Sensational Sustainable Sushi Diners are falling for Brooklyn's new Chisai Sushi Bar, hook, line and sinker

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Sushi-grade fish is a much-used term, but the buzzwords sustainable sushi are slowly reeling in food lovers who are hooked on making ocean-friendly choices, so they don’t open a can of worms with overfished varieties (ok, we will stop with the puns).

Regrettably, few sushi restaurants across the U.S. focus on offering species that are not endangered from overfishing. Chisai Sushi Bar bucks the trend. Tucked off Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, its whitewashed interior, filled with plants and pale wood, feels like a diner car gone Japanese modern. The space’s small footprint is in step with the menu’s ethos. The restaurant is devoted to serving only sustainable sushi, with all of its fish sourced from the notable eco-friendly suppliers Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co., a partner of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, and Sea to Table, which makes the journey from ocean to dining room a short one by linking fishermen and chefs directly.

Chirashi bowls at Chisai are as beautiful as they are delicious.

While this is intrinsic to the restaurant’s philosophy, it’s the dishes themselves that bring diners back, with its whimsical twists on tradition passed nonchalantly across the bar. Where else have you seen black edamame with Japanese sea salt ($3), a braised tofu bun with jalapeno relish that tastes like some of the best barbecue outside of Texas ($5) or a spicy line-caught albacore tuna roll with almonds ($7)?

One diner was overheard declaring the spicy crab roll ($13), its edges ever-so charred, wrapped in delicate soy paper and served with radish sprouts, one of the best things he’d ever eaten. The sushi chefs, in their camouflage caps, looked quietly proud. The chirashi bowl ($16) is just as epic, with a rainbow-array of chef’s choice sashimi, well-seasoned rice, avocado and a soy-pickled egg.

Don’t expect the friendliness to translate into spilled secrets. Asked why the smoked dogfish somehow tastes like pâté, the sushi chef gave a delighted, demure grin. Chisai’s charms are as sly as they are unassuming.

Chisai Sushi Bar
569 Lincoln Place
Brooklyn, NY 11238
(718) 398-2145
chisaisushibar.com

Gazpacho To Go These bottled tomato soups taste like summer

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“Great ingredients! And simplicity.” Those are the secrets to great gazpacho, says Austin Allan, whose company, Tío Gazpacho, makes smooth, zingy bottled gazpachos that are knocking our socks off.

While it’s true that good gazpacho can be easy to make if you have the best raw ingredients, what’s impressive about Tío Gazpacho is that those fresh flavors make it through bottling. “We don’t heat pasteurize our products, as doing so would essentially cook the gazpacho, and cooked gazpacho is an oxymoron,” explains Allan, who fell in love with the chilled raw tomato soup during a four-year stint living in Spain. Instead being treated with heat or preservatives, Tío Gazpachos are pressure pasteurized, a process that leaves the bright flavors of the vegetables and fruits intact.

Tío’s newest flavor, Gazpacho Rosado, is made with watermelon.

Tío Gazpacho comes in four varieties: our favorite, Gazpacho Clásico (a traditional blend of tomatoes, green pepper, cucumber, red onion, olive oil and sherry vinegar); Gazpacho de Sol (a sweet but not cloying mixture that includes yellow tomatoes, carrot juice and yellow pepper); Gazpacho Verde (a zesty blend with avocado, kale, spinach and jalapeno) and the new Gazpacho Rosado (a sweet-spicy watermelon-based blend). The gazpachos ($8 to $9 per bottle) are available at a growing list of stores in New York (including Whole Foods, Garden of Eden and Fairway) and online from FreshDirect.

Not just tasty, these gazpachos are also incredibly good for you: They’re packed with nutrients from organic produce and the good fat from olive oil and avocados makes them satisfying, despite the fact that they contain only 100 to 150 calories per serving. Try them whenever you’d have a sweet juice or smoothie for all the benefits minus the sugar surge.

Tío Gazpacho
tiogazpacho.com

What The Doctor Ordered You're going to love the culinary "prescriptions" at Le Botaniste

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If you’re a fan of the healthy-meets-luxe mini chain Le Pain Quotidien, you’re going to want to try the new Upper East Side spinoff, Le Botaniste.

