Friday, April 23, 2010

Community Food and Juice

Love or hate the swarming Columbia students and the university's ever expanding border, Morningside Heights is a great place to eat- Indian, Ethiopian, French, Italian, Greek, Korean, Japanese, new American, BBQ, and Hungarian (well, the Hungarian Pastry Shop, but a favorite of mine nonetheless!) cafes are all yours for the eating. I've got my faves- Max Soha, Massawa, Le Monde, The Mill, Silver Moon Bakery, and Kitchenette- but of course when I walked by the modern-looking Community Food and Juice, touting a local and organic menu with several vegetarian options, I had to take a look.

And not just to get a prime view of the Columbia frat boy trying to hide his keg from the cops... in a shopping cart. Clearly, an honors student.

I'd read about long waits at this resto, but we didn't experience the crowd; probably because we wanted to sit outside and there was just a slight chill remaining in the April air. During our short wait, I paid entirely too much for a Ginger Palmer cocktail- sorry Community, but unless Sasha Petraske is behind the bar, you should not be charging your patrons $14 a cocktail!

But after a few sips, all was temporarily forgiven- isn't that always the case after a cocktail? We ordered a sweet potato soup and some eggplant and asparagus tempura for appetizers. I wasn't sure what to expect from the sweet potato soup- normally, when I've seen sweet potato soup on a menu, it's always paired with a spice (Sweet Potato with Tarragon Oil) or another vegetable (Sweet Potato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup), and after sampling Community's basic soup, their title really did sum it up- it's just pureed sweet potatoes with vegetable broth. In the competitive NYC dining scene where every chef is looking for a creative combination and an equally jaw-dropping way to present their dish, I was surprised by this choice- but then again, sweet potato has so much flavor, you really don't need to do much to it. It was the same with our vegetable tempura- with fresh asparagus and eggplant served up with a shiitake soy sauce, you really don't want to add excessive flavors. And though tasty, I just couldn't get past how basic our appetizers were- part of the fun in dining out is that you'll try things you normally wouldn't, or couldn't, make at home, right?

And as our entrees were brought out, we realized that all the flavor the chef might've put into our appetizers ended up in our entrees instead. And too much so- my boyfriend's mussels were swimming in a butter sauce spiked with all too many jalapenos. As for me, I had chosen my entree- truffled spring pea ravioli with a lemon butter sauce and microgreens- because I specifically loved the idea of those spring flavors. But with copious amount of truffle oil in the ravioli, I thought I could've been noshing on green truffle ravioli. The light, lovely flavor of the mashed peas was completely overwhelmed by the truffle oil. The lemon sauce attempted to balance the dish, but what a shame- the spring element was just lost on this entree.

On a brighter note, my honey's sweet potato fries were cut thick and just fried enough to perfection- we used the excessive lemon sauce from my ravioli to dip the fries in (because really, ketchup does NOT cut it for sweet potato fries). Though there were several other vegetarian dishes on the menu, I'm not sure how willing am I to revisit Community to sample them- the overpriced cocktail should've been a warning sign, but you'll overpay for food that is just okay. I can always appreciate when a restaurant stresses their fresh, local ingredients, but stick with other Morningside restos and save this one for the Columbia kids with Mom & Dad's credit card.

Community Food & Juice, 2893 Broadway, between 112th and 113th Streets, 212-665-2800


Heidi Bobier said...

Overpriced cocktails aside, this post really has me craving sweet potato fries. Normally I just drizzle evoo over some wedges, add whatever spices I have on hand (usually parsley and rosemary) and broil. I'm not a huge fan of sweet potatoes and ketchup, either. Do you have any favorite sweet potato pairings?

The Friendly Veg said...

I love spiking sweet potatoes with cumin & coriander before I bake 'em. I've also cut 'em into chunks and cooked them with ground chili paste and light coconut milk, kinda like a sweet potato curry. I love spicy foods, so that hit the spot for me!