Avant Garden

Restaurants, Vegan East Village
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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 (Janelle Jones)
Janelle Jones

Beets at Avant Garden

 (Janelle Jones)
Janelle Jones

Butternut squash farro risotto at Avant Garden

 (Paul Wagtouicz)
Paul Wagtouicz

Carrot toast at Avant Garden

 (Paul Wagtouicz)
Paul Wagtouicz

Avant Garden

 (Paul Wagtouicz)
Paul Wagtouicz

Avant Garden

The name is definitely worthy of an eye roll, but dad-joke hokeyness is graciously absent elsewhere at Avant Garden, a virtuous vegan-restaurant detour for owner Ravi DeRossi, whose personal brand of New York locales (the fondue-dipping Bourgeois Pig, the rum-doused Mother of Pearl) have heretofore been imbued with a Baz Luhrmann loucheness.

Decadence is dialed down in the 28-seat space—a petrified-wood counter forsakes velvet trimmings and tiki camp; raw tree branches hang above an open kitchen; and the restaurant is painted in muted shades of earth—but there are indulgences to be had on the plate.

Unlike many vegetarian efforts (see: the Shake Shack–ized veggie burgers two blocks down at Superiority Burger), chef Alex Aparicio’s cooking sidesteps any veg-as-meat posturing. (Aparicio is an eight-year disciple of John Fraser, and his kitchen time at Narcissa is particularly felt here.) The closest to that trope is a puck of cubed pickled beets, the look of which is tartare but the taste is all taproot ($14).

Rather, produce is allowed to speak for itself: Carrot toast advertises the root proudly, with roasted, multicolored nubs of the stuff paved atop crusty Balthazar bread smeared with harissa-zapped carrot butter ($12). Soothing farro risotto, warmly autumnal with butternut squash and swirls of sage pesto, doubles down on the grain, popping with crispy kernels for unexpected crunch ($17). A tumble of funghi ($18) is a similarly effective showcase, with beefy king oysters and maitakes boosted by a drag of mushroom puree shot delightfully with smoked macadamia that had more than one perplexed diner asking, “Is there Gouda in this?” before being gently reminded that Gouda isn’t vegan.

That might be Avant Garden’s biggest strength—it’s a vegan restaurant that puts as much import on the second half of that category as on the first.

By: Christina Izzo


Venue name: Avant Garden
Address: 130 E 7th St
New York
Cross street: between First Ave and Ave A
Opening hours: Mon-Thu, Sun 5-10:45pm; Fri, Sat 5-11:45pm
Transport: Subway: 6 to Astor Pl
Price: Average dish: $16. AmEX, MC, V
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