The charming counter-service restaurant and organic/biodynamic wine bar serves up a small selection of appetizers, bowls, design-your-own salads and desserts, which the menu says are “100% botanical” (a fancy way of saying vegan), 99% organic and mostly gluten-free.

Take a seat at Le Botaniste’s bar for a bite and a glass of organic wine.

While the “prescriptions” on the menu board and the apothecary-style design touches (meant to represent the overall health benefits of eating well) might bring to mind tinctures and elixirs, the food at Le Botaniste is surprisingly down to earth. The hearty three-bean Chili Sin Carne ($14), for example, wouldn’t be out of place at an old-school vegetarian joint like Ithaca’s Moosewood—and that’s a compliment. We also liked the Tibetan Mama Rice Bowl ($14), another tasty throwback with a bowl-licking-worthy peanut-curry sauce.

Turns out this old-school appeal is not an accident. “Many of the dishes are inspired by classic dishes that people regularly enjoy, but are simply made with less salt, oil, etc., making it a more wholesome alternative without removing the flavor,” Alain Coumont, founder of Le Pain Quotidien and Le Botaniste, told us.

LPQ devotees will not be surprised to learn that desserts are a standout at Le Botaniste. We’ve been dreaming about the Chocolate Mud ($6), an intensely cocoa-y pudding so thick and rich you’d swear it had dairy. There are also a few favorites you might recognize from Le Pain Quotidien, including the luscious Coconut Chia Seed Pudding ($6).

Le Botaniste
833 Lexington Avenue, New York
(917) 262-0766
lebotaniste.us

Must-Try Modern Israeli Timna brings the flavor in the East Village

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Going local isn’t something that chef Nir Mesika of the Timna had to learn, it’s something he’s done all his life.

In a recent interview, he regaled us with stories of a childhood spent zipping through the fields of Northern Israel on a bike and picking cauliflower and artichokes along the way.

These days, he picks his own oregano, thyme and basil that he grows at his 40-seat East Village restaurant and sources micro-greens from a Brooklyn rooftop.

Grilled octopus is a signature at Timna.

The modern Israeli menu, which draws influence from the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa, changes constantly, but signatures include a tender and smoky octopus, first braised and then grilled in a heap of buried coals and served with grilled cabbage and black eggplant puree ($24) and cauliflower with a swirl of curried yogurt and onions pickled with ground sumac berries, which lend a red tint and punchy lemon flavor ($12).

The selection is so tantalizing and vibrant; it is barely noticeable that Mesika consciously does not serve any chicken or red meat (with the exception of the $17 organic Hudson Valley beef burger with grilled avocado and za’atar that is served at brunch). Mesika prefers to focus on lighter and more distinctive proteins (there are chicken dishes on seemingly every other restaurant menu) and he has concerns about beef’s negative impact on the environment.

Green herbs and grains (some puffed freekeh here, quinoa in place of bulgur wheat in a tabouli there) are found in just about every dish. “I’m a freak about fresh herbs,” Mesika admits. The current menu is a delicious riot of spring produce, including sorrel, green almonds, fresh chickpeas, morels, peas, rhubarb, spring radishes and white asparagus.

With such a focus on ingredients, it’s no surprise that Mesika is zealous about using everything that he sources. When it comes to food waste, “there are no leftovers in my kitchen,” he says. “We don’t put anything in the garbage.”

Mesika, a native of Israel with Moroccan and Egyptian heritage says, “I want to show how Israeli cuisine is much more than just hummus, falafel and shawarma.”

Consider us educated.

Timna
109 St. Marks Pl.
(646) 964-5181
timna.nyc

Eat Nettles Now A bundle of ways to try this spring ingredient around the city

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While you might think of “sting” when you think of nettles, you should be thinking “spring.”

Nettles, a peppery, herbaceous plant (considered a weed by many) are one of Mother Nature’s delicious (and nutritious) harbingers of spring. Right on schedule, nettle dishes are starting to pop up all over the city. Have no fear about nettles’ infamous stinging property: Once cooked, the sting vanishes.

