Vegans and vegetarians weary of the cucumber avocado roll will rejoice at the opening of Beyond Sushi, chef Guy Vaknin’s new Union Square venture that opened to an eager public on July 11.
Vaknin is a converted carnivore: He’s come 180° from his stint competing at a steakhouse on the latest season of Gordon Ramsay’s reality show, Hell’s Kitchen. He’s been playing with spices and flavor combinations for vegetarian sushi for the last two years, while working for his family’s kosher catering company. He knew he’d hit on something great when he stopped eating meat himself. “I started to appreciate how much flavor and beauty vegetables have,” he says. Vaknin refers to Beyond Sushi as “90% vegan,” with a few egg-based sauces and items on the menu; he aims for it to become an entirely vegan venture in the next six months.
His vibrant, uniquely flavored organic sushi is filled with unrefined fruits and vegetables, and seasoned with influences from his own Moroccan and Israeli background. Rolls are wrapped with fiber-rich black Chinese forbidden rice or a lusciously textured six-grain mixture featuring pearl barley and rye berries. Customized sauces of tofu and veggie puree top each roll, with hints of India and Southeast Asia appearing in such combinations as mango chutney and jalapeño peanut butter.
The natural storefront, constructed from recycled materials, showcases the simple beauty of the fruits and vegetables featured in made-to-order rolls, individual pieces of sushi, salads, fresh juices and rice paper wraps. The wraps aren’t appetizer-sized rolls; they’re sized like sandwich wraps and make for a low-carb, clean-tasting meal that’s perfect post-workout or for a healthful lunch.
Rolls like the Spicy Mang! (see above) — made with black rice and filled with avocado, mango, English cucumber, a spicy vegetable mix and topped with toasted cayenne sauce — are proof that vegan sushi is a perfect vehicle to highlight the unique textures and complex flavors available in nature’s bounty.
Image courtesy of Beyond Sushi.