-img3- Broadway East, 171 E. Broadway, 212-228-3100 Price range: $40-$60
Those who regularly read my reviews may notice that I’m not exactly a health nut; I usually eat vegetables as a (small) side, and meat, carbs and rich sauces are my mainstays. It’s not that I don’t love the earth’s bounty, it’s that usually fruits and vegetables are unremarkable afterthoughts, even at nicer restaurants.
But not at Broadway East. Though this isn’t a vegetarian restaurant, it is an ode to greens and grains, tofu and tubers, with meat being, at most, a garnish. In a modest storefront in an unheralded neighborhood east of Chinatown and south of the Williamsburg Bridge, Broadway East is a globe-hopping oasis of California calm, with high ceilings, generously spaced tables, elegantly recycled walnut and redwood, and a living green wall, purifying the air, piquing expectations.
It doesn’t disappoint. Over sake cocktails, fresh and healthy tasting, but not very alcoholic, we decided to split the Oyster Gratin ($12). Six flawlessly fresh oysters, dusted with smoked paprika crumbs and bubbling with Belgian-style Ommegang ale, rested on an expanse of hot salt, fusing sea, smoke and land.
We wisely stayed away from animal protein for the rest of the meal. Mysore Thali ($19) was a mod-ayurvedic feast with fingerling potato masala, creamy mushroom saag with crisp naan, smoked tofu tika kebabs and pickled cauliflower. Arrayed around a large glass plate, each beautifully presented component was intricately and authentically spiced, totally vegetarian and delicious, though a bit tepid. Peking-style Snow-Dried Tofu ($21) was equally authentic and meat-free (and room temperature), but this time the kitchen conquered Chinese cuisine. I have no idea what “snow-dried tofu” is, but it was delicious. Different layers of veggie protein, probably seitan and soy, formed mock Peking duck, making a passable, and certainly more healthful, substitute, served with Chinese cabbage, burdock and quinoa. It helped that the red miso hoisin was a leap above the ordinary, as were all of Broadway East’s sauces.
Sated and full of healthy vegetables and whole grains — not in the insulin coma that often follows one of these reviews — we decided to skip the ambitious, tempting dessert list and finish our pleasingly bitter Dogfishhead IPAs ($6) from a perfectly edited, international drink list. Expecting to step out and be greeted by palms and the Santa Monica pier — from where, not coincidently, chef Lee Gross hails — we instead walked down a gloomy block to the subway, certain to return.