Francine Stephens of the perennially popular Franny’s in Brooklyn told us: “We love nettles because they offer a distinctly grassy, fresh flavor that is unique to springtime. Our guests love them, as their presence on our menu is the true first offering of spring.” Scoot over to the restaurant ASAP to try them in two dishes: a savory ramp and nettle zeppole ($12) with Calabrian chili honey and maccheroni pasta with spinach, nettles, garlic, chilies and pine nuts ($19).

The nettle loaf from Bien Cuit.

At Bien Cuit, master baker Zachary Golper blanches nettles, then dries and grinds them and reserves the cooking water. He uses the water to hydrate dough made with flour from New York State-grown wheat from North Country Farms and goat’s milk from Coach Farms. After slow, cold fermentation and shaping, he rolls the loaves in the dehydrated nettle powder and bakes them into gorgeously crusty loaves ($6 each) that are at once vegetal and tangy.

Chef Simone Bonelli of La Pecora Bianca, incorporates nettle pesto into a seasonal risotto with goat cheese and orange ($23). Over at Vic’s in NoHo, chef Hilary Sterling is serving a razor clam pizza with charred nettles ($20).

Besides being delicious, nettles are fiber-rich, packed with iron and vitamins C, D and K and have been shown to have a natural anti-inflammatory, antihistamine effect that can help with allergies like hay fever.

If you want to try your hand at using nettles at home, keep your eyes peeled for the nettles (they have dark green heart-shaped leaves and fuzzy bristles) at your local Greenmarket. Currently, Phillips Farm, Paffenroth Gardens, Hawthorne Valley and Monkshood Nursery are are selling nettles. To check if nettles are at the Union Square Greenmarket use this nifty app; it tells you everything that is in the market each day it is open or the last time it was available and from whom.

Do yourself a favor and use the gloves or tongs provided, or else you will really understand why the plant’s full name is the stinging nettle. Prepare the peppery green in a nourishing soup, fold them into an omelet or brew them into a fresh tea.

Veg Out Try healthy bowls, dumplings, salads and more at Beyond Sushi

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Sushi burritos may be all the rage in NYC, but there’s another new wrap that’s rocking our world.

It’s a rice paper roll-up stuffed with black beans, green tea noodles, greens, asparagus, seaweed salad and crunchy almonds with a tart-salty-sweet ponzu sauce. Called the Sweet Bean ($9), this super-healthy, super-tasty creation is one of a number of new items on the vastly expanded menu at the vegan micro-chain Beyond Sushi.

The new Limelight Salad is packed with hearty beans, corn, rice and avocado.

Beyond Sushi is already a Clean Plates pick for its inventive rolls, each matched with its own addictive sauce, and chef Guy Vaknin is bringing the same creativity to new dishes like the Smokey Tom dumplings ($6), which are filled with a rich sun-dried tomato and butternut squash puree and topped with crunchy lemon panko, fresh parsley and creamy tahini sauce.

Also now on the menu are noodle soups ($9) such as Coconut Curry and Red Miso, each with a choice of soba, ramen, green tea noodle or glass noodles, as well as noodle salads ($6) like the Jolly Onion, a zany mash-up of ramen, kalamata olives, roasted onions, sun-dried tomatoes, sumac, rosemary and two sauces (tahini and tomato-guajillo).

The Limelight ($10.50), a substantial new black rice-based salad with black beans, smoky charred corn, ample amounts of avocado, nicely spicy pickled jalapenos and a spicy-creamy tomato guajillo sauce, is a riot of flavors and textures that proves just how satisfying vegan fare can be.

Lunch special combos ($9 to $12.50) are offered from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, which is about how often we’d like to be eating at Beyond Sushi.

Beyond Sushi
beyondsushinyc.com

Chelsea Market
75 9th Avenue, New York
(212) 929-2889

Union Square
229 East 14th Street, New York
(646) 861-2889

Midtown West
62 W 56th Street, New York
(646) 964-5097

Hearth’s Reboot Marco Canora is a man on a (delicious) mission at his updated East Villager

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As Marco Canora goes, so does his phenomenal restaurant, Hearth, where the flavors of the Tuscan-American food are as strong as the commitment to transparency and food sourcing.

