466 Columbus btwn 82nd & 83rd
Last week, I had a dinner date with with one of my favorite people and fellow glutard, Erin. Having dinner with Erin is great, because there is no excuse not to try a new gluten-free friendly restaurant. After deciding that the Upper West Side would be our dining locale, Cafe Blossom was an easy choice because of its fabulous GF labeled menu and reasonable prices. Other GF friendly options considered were Sambuca and Hampton Chutney. Sambuca was ruled out because it is family style, and doesn’t make sense for two people price-wise, and Hampton Chutney was more of a take-out place. However, they are still on my list of GF places to try.
Cafe Blossom is a vegan restaurant with two sister restaurants: Blossom Bistro on the Upper East Side, and Blossom, the original more upscale version of the two in Chelsea. All three have a reputation for affordable, delicious, and innovative vegan food.
I arrived at Cafe Blossom at 7:30 pm, to a relatively empty restaurant. I was seated immediately. I noticed, however, between 7:30-7:45 the place filled up with many couples, families, and groups. It was clear that Cafe Blossom was a neighborhood favorite and destination. The interior is warm and inviting, with low-lighting and earth tones. The ambiance and leather menus made it feel more luxurious than the prices indicated. It was lovely.
Erin works for a wine importer and distributor, so I trust her judgement when it comes to wines. We went for a glass of the South African Pinotage, which was the least expensive red on the menu at $9, slightly pricey, but it was a large glass and much needed after our (Erin’s especially) long days at work. Erin didn’t spit it out, so I took that as a sign of its (good) quality despite being the cheapest on the menu.
Revving up for a weekend in Atlantic City, I was feeling more frugal than usual, so I ordered two appetizers instead of an entree: the Cream of Turnip Soup (ramp butter, toasted fennel seed) and the Pan-Seared Polenta (shaved baby artichoke salad, parsley sauce). Erin ordered the Moroccan Glazed Tempeh (eggplant-chickpea stew, red bell peppers, sweet potato, creamy fennel-black olive relish).
The polenta looked like sea scallops, which was cute, and was yummy,though not outstanding. The shaved artichokes didn’t really add much in terms of flavor or texture, and the parsley sauce could have been stronger. After this polenta experience, I’ve decided I prefer the texture of creamy polenta better. The turnip soup was much better. The ramp butter really stood out and gave the soup a contrasting slippery smooth texture against the turnip puree. I swear I could taste cinnamon in the dish, but it could have been the toasted fennel. Either way, it was a fantastic flavor combination. Erin’s tempeh stew was really, really good. It was homey and comforting, but not too rich. It would be my entree of choice if I were to return. We were offered dessert, but neither of us felt that dairy-free ice cream sounded appetizing enough. Once day I’ll try it though.
Cafe Blossom is a really great gluten-free friendly restaurant. It is innovative and fresh, with dishes that don’t scream vegan. For the price, I don’t think you’ll find a better GF option with more interesting dishes if you’re willing to forgo dairy, eggs, and meat. If I can convince my boyfriend that he doesn’t need these above mentioned items, I think I’ll take him to Blossom for a date night.