Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Red Lentil - Watertown, MA

If you asked me a few years ago if I'd ever think that vegan, gluten free food could be considered a "foodie find" I'd probably have laughed in your face. After my visit(s) to The Red Lentil, I can honestly say that gluten free and vegan absolutely can be foodie finds given the proper, loving treatment. In fact, I posit that this type of cuisine can be completely addicting and deceptively dairy free.

My first trip to The Red Lentil started with one of their most popular appetizers: Gobi Manchurian. This dish starts with cauliflower dipped in chickpea flour battered, then deep fried; it is then combined with peppers, onions, and a delightfully spiced tomato sauce. This dish is on almost every table I've seen in that restaurant...and is always a part of my dining experience. If it came by the bucket-full, I would totally order the largest bucket. It would make converts out of any non-believers in good veg fare.

If I'm seeking a lighter dinner, I generally opt for the greens of the day. My last experience was a combination of collards, chickpeas, onion, tomato, and garlic. My only critique: if you're billing yourself as a vegan/vegetarian restaurant, don't use pre-diced garlic; the real deal would be way better and bring a lot more flavor. Still, it was a delicious dish and I would order it again.

On the more substantial end, there are tomato and mushroom ragout over polenta or pistachio and herb encrusted tofu with tasty corn cakes. These dishes are topped with "creams" of different flavors and though they are made with cashews, you'd swear it's the real thing.

Other notable finds: they always have a gluten free and vegan dessert. Their dessert chef is something of a wizard. The first time I ate one of his cakes I really didn't believe it was dairy free. I asked the kind waitress to check, then double check, and following two confirmations of it being dairy free, I demanded to know what trickery was used to make it so scrumptious. Since then, I just enjoy each bite and secretly hope that the chef will give me private cooking lessons one day...

This restaurant is quite unique and is definitely worth a visit. I enjoy that the gluten free and vegan entrees are clearly marked and I like that there are always daily specials to choose from. For the foodie - there are occasional tasting menu nights!

Three and a half out of five stars.

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