More than 12 years ago when Canora opened Hearth going local for produce was a given for him (well before “farm-to-table” was a buzzword on every menu in town). In a recent interview he told us, “I’m dating myself, but I’m a forever locavore, a chef who has always gone to the Greenmarket.”

Now that Canora has made it through to the other side of health problems like 30 pounds of excess weight, gout, sleep apnea and thyroid dysfunction, he has fast-forwarded the food at Hearth to match up with all that he has learned about diet and nutrition.

Hearth’s interior got a refresh along with its menu.

Hearth reopened in the same East Village location in January after a quick two-week refresh and boy is she is a beaut (both in terms of looks and the real heart of the matter, the menu). There’s a newly expanded bar area to stretch out in, and the dining room has been brightened to match the radiant new focus that goes way beyond local sourcing (though that’s still very much part of the game plan at the restaurant).

The new direction includes a focus on nutrient dense foods like quality cooking fats (such as grass-fed tallow, grass-fed ghee and olive oil), bone broths, grass-fed butter and sustainable, local fish. The flipside of the menu features a whimsical infographic titled “Our Mission” that outlines Canora’s philosophy.

Canora posited, “If I’m going to go out of my way to find really great local carrots, why am I going to go out of my way to buy flour from a big food company?” With that in mind, he’s bought a mill and is grinding his own non-GMO grains for dishes like the “cacio e pepe” polenta ($8) and the long-fermented whole grain bread ($6).

The menu is full of crave-worthy dishes such as the bone marrow broth with turmeric ($12), white anchovies layered with cured olives and citrus ($18) and lots of offal, as in the variety burger, which incorporates heart and liver ($24). A selection of six bean-to-bar dark chocolates (5 for $12) spread out like a traditional cheese board is a decadent (but not overly sugary way) to end a meal here.

In addition to the menu upgrades, the restaurant composts, uses non-toxic cleaners and recycles oils into biofuel. “Before I just wanted my food to speak for itself, now I want to showcase my beliefs alongside delicious meals,” Canora told Clean Plates. “The world of food has changed and I’m changing with it.” Canora truly puts his food and values where our mouths are.

Hearth
403 E. 12 St.
restauranthearth.com
(646) 602-1300

Plant-Powered Pizza Vegetables are the star at Matthew Kenney's 00+Co.

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Matthew Kenney may have first made his name with raw foods in New York at the now-closed Pure Food and Wine, but he and chef Scott Winegard, are doing wonderful things with fire at their new East Village vegan pizzeria, 00+Co.

The restaurant’s wood-burning oven is one of the secrets to great pizza, says Winegard (another is the organic 00 flour from which the restaurant takes its name; many say it’s the best variety for pizza dough).

Grab a stool with a view of 00+Co.’s wood-burning pizza oven.

The pizzas range from riffs on classics such as the margherita-like tomato, basil and cashew mozzarella ($15) to a delightful umami bomb with truffled celeriac, maitake mushrooms and parsley pesto ($17). The slightly salty, pleasantly yeasty crust is puffier and thicker than the average Neapolitan-style, making it perfect for the generous application of sturdy vegetables like romesco and broccolini. And instead of aping animal products, ingredients such as the house-made nut cheeses and farro-fennel “sausage” stand on their own, while still providing the richness and savoriness of traditional cheeses and meats.

In addition to the pizza, the menu includes a number of salads and vegetable dishes, many of which also get a smoky flavor from time in the wood-burning oven. Most are excellent: the punchy wood-fired cauliflower with green harissa, walnuts and preserved lemons ($10) is a standout, with just the right balance of sweet, salty and sharp flavors. “We use the same principles in approaching plant-based cooking as for any cuisine,” says Kenney. “We’re always striving for a balance of flavor and texture; it’s the difference between a good and great dish—or pizza.”

