I am absolutely obsessed with Blossom Du Jour, a vegan take-out restaurant near work on 43rd and 9th. I almost look forward to late nights in the office, because that means I can order a bowl of Blossom’s awesome tomato lentil soup and karmic kale salad. In fact, when I was walking back home today, I was very tempted to trek out to Chelsea and order take-out at another Blossom branch, even though this is nowhere near my East Village address.
So when I saw a Groupon deal for Blossom on Carmine, a sit-down restaurant in the West Village that’s part of the Blossom empire, I was all over it. I recruited my vegan enthusiast partner-in-crime Cat to save the date for a vegan dinner at Blossom. Of course, the one day that Ruoxi the hardcore carnivore was free for dinner was the day we had scheduled vegan night, so he too joined us as a very reluctant third wheel.
The restaurant itself felt like a neighborhood joint with a nice ambiance, a quality enhanced by all the atmospheric candle mood lighting that surrounded us. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of couples on dates and small group dinners taking place around us. If you ever wanted to make a good impression on an attractive vegan, then taking her here would be the way to do it. And yes, I used the pronoun “her,” a lot of chicks happen to be vegan. If you ever attend some sort of vegan or vegetarian food festival, you will be surrounded by tons of white chicks.
We had scouted the menu out beforehand and decided to avoid any “mock meat” creations. I’m not opposed to seitan or soy by any means, but it’s highly unlikely that a vegan chik’n wrap can completely measure up to a real chicken wrap. I wanted to avoid unfair comparisons like this and felt original vegetable creations would allow for more objectivity.
I thought the vegetable dishes we ordered were really well done. The brussels sprouts, while sauteed, still retained a fresh crispness about the leaves, and the garlic seasoning provided a lot of nice flavor. The kale and baby bok choy were grilled, and the slight char and the sweet honey glaze went extremely well together.
My favorite “vegetable” by far were the french fries. I know this is totally the biggest vegan cop-out order, comparable to proudly ordering a California roll or chicken teriyaki at a sushi restaurant. But there are tons of regular restaurants that mess up fries, and Blossoms’ are some of the best. Thin, golden and perfectly crispy, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Things started to get a little more interesting with the arrival of the buffalo risotto croquettes. This dish was the first that we ordered that had more conspicuous roots in a meat-inspired dish. Clearly one might draw some parallels between this and the infamous buffalo chicken wing, but capturing the spicy spirit in an arancini ball, which had no obvious ties to chicken meat, avoided the comparisons. The chewy texture was extremely satisfying, and the rice was super concentrated with buffalo sauce. It was definitely one of my favorite non-vegetable items from Blossom.
I was looking forward to the tagine dish–the warm, intoxicating Middle Eastern stew is something I love. But the tagine at Blossom didn’t have that same soulful warmth about it. Things just didn’t seem to be cohesive. Usually in a tagine the chicken and the surrounding sauces seem to melt into one another, but the elements in Blossom’s version seemed very separate, like let’s technically execute a tagine, but let’s not edit and experiment to make sure the spices and the textures are in harmony.
The most challenging dish was probably the mushroom pizza, and that was because of the vegan “cheese” that was used on top of it. I think they used daiya cheese, a vegan cheese substitute made from cassava and arrowroot, which are two ingredients I’ve never heard of before. And clearly these unfamiliar and foreign qualities were front and center in the flavor of the pizza. All that I could think about was how this “cheese” tasted nothing like real mozzarella cheese. I tasted something nutty, sometimes a little bbq sauce, which is not what mozzarella tastes like. Everything else–the crust and the vegetables and sauce–were excellent, but the daiya flavors were so strange and obtrusive. If you’re down with daya, though, then this pizza is for you.
Luckily dinner ended on a high note. We ordered the blueberry bread pudding, which was fantastic. It was crispy, with the texture and pleasing warmth of a freshly cooked waffle. The citrus notes from the lemon provided some bright layers to the dish, and I liked how it wasn’t so sweet–such balance and thoughtful preparation all around. While not every dish hit it out of the park, I did appreciate how the dishes were original and well-executed. Blossom didn’t sit on its laurels knowing that its captive vegan clientele had limited dining options and so it didn’t have to try very hard to please them. Much like its name, this restaurant will continue to blossom if this dinner is any indication.
Blossom on Carmine
41 Carmine St (between Bedford and Bleecker St)
New York, NY 10014