Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On Gobo: Food for the Five Senses

I wanted to take my husband out for his birthday, so I asked him to tell me what his absolute favorite restaurant in New York City is. As he is a meat eater, I expected him to name some Sushi restaurant, and was completely prepared to to chow down on avocado rolls for the night.

He answered: "Gobo." This is a vegetarian restaurant. So that says something.

I can't say enough about Gobo: Food for the Five Senses. I enjoy absolutely everything about it. It's much more in the vein of classy restaurant, compared to joints like Vegetarian Paradise just around the corner, with low lighting and waiters going around with bottles of wine. The dishes are a notch more expensive. But for the food and the atmosphere, it's worth it. My favorite thing about eating there is the communal way it is set up. The tables are all connected, cafeteria style, and the kitchen is open, so you can watch your food being prepared. There is such an openness, a togetherness about it, and paired with the low lighting and friendly staff, it takes on a sort of intimacy I haven't found in other establishments. I take everyone to Gobo when they are visiting the city, and I have yet to hear a complaint.

My favorites? The New England rolls are outstanding, large crisp rolls filled with vegetables that come with this delicious tangy sauce. My husband's favorite dish is also one of mine, the smoked seitan medallions in a sizzling citrus sauce. It comes out actually sizzling, cooked perfectly (which is a hard thing to do with seitan), accompanied by vegetables and a dark citrus sauce. My absolute favorite: I can't get enough of the shitake caps with mashed sweet potatoes and raisins. I never thought that combination would work, but it blew me away- the sharp taste of shitake is leveled by the subtle sweetness of the potatoes. The thing about the menu that impresses me is that they aren't trying to mock meat; they list exactly what you are about to eat rather than saying "chicken," and when they use protein products such as soy or seitan, they do so in such a way as to highlight their unique taste. The menu also features an organic juice bar, although I have skipped that thus far because it is a bit too on the pricey side.

This may be the only place I would say this for: Gobo is a must for any visit to New York City. Whether you're a vegetarian or not, it is the best way to experience urban vegetarian cuisine. Make a reservation, otherwise you aren't likely to get a seat in the main dining room; if you don't care, there is, in lieu of a bar, a cute but cramped little area called the "kitchen" off to the side where you can be served if there is no seating in the main room available.

Gobo is located on 6th Avenue, between Waverly and 8th Street. Many subways in the vicinity, including the West 4th stop for the A/C/E/B/D. http://www.goborestaurant.com/ for menu and information on their other location on the UES. Reservations recommended!! Call 212.255.3902 to make a reservation.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Brooklyn Countryside

Lately, I have been craving to get out of the city. The city can be so exhausting, subway to subway, street to avenue, apartment to apartment. The whole structure of city life is very different from the countryside, and, having lived here for a good six years or so, I'm used to it. But I think the jagged way we move through the city goes against our natural instincts- it's all corners and stairs, no open spaces.

Which is why riding a horse in the woods was a breath of fresh air, and I did it here in Brooklyn.

Unlike the horse rides in Central Park, the nice thing about riding in Prospect Park is that you go out really deep into woods, off the roads and trails, and find yourself transported out of the city; you can't hear cars, trains, people, anything. For $37 I got to experience an hour of a very rare thing in New York: quietude. Just gusts of wind and horses trudging through the autumn leaves. It was really a wonderful time, and while the winter is upon us, it would be a lovely way to celebrate the spring. Keep it in mind.

Kensington Stables (http://www.kensingtonstables.com/) on 51 Caton, just walk down Parkside alongside the park from the Parkside B/Q, and turn at the circle. They also offer lessons; what I did is called a "trail ride." Call for reservations: 718-972-4588.