Today’s review takes us to Elsewhere, a “new eclectic American restaurant” in Midtown West. It isn’t quite as formal as some of the other restaurants I’ve been reviewing, but it is a very good restaurant. It also did a very good job of incorporating vegetarian options onto the menu — until recently.
I went to Elsewhere for dinner a few weeks ago. But in the meantime, they’ve changed their menu, and the vegetarian options have dropped off. I’m still posting this review, and hopefully they’ll bring back some new choices.
This was Elsewhere’s dinner menu the night I went. Not a bad selection; the sides were about half vegetarian, the “to share” selection was decent, and there were a couple of appetizers and entrees that were vegetarian friendly.
I started with the soup, “asparagus soup with whipped truffle buttermilk”, to be exact:
The soup was really good, and surprising. Although I read “asparagus soup”, I had in my mind “cream of asparagus soup”. So I was pleasantly surprised to find the soup was not creamy, but actually rather light. It tasted like liquid asparagus (in a good way). The truffle buttermilk was fantastic, and gave the soup a bit of creaminess and an earthy kick. The black pepper was a good idea, but there was a little too much of it. I liked the consistency of the soup; I imagine it’s difficult to get it just right, not too thick and not too watery.
The main course was a bit of a letdown. First, some background. I live near Elsewhere, so I check out their menu pretty frequently. As I recall, they opened with few/no vegetarian options on the menu. But people were asking for vegetarian food, so they introduced “Portobello sliders” — mushroom versions of their mini-burgers. Then they added the “raviolo”: two sheets of homemade pasta with ricotta in the middle, made with seasonal fresh vegetables. A friend got the raviolo with basil pesto; I’ve seen it with ramp pesto, and another time with eggplants and tomatoes.
I give this background to say that I think the restaurant has (or at least had) given some thought to a good vegetarian dish. Mine, unfortunately wasn’t quite on the mark.
I had the raviolo, which gets a lot of credit at least for being different. The lemon slices on top and the salt sprinkled on the pasta were unexpected and a nice surprise. The pasta was topped with “pea pesto”, which was clever, but a little to thick and too dry. The dryness of the dish was made worse by the pistachios. Normally I love pistachios, but they didn’t quite go with this entree. As you can probably tell from the picture, the ricotta was mainly in the center of the pasta. This left the edges of the pasta fairly dry.
Now, normally, I would chalk this up to just an off day; after all, the pesto that my friend had looked delicious, and he loved the meal. But the new dinner menu doesn’t have it at all (though it still has the mushroom sliders). So maybe it wasn’t popular enough to make the cut. (The new menu doesn’t have great vegetarian entree options, but it does have a full vegetarian tasting menu, and they should get credit for that.)
Dessert was probably my favorite part of the meal. I’m not a huge fan of stone fruits — or any fruits for that matter, which is weird for a vegetarian — so I was initially wary of the peach marble cake.
The cake was served with crispy basil and mascarpone ice cream. The cake itself tasted almost like cornbread, with a little sweetness from the peaches mixed in. I liked that it was not overwhelmingly fruity, which I was concerned about when I ordered. The mascarpone ice cream was a nice complement (but a little heavy to have on its own), and the crispy basil was a nice touch. I topped it all off with some sambuca-spiked coffee.
Elsewhere gets two and a half stars. I liked that they had vegetarian options on the menu, and they had obviously put some thought into them (Portobello sliders because their regular sliders were popular; using fresh seasonal ingredients with the raviolo). Every course is good for a couple of vegetarian options, and not just “mixed greens” or a bland pasta. At this particular meal, I was impressed by the soup and the dessert, but not sold on the raviolo. The concept was there; the execution was off. And I’m wary of what we’ll see down the road, now that the raviolo is off the menu altogether.
One slightly unrelated note: as I mentioned, I live near Elsewhere. I go here a lot for drinks, and they have some great cocktails. The bartenders are very helpful and will make you interesting drinks if you tell them what kinds of things you like. I’ve also had several of their desserts, including their famous “Dutch baby”, and they’ve been uniformly great. So, even though they fell a little flat this time out, I’m a fan of the place overall, particularly for after-dinner drinks or dessert.
UPDATE 12/23/2011: Sadly, Elsewhere has closed. As I noted above, it was a great little neighborhood place and I’m really disappointed to see it go. They were owned by folks behind Casellula, a great wine and cheese bar up the street, so I’ll be going there instead…