Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spring Street Natural Restaurant and Bar

You've seen some of Manhattan's village-fabulous (you know the types!) sipping on organic coffee outside the Spring Street Natural Restaurant and Bar and probably wondered if it was those scenesters' coffee and cigarettes or the resto's natural food that keeps them looking as if they really don't dine out (or dine, period).

After visiting the restaurant this past weekend for an early dinner, I assure you, it's neither. With plenty of vegetarian and vegan options on Spring Street Natural Restaurant's menu, it was just the satiating meal we needed after running errands around the city. We were seated in the corner window in the warm, bistro-like setting- though I initially felt that it would be a great people-watching spot, I soon realized that I was more the watched on the tourist-filled corner of Spring and Lafayette. Slightly uncomfortable, sure, but not worth fussing and changing tables over.

We started with the grilled seitan with Korean soy-sesame sauce- though the soy-sesame sauce wasn't particularly flavorful as other soy sauce-based seasoning I've had, the seitan was fresh off the grill, and I savored even the more charred bits of the soft, chewy pieces of protein goodness! The Asian-style appetizer didn't necessarily mesh well with my identity crisis entree of tofu-cashew croquettes in a tomato-carrot sauce, served with mango-jicama slaw and sauteed pak choy, but hey, I'm up for experimenting.

And even though I'm all for mixing things up, the comfort food croquettes and sauce seemed out of place with the vibrant slaw and mild mustard-like flavor of the pak choy. I can rave about my light, crunchy, refreshing slaw and the wilted and simply flavored pak choy, but my croquettes were a bit bland, and the tomato-carrot sauce, which was decidedly more carrot than tomato, didn't do anything for the dish- in fact, it overloaded the soft croquettes, which were also composed of carrot and sweet potato shreds. Had the croquettes been drizzled with another type of sauce, this dish might have fared better.

Despite the salmon, my honey's French lentil salad looked delicious- fresh greens, tomatoes, olives, and caramelized shallots with a generous portion of lentils atop the salad- and seemed to be a good indicator of the quality of salads served here.

The resto has been serving up healthy, organic cuisine since 1973, before such dining became as trendy as Soho itself. Many of Spring Street's menu items don't stray far from your average health food restaurant or quaint bistro's menu, which might bore some diners, but they've got their solid staples, and really, it's probably better than waiting on that long line for the calorie-laden dishes at Balthazar anyway.

Spring Street Natural Restaurant, 62 Spring Street at Lafayette Street, 212-966-0290

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