When my aunt and uncle left to go home to Atlanta, they took my brother with them so he could have a vacation down there. My anti-fish/anti-"health food" brother. What's the big deal, you ask? My parents and I can go out to fun, interesting restaurants the doorways of which my brother couldn't be paid to darken. Naturally, the first on the my must-go-to list was a relatively new vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Watertown, near Cambridge, Mass: The Red Lentil.
My mom and I met my dad there, who arrived before us and much to our relief and delight (we were starving), had already ordered the eggplant caponata appetizer and was sipping on a ginger brew - like ginger ale, only with much fresher ginger and very refreshing. I'd never tasted anything quite like it; I stole several sips!
[Word to future diners - no wine list!]
First of all, I really liked the feel of this place. It wasn't too loud, despite the fact that every table in the small dining area was packed. The walls were a funky lime green that gave it a hip - not 1970s nightmare - aura. The clientele were, well, as expected in Cambridge - in every size, shape & color! For any non Mass readers, Cambridge is where Harvard is located. 'Nuf said.
So, about that appetizer...
One of the best things about this place hands down is their presentation. Every single dish we saw was beautifully and artfully placed on the plate. You eat first with your nose & eyes before your mouth, and it was lovely that the chefs take this into consideration.
As for taste? Well, I really enjoyed this. The sundried tomato spread was tangy (although a tad pasty, like it had been spread on too soon) and the crusty slice of bread was wonderful. The eggplant was mixed with tomatoes, capers and olives and went perfectly with the sundried tomato spread. My parents felt it was good but still missing something; I agreed, it wasn't the most amazing thing to pass my lips, but it was tasty and made my empty tummy happy.
After LOTS of deliberation (so much looked good!), my mom chose an appetizer & salad:
Arugula salad w. beets & golden beets, walnuts, and herbed goat cheese.
The latkes were very interesting, and enjoyable, but perhaps not to die for. It was also a lot of food! It was a little too big; by the time you get to the middle, we found our tastebuds a bit bored. The salad was great, very fresh, and a delicious combo of flavors. And the goat cheese was de-LISH!
My dad got the special:
Tamale filled with tropical fruits, black beans, and spiced soy chorizo
Again, a bit underwhelming. And again, we couldn't put our finger on why! Tasty but nothing particularly *wow*.
I ordered the Macrobiotic Platter - a choice of tofu, tempeh, or seitan with pinto beans, fresh veggies (broc, squash, zucchini, sweet potato) and a brown rice-sea vegetable mixture.
I really enjoyed this. The tempeh was perfectly cooked and had that great grainy texture I adore so much, even if it was a tad on the salty side for my taste. The pinto beans were, well, pinto beans, but what I was really impressed with was the sea vegetables! They had the coolest flavor - I've had & love seaweed salad at sushi places, but never had this particular kind of sea veggie before. It tasted like, um, the sea? I know, specific; I suppose it was salty with a pleasant bitterness not completely unlike kale, but with a hint of vinegar in there. (Is that better? ;) It was nothing life-changing, but I did very much like my entree.
We were debating dessert...and then the table next to us ordered. And then my dad reminded me of the "always judge a restaurant by its dessert" rule set forth by my beloved Italian cooking professor. And it was done.Gotta love that! We obviously went with chocolate - if nothing else, for comparison's sake!
This was...a disappointment. The cake was super dry - I think the chef needs to meet Dreena's blog! The ganache was lovely, and as for those peanut-butter-looking bits in there, I have no idea what they were, perhaps pieces of cake that got tiedyed? It was good, but not great. Of course, they could just hire me as their pastry chef and all their problems would be solved. Sounds like a plan to me.
And, another mark against them - my mother went to the bathroom before we left and, well, it wasn't a pleasant experience. Dirty bathrooms in a restaurant? Come on, guys, that's TOO easy to fix!
Overall though, it was a fun dinner. It was new and different, and I am so excited that vegetarian/vegan cuisine is gaining in popularity. I wish one would open up close to me! The biggest issue (food-wise) here is that the dishes themselves won't make you say "whoa." A lot of it would be very simple to make at home. I would, however, recommend it to everyone from strict vegan to the veg-curious. My parents & I truly enjoyed The Red Lentil, and I am more than happy to support veg-conscious places like this.
Rock on, Red Lentil. Rock on.