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November 2005
Tasty Treats on Broome Street
Restaurant Reviews by Maureen C. Wyse

 

Photo by Kevin Lysaght

A Great Place for Veggie Dates: Wild Ginger
A new vegetarian spot on the cusp of Chinatown and Little Italy, Wild Ginger calls itself a “pan-Asian vegetarian kitchen,” but Satya calls it a delicious hide-away. With moss patched bamboo walls and simple pale wood furniture, the restaurant provides for dimly lit, romantic dining. The atmosphere is light and friendly with relaxing music like jazz great Chet Baker to set the mood. The entire dining area has roughly ten tables, but is quite spacious for such a small restaurant. Wild Ginger’s character, however, is brought to life in how well each component, from the moss on the walls, to the tiki hut façade of the kitchen, works together in creating an appealing and subtle environment. Plus, each table is not only adorned with tea light candles, but also reusable chopsticks.

Wild Ginger also does something that many other Asian veg restaurants don’t: they make delightful, beautifully presented food that doesn’t weigh you down in price or in oil. Meals of well-prepared soy and seitan are $9-12 and come with a cup of wild brown rice. Noodle and rice dishes are great alternatives and range from $1-8, starters are $3-5, and soups and salads can be devoured for $2-6. Be sure to check out their lunch specials ($7-8; noon-4pm) which come with portions of the dinner entrees, miso soup, steamed pumpkin, and either brown rice/spring roll or coconut rice/shitake mushroom. They have simple traditional teas to sip, homemade ice drinks and desserts of pudding, sorbet, ice cream and cake. Almost the entire menu is vegan and dishes that aren’t are clearly marked as such and can be made vegan upon request.

For appetizers, Satya recommends the well-presented, mango salsa-topped, scallion pancake—excellent for the cilantro lover. We also recommend the light and flaky soy protein nuggets, which are lighter than the usual soy “chicken” nuggets and come with a lovely sweet plum sauce.

The Satya staff tasted many of the entrees on offer, and the verdict is: we can heartily recommend them all. One thing for certain is Wild Ginger makes tasty mock meat dishes—all have a remarkable meaty texture and savory flavor. Favorites include the spectacular sizzling Soy Cutlet Platter with Black Bean sauce, the sweet and flavorful Smoked Teriyaki Seitan served with crisp sugar snap-peas, the stellar Black Pepper Seitan with Chinese Broccoli, and the subtle Slow-Cooked Malaysian Curry Stew containing potatoes and squash. All entrees come with either a salad—mixed greens dressed with natural carrot ginger, topped with shredded beets and sprouts—or a light miso soup. With perfect portion sizes, the food is as good as its lovely hibiscus-garnished and masterfully arranged presentation.

Wild Ginger is filling in just the right way and leaves room for a light dessert and a pot of spiced Fireside Cha tea. Take a date, yourself, or a friend and discover this tucked away, new veg treasure.

Wild Ginger is located at 380 Broome Street between Mott and Mulberry Streets in Manhattan. They are open Sunday-Thursday, noon-11pm; Friday and Saturday, noon-11:30pm. For information call (212) 966-1883. Note: Wheelchair accessible; sidewalk dining in summer.

Photo by Kevin Lysaght

Baby Yourself
Just approaching Babycakes NYC, you can’t help but smile. Their old-fashioned “bakery” sign and front step inlayed with a ceramic cupcake mosaic are the first signs of this delightful new vegan bakery. Looking into Babycakes, the smile breaks through. Feeling like a kid of the 1950s, it’s hard to resist the impulse to press nose and hands up to the big windows, longing for just one treat. You might even drool a bit, wide-eyed, as the baker lady frosts cupcakes and delicately places the sprinkles. But the real grin emerges with the charming smiles of the adorable Babycakes ladies in their 50s style waitress uniforms, embroidered with “Baking Dept” on the backs.

Babycakes mommies, Erin McKenna and Sabrina Wells, were sick of saying “no” to sweets due to their dietary needs and ethics. They knew they weren’t alone, so Babycakes was born. If you’re looking for sugar, wheat, gluten, trans fats, milk, butter, cream, nuts, soy or eggs, you won’t find it in their “delicate treats for gentle tummies.” The treats, however, are not lacking in any way—in fact, they leave you wondering, “How did they do it?”

On Manhattan’s Lower East Side, just beyond busy Delancey, Babycakes is a cute neighborhood bakery with flare and a niche. Right down to the old-fashioned “milk” jugs (filled with cow’s or soymilk), the rotary dial telephone, retro counter and barstools, this bakery looks like it was misplaced from another era.

Feeling like that longing little kid, the Satya staff opted out of leaving our nose prints on the window and stepped inside. Bakery cases with shelves of colorful babycakes (aka cupcakes) and a tiered rainbow sprinkle set greet you, bringing you even farther back into childhood. Like any bakery, the aroma of fresh cake and sweets dusts the air, as well as some light happy music that creates a welcoming atmosphere. A wide variety of delectable cupcakes, in small and large, as well as cookies, biscuits and breads are all on offer. And like the soda shoppes of the 50s, you can assume a barstool and pay your money to a bright red cash register with manual buttons and the almost obsolete “cha-ching.”

Satya recommends any flavor of the Babycakes cupcakes: lemon poppy, plain vanilla, fresh fruit-filled vanilla, chocolate and carrot. And if you’re feeling adventurous, sinfully sin-free chocolate chip or cinnamon ginger cookies jazzed up with a shot of their outstanding frosting on top are scrumptious. They even have something for your pooch: vegan dog biscuits by Lambchop.

While munching on a cruelty-free and almost healthy treat, your eyes are drawn to read all the signs on the pale pink walls: “100 percent Fair Trade Gorilla Coffee,” “Cookies $1,” “Cupcakes: Small $3.50, Large $4.50,” and “Frosting Shot $1.” But one sign politely says, “It’s nice to be nice,” and with a Babycakes cupcake or frosted cookie inside, it’s hard not to be. Visit Babycakes and treat your tummy nice.

Babycakes NYC is located at 248 Broome Street between Ludlow and Orchard Streets; open Monday-Saturday, 10am-10pm; Sunday 10am-8pm. For information contact (212) 677-5047 or www.babycakesnyc.com.

 


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