Chef Amanda Cohen has always offered something different: Her tiny vegetable-centric restaurant Dirt Candy started as an 18-seat space that garnered rave reviews, she was the first vegetarian chef to compete on Iron Chef and at the current location of her restaurant in the Lower East Side, she was a pioneer in eliminating tips and sharing profits with employees.
In an unpredictable year, where Dirt Candy was closed for four months due to the current crisis, Cohen launched something just as innovative this month: a new set dinner menu available for takeout and delivery that’s 14 courses and costs only $50—that’s less than a single entree at some of the city’s top fine dining restaurants.
It’s also notable that one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the city is offering such a deal when countless restaurants are struggling to stay afloat. At the same time, it’s not a complete surprise given how Cohen has been vocal about how she believes the restaurant industry should be overhauled and provide health insurance and higher wages, among other changes.
“This shutdown has shown us that the only moral choice is for the industry to provide a better safety net for our workers,” Cohen wrote in an op-ed piece for the New York Times shortly after indoor dining was made illegal (it’s slated to come back on September 30th with limited capacity). “But right now I can’t see that happening because I don’t think customers, many of them also feeling more financially precarious, would be willing to pay the cost. They’ll buy gift cards and give to charity, for which I am grateful, but will they pay more for their mussels, night after night?”
The 14-course meal, which includes 12 savory and two sweet dishes, features dishes such as: pizza bagel bites, seaweed caviar and whipped creamy butter tea sandwiches, grilled yuba garlic knots and crispy king oyster mushrooms.
Cohen, who helped launch Lekka Burger in Tribeca last year, has also debuted the first Oatly soft serve machine anywhere in the country. The dairy-free alternative—which uses the popular brand amongst coffee shops and people who can’t consume milk—comes in chocolate, vanilla and swirl for $6 or $8 in a cup or a house-made cone. Toppings range from peach compote to tahini cookies.
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