Everyone has their regular circuit of restaurants that they frequent. I wanted to branch out for for my birthday dinner, and I had a few qualifications — healthy, fresh, and creative. After countless steaks, cakes, and heavy holiday eating, my body needed a break from heavy food. For the vegetarian restaurant in my circuit, I’ve gone to Candle 79 a few times, but I wanted to try a new place. I also didn’t want vegetarian food that’s just an imitation of regular dishes, I wanted a place that was more creative and slightly towards fine dining. Dirt Candy had great reviews, and I was intrigued by the tasting menu and cocktail concoctions — carrot juice and tequila?!
Upon arriving, we were welcomed with complimentary bourbon and beet hot chocolate, which was a nice touch after walking in from the bitter cold in the teens that night. The hot chocolate was thick and delicious, and had just the right kick of bourbon. I even felt healthy drinking it, considering it had beets… I am not even a hot chocolate fan, and I found it to be a delicious few sips of warmth and flavor.Next I opened up the menu to check out drinks and found that 1) employees get paid a fair wage and profit share in the restaurant, and 2) tipping is included. I think it’s really smart of companies to give all employees a profit share in the business. It motivates employees to treat things like they’re working towards their own personal goal, and they have a vested interest in making sure the business succeeds.Dirt Candy offers two tasting menus (no a la carte unless you’re at the their 4-seat bar or brunch): the five course “Vegetable Patch” for $57, or the nine/ten course “Vegetable Garden” for $83. They also offer one pairings for each tasting menu at $45 and $65 respectively. We chose the $83 menu option, and ordered cocktails and a bottle of wine.
I started off with the Carrot Penicillin and my husband had the Popcorn Old Fashioned. Look at that beautiful rustic-looking carrot! You have to eat the garnish, that’s what it’s there for, otherwise it’s like not finishing the olives in a dirty martini.
Dirt Candy’s spin on the bread for the table was a beet monkey bread and garlic butter. Monkey bread is usually a very sweet gooey cinnamon and sugary pull-apart bread. (In case you have forgotten what it looks like, here it is.) A savory and beet monkey bread of all things, was creative and well done. The bread and garlic butter were so delightful, we almost asked for another one but decided to save space for the rest of the courses.
Next up was the salad course. Everything on the tiered platter below was edible. The entire platter is lined with what looks like natural greenery and ivy growth. The leaves are “glued” to the platter with a creamy and mild-flavored hummus. We started from the middle of the platter, which was a warm pea soup with an amazing rim of salty pistachios and spices you eat as you sip the soup. We then had the other warm components, which were at the bottom layer. The layer was composed of miniature salad bowls of perfectly spiced and cooked roasted butternut squash, and the other one of flavorfully cooked onion with a nice crunch. (Top layer addressed below.)The top layer was the playful cold portion of the tiers. It was Dirt Candy’s play and use of the savory version of Japanese Pocky sticks. There were three different kinds of sticks: the rainbow stick was stacked with fresh peppers shaped like Lifesavers candy, the green stick that looks like a tree with a long trunk was a cluster of peas, and the pink polka dots below are flakey sliced fresh beets. The white peering through holding everything together in all the sticks was thick yogurt.
One of the first warm appetizer dishes was a Korean fried broccoli, which is one of the restaurants signature dishes. The broccoli was a lot more spicy than anticipated and was really good. After eating a broccoli you had to eat a piece of the greens, which were dipped in a very cold yogurt. This helped cool you down after the spice.The next appetizer dish was a beautiful abstract geometric arrangement of different forms of beets, and a miniature beet sponge. Each bite was meant to be eaten with one of the purees, yogurts, and sauces on the plate. This dish reminded me of Momofuku Ma Peche (one of David Chang’s restaurants) because the chefs seems to have a similar presentation style in mind here.The following two courses came out at the same time. The one on the left was pate, with a side of mushrooms, and topped with dehydrated fruit. The dish on the right was the fresh fennel salad.This next silly little course was one of my favorites. It sounds bland and boring, but it was a cooked mini carrot slider in an adorable fast food burger box adorned with a carrot. The carrot melted in your mouth, and my husband still swears that it did not taste like a carrot.This dish was one of the final courses, and it was my least favorite. It was spaetzle made from spinach, covered with greens and topped with sesame seeds. I thought the dish was quite bland, and I didn’t think the sesame pulled the dish together the way it was intended to do. The sesame seeds tasted raw and didn’t seem like they were warmed up or browned in a skillet. For those of you that can’t remember spaetzle, it’s the German/Swiss/Hugarian pasta dish.This brussel sprout, cauliflower, and ginger “soup” was crunchy and refreshing. The vegetables tasted very fresh, but I wish they had a little bit more in terms of spicing. The taste was pure and clean.My pictures here do not do this fun dish justice. This was the final dish of the night before the multiple dessert courses. Since Dirty Candy is technically located in Chinatown, this course was inspired by crispy duck. First you roasted the edamame, and then you took a small warm tortilla from the bamboo steamer and started building it up. I forgot to take a picture of the “duck” but it was basically a rectangular truffle shaped filo dough flaky shell filled with Dirt Candy’s version of “duck.”The dessert courses kicked off with “Eggplant Foster.” This warm dish was made tableside with flames and excitement. The dish was a version of “Bananas Foster” which I think I have had once. Bananas Foster is essentially hot cooked bananas with nice caramelization and a scoop of ice cream. Dirt Candy’s dish was made with eggplant, sprinkled with crispy eggplant chips, and served with a side of refreshing lemon ice cream. It also came with two extremely cute little thumbprint cookiesThe two final dessert courses were quite different. One dessert was a spongey moist cake topped with two miniature ridiculously cute vanilla ice cream sandwiches. The cake was served in a little pool of cinnamon and vanilla melted ice cream type sweet puddle.The other dessert was a chocolate brownie with a side of vanilla ice cream, and a variety of crunchy little goodies to have with your bites.And that’s a wrap of the tasting menu! Since I was celebrating my birthday, our server gave us a complimentary sparkling Swiss cider. I’m kind of picky about my cider because I started being able to distinguish between ciders when I lived in London, but this cider was thick and felt luxuriously rich. We probably didn’t need cider after so much dessert, but we enjoyed every sip!
I asked the server how often they change the tasting menus. He explained that approximately every two months, they change the menus. I would like to come back here during the spring and summer and see what they do with a whole new variety of ingredients!