasoned Vegan seats about 50 and has a lovely bar, at which to dine. It felt cozy upon entering. It seems to be at the threshold of small to medium-sized restaurant space. I was there for dinner, so there was warm lighting, and nice back-lighting from behind the head rests of the dining booth seating. The walls, at first glace are covered in a textured wallpaper, but at closer inspection you can see it is paper bags! Nice touch. There are sustainable materials used throughout the restaurant and a clever "penny-mosaic" floor. The color scheme is mostly in earth-tones, with little splashes of color. The tables are fairly close, typical "NY café style" close; the tunes playing do help to mask some of the sound from dining neighbors.
Service came with a smile, but it was terribly sloooow...When we were seated, my dining guest was offered a glass of water with a promise by the wait person to return with a glass for me. This never happened. I had to request a glass later and a fork, as my guest was missing one. It took quite some time for the waitress to arrive to take our order. This was the case regarding service for us and our neighbors for the entirety of the meal. By the end, I got clever and ordered desert and the check at the same time!
(There are also brunch & late hours menus)
Vegans are vegan for a myriad of reasons. The restaurants that I review are not always going to suit everyone's criteria (including my own). ...but it is amazing to have the variety available for us all! I review these items for what they attempt to be and what they are, not for my own personal dietary beliefs within the vegan community. So please keep that in mind as you read my review.
It is not to bring to you the purest raw low-fat, hygienic vegan meal. I believe their goal here is to bring a tasty, vegan, soul-food option to those who either normally eat meat or who are vegan, but miss the taste/texture of meat or the comforts of "soulful home-cooking". I myself do not prefer to eat large amounts of nuts, or soy (fermented or not), but as an occasional, novel experience, I am fine with it and from a humane animal treatment perspective, I certainly am down with it!
The entrée came with a house salad. Given what I targeted as the goal of this restaurant, I did not think it was worth it to spend money on the salad options to review. I am certain they are good, but that is not the highlight of this establishment. The house salad that I did have, was probably one of my favorite things of the items we ordered. It was fresh and the vinaigrette dressing was light and yummy.
Nailed it! I would recommend this item. The only critique I have, is that texture-wise, it was a wee bit too smooth, lacking in texture. Fish is a funny thing and if you are trying to make a mock fish item, it messes with one's mind a little, for the texture to be off. The presentation of our dish was a 10. As I mentioned before, it was the restaurant was packed and I wonder if they were having some staffing issues. The ladies next to us commented that the presentation was inconsistent, as theirs were missing the dollop of "spicy mayo". Regardless, for our dish...the flavor however, was perfect!
Just to demonstrate how different tastes can be. The ladies next to me could not stomach the Nori Roll. Since I didn't order it, I don't have a photo of what it looked like at the restaurant that evening. Theirs was not as vibrant, nor was it plated as artistically, as the pic shown here, but it did look quite nice. Our dining neighbors offered up a taste of it, because they had no desire to finish them. It is made from almond meat, tomatoes, onions and greens. It is served with a peanut sauce, that the ladies declared flavorless. I have a peanut allergy, so I cannot confirm, but I ate a bite of the roll, sans death sauce (for me!) Now, they said the roll was flavorless as well, which I found to have a good deal of flavor, so... I think their real issue was texture. They were unable to get past the texture. They felt that with the use of almonds, there was a need for the roll to be bound with something wet, like avocado. Even though it was wrapped in Nori seaweed paper, once bitten into the roll would crumble. It had a little taste of turmeric, which I love and was more "raw" tasting, than the "tuna" roll... I really liked it! They were shocked.
meh...it was a little lacking in flavor. It seemed to be missing the tartness that cheddar cheese has; perhaps it needed a little lemon? Who knows, the texture was fairly good, coloring lovely and pleasing to the eye, it wasn't horrible. I have read review where others have loved it, but the taste for me somehow missed the mark.
They were good and authentic tasting. The dish had the slightest twinge of spicy to it, but I still missed my bottle of hot sauce (or even the old school apple cider and peppers sauce). # Ifwegonnadothis.... They were a bit salty for my tastes, but I am probably an exception here. They definitely had less salt than your standard soul-food greens!
seasoned hand-cut fries
I did not enjoy these myself, but the ladies that were sitting at the table next to us offered their seasoned opinion. They were excited at the description and figured that this was an item that is tough to get too wrong. When it arrived, they said that it tasted like fish. The wait person offered that it was fried in the same oil as the "fish". She took it back and said she would speak with the chef. Apparently, that was the end of that. She never returned with a word nor a replacement.
These BBQ riblets were sweet and well-seasoned. They had a color and a taste that reminded me of ribs from Chinatown. I think it was a 5 Spice seasoning that did it. The ribs did not have the stringiness of real rib meat, but aside from that, they were quite close. Apparently these "riblets" are created from lotus root. Very unusual.
There were other dishes on the menu, like "Crawfish", that I did not get to try. They are made from yams! (see below)
Lemon crusted "fish" steak
Bingo! This was perfect! If you are a vegan who misses fish, or a carnivore, who for whatever reason, has decided to try other alternatives, this dish gets it right. The menu lists it as a broiled fermented soy-fish steak. I have no idea what a fermented soy fish steak is, but it tasted authentic. It seemed like it had been marinated in a well seasoned broth that the "fish" then took over the taste of. It was a little herby, a little sweet, a wee bit fishy. The fishy part, kind of weirded me out, but I figured it came from the seaweed. I believe there was seaweed wrapped around the fish steak, giving it the look of a halibut steak or some similar fish. The texture, was fairly close and it even had the stringiness of denser fish meats. I find the soy to be too heavy in general for me, but it I believe other would find it to be fantastic! No need to give up your Fish Friday with this one.
The Raw vegan
Raw zucchini Mac
Well, the first problem, is that I ordered the Raw Lasagna! I believe what arrived was the Raw Zucchini Mac. @ $14 a plate there is no way I can justify this one. The cashew cheese was nice; it had a hint of dill, but this dish was literally a bowl of zoodles (which I love, but...). Perhaps if there was a little effort placed into presentation, I could see it. I just wasn't feeling this one @ $14.
They have a small menu of wine and beer. I don't drink typically, so I will be completely un-useful in reviewing alcoholic bevies.
They did have smoothies and shakes as well. I was going to get the ginger beer, one of my favs, but our dining neighbors told us to steer clear of it. We did and my guest opted for the Berry Lemonade Smoothie. It was a gorgeous color and tasty.
I overheard that the ice cream was fantastic, with a bit of a coconut flavor. Unfortunately they were out of most of their "assorted desserts" by the time we arrived, so it was cupcakes for us.
Cinnamon Chocolate Cupcake
OK...yum... This was amazing! I am a desert person, so if they got this wrong, we were gonna have a problem! Dessert is like the wedding dress at the end of the fashion show. The taste of this one was light and subtle, and in my opinion, not overly sweetened. It was chocolate, but not a rich chocolate taste; it was more subtle. The texture was bangin' -- fluffy, and moist, but not oily. The Mexican twist of the cinnamon was a great touch. The layered, almost adobe style shingles on the cupcake were fun and tasty! If this was their signature cupcake I read about, then it was made from "organic flour, beet sugar, no alkaline baker’s cocoa and organic Scotch peppers".