And speaking of balance, that’s the word Winegard uses when asked about serving pizza in the current wheat-averse culture:  “We don’t suggest you eat wheat or pizza every day, but if you can find the balance in your diet to have some fun, eat pizza from 00+Co.” As the menu evolves with the seasons, we’re looking forward to doing just that.

00+Co.
65 Second Avenue, New York
00andCo.com

Nut House Why we love modern milkman NotMilk

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Have you seen the ingredients label on a bottle of store-bought almond or other nut milk lately?

With thickeners like carrageenan, locust bean gum and sunflower lecithin, dubious “natural” flavors and plenty of cane sugar, these alternative milks seem to be more additives and preservatives than they are nuts. Eeek!

Sisters Carolyn and Susan Flood had the same horrified reaction to the nut milks on the market when they both started struggling with lactose intolerance. So they decided to go DIY in a big way, making their own special blend and then cofounding a company—NotMilk—to distribute it.

What to do with leftover pulp from making nut milk? Make snickerdoodles!

The difference in this nut milk is in the freshness and the blend of nuts—a mix of almonds, walnuts, macadamias and cashews. With no refined sugars, additives or thickeners, these milks have a flavor and mouth-feel that’s totally different than anything that comes from a carton.

Bottles of vanilla bean and honey lavender NotMilk just call out to be added to chia seed pudding and smoothies. Our office went wild for the creamy chocolate milk blend with chia seeds, while the coffee flavor is your morning cup of joe’s dream come true. Susan reports that baristas especially love their lightly sweet original blend because it froths up and behaves like 2% cow’s milk and doesn’t burn as easily as commercial versions.

Custom nut, seed and grain blends are also available by special request if you are feeling like you need an extra percentage of macadamia nuts (or the milk of just one nut) in your life this week. All of the blends ($8 to $10 for 16 oz.) can be found at stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including Integral Yoga Natural Foods and Ground Support Cafe. Or for a true modern day milkman experience, you can sign up for a subscription and get their glass bottles delivered straight to your front door.

We especially love how the sisters constructed their business model to deal with the waste (lots and lots of leftover nut pulp) inherent in making nut milk: They turn the nut pulp into gluten-free vegan baked goods like chocolate glazed donuts and snickerdoodles (also available on their site and at Riverdel and Haymaker’s Corner Store) that are so moist and tasty, you’d never know they were created from leftovers.

Simple genius.

NotMilk
notmilknyc.com

Candy Crush Hunnybon delivers candy you'll be sweet on

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Kimberly Silver always had a sweet tooth.

But a degree from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and a career in health counseling didn’t exactly jibe with candies filled with junky ingredients, forcing her to temporarily give up the sweet stuff cold-turkey—then she discovered she could indulge her sweet tooth and eat well, too.

“While counseling clients towards healthy eating and searching for better sweet alternatives, I began to find amazing products that were all organic, made with clean ingredients and better sweeteners, vegan and produced sustainably,” Silver told us.

Hunnybon’s candies are free of junky ingredients but full of flavor.

These discoveries led her to set up a modern-day candy shop online. Hunnybon is the confectionary of our (unrefined) sugarcoated dreams, now offering same-day delivery in NYC and shipping nationwide.

Hunnybon is one-stop-shopping for all that’s good in the world of sweets. Silver sources and curates a selection of candies that are vegan and free from refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, GMOs, trans-fats, artificial colors, flavors and additives. Those with special diets can even search for sugar-free, soy-free, kosher, Paleo and gluten-free treats within her selection.

Silver’s favorite, the strawberry superfruit chews ($6.79 for 2.75 oz.), have no added sugar, are coated in coconut oil and filled with pulp from the superfruit baobab.

A recent adorably packaged delivery to our office had us indulging in crunchy quinoa clusters ($6.89 for 2.5 oz.) and hemp truffles dusted with a coating of extra-dark cocoa powder ($6.59 for 2.63 oz.).

This year let the Easter Bunny come by bike: A local Hunnybon delivery is made extra sweet by Silver’s street team of dedicated bike messengers, who deliver the goods without generating carbon emissions (and with free samples always included).

Clean Plates readers can use code “CP15” for 15% off all Hunnybon selections.

Hunnybon
hunnybon.com