As my date and I walked through the door (after asking if we were in the right place) it became evident that raw food had become trendy and we were not dreaming. Before us was a sizeable upscale restaurant with all the bells and whistles and then some: long candlelit tables, an outdoor “garden” area twice as expansive as the interior… and to our surprise, the room was filled with New Yorkers. It was Friday night, eight o’clock, the staff was in a frenzy and everything seemed totally under control. We knew we were in for a treat.
Pure Food and Wine is the brainchild of chef Mathew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis, although the restaraunt is now owned and operated by Melngailis alone. Kenney and Melngailis also published a recipe book together entitled Raw Food: Real World: 100 Recipes to Get The Glow. If one thing was obvious the night of our visit, almost everyone there was “glowing.” Although, we wondered if the glow we observed was in any way related to the restaurant’s many signature raw cocktails that adorned the tables around us. Our interest piqued, we opted to try the “chocolatini,” a drink made with sake, cacao and coconut, topped off with vanilla coconut crème. Immediately we knew what the excitement was all about. “Let the culinary adventure begin!” we proclaimed, taste buds and spirits primed.
Both of us raw food enthusiasts, we knew this was a rare opportunity to sample the cutting-edge. $59 landed us the chef’s tasting menu, a sampler of the freshest stuff they had to offer.
First came an amuse of butternut squash blended with coconut and saffron. Next was an appetizer called “creamy cauliflower samosas with banana tamarind sauce.” We felt a little teased both at how good and how petite the appetizer was. But before we could get antsy, the next dish showed up and hit the spot: Macadamia Raviolis. They were plated so beautifully we had to take pictures before digging in. The waitress explained that the shells were made from dehydrated coconut meat and the filling was a pine nut cheese. Topping it off was a decidedly French cashew crème sauce that we had to keep under control. Ravioli is a cooked dish commonly replicated by raw chefs and we were very impressed with the results. Everything so far had us wide-eyed and smiling.
Next came the Truffled Parsnip Pasta. Thin noodles of parsnip dashed with truffle oil and black truffles and coated with a lemon-sage cream, this dish was perhaps the most satisfying of the night. We couldn’t imagine a more perfect fit closer to our pre-dessert meal.
Dessert time. We were in the mood for something chocolate so we reluctantly decided to order the DARK CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE MOUSE AND CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM. Tough decision. We were blown away. Stomachs happy but a little fatigued from the nuts and sugar, we opted to forego a second dessert and call it a night. We left feeling a blissful saturation of chocolate and cashews that lasted all week.
While some of Pure Food’s cuisine may be a little heavy for the more judicious rawfooder, the experience is nevertheless a rare treat not to be missed. We guessed the majority of the guests were first timers. Everyone was on cloud nine!
Melngailis is setting the standard for the healthy cuisine of the future by making it palatable to even the most discerning food enthusiasts. Replete with vibrant colors, fresh tastes, and a sublime sense of style, Pure Food’s cuisine stands alone in the culinary world, proving that raw really is better than cooked. If you’re in New York, don’t miss it.
( Editorial Note: From our perspective, we would hope that diners would choose not to indulge in either alcohol or chocolates, yet enjoy the splendor of the delicately created living cuisine.)
Ben Hay is a private raw food chef in West Palm Beach, FL. He is a graduate of the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute and a certified Hippocrates Health Educator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Vol 27 Issue 1 page 31