As I’ve mentioned before, if you’re looking for good vegetarian food in New York (or elsewhere), Indian food is a good option. Vermillion is an Indian-Latin fusion restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, near Grand Central. You’ll find familiar Indian dishes with an unusual twist, and some very good vegetarian options.
I was pleased that Vermillion had a separate vegetarian menu. Several of the items of the vegetarian menu were also on the regular menu, but the vegetarian menu included several unique items, as well as some adaptations of the non-vegetarian dishes.
Our meal started with am amuse-bouche of gazpacho soup with a piece of toasted naan bread. Strangely, the naan had anchovies on it. I was surprised that they would bring me this, after we had ordered exclusively from the vegetarian menu. And when I asked, they said they had no vegetarian version of the amuse, even though they could have easily substituted a plain piece of naan. The gazpacho was pretty good, though.
I went with my wife and we got two starters: the cilantro-tamarind paneer (pictured at the top of this post) and artichoke pakoras. The paneer had a strong tamarind flavor, but I didn’t really see any of the other ingredients come through. The paneer itself was quite good, though, and I liked the tangy tamarind flavor. The artichoke pakoras were not particularly impressive. Pakoras are generally deep fried (and, as a result, heavy and oily), and these were not, so that was good. But the sauce was nothing impressive, and the artichokes seemed only lightly fried, so they didn’t have the “crunch” that I expected.
Our two entrees were the gobi portugese (above) and the bombay tawa sabzi pao. You might remember that I had the pav bhaji at Devi not too long ago. This was essentially the same thing. I liked Vermillion’s take better. For one thing, the bread was separated from the vegetables, which meant that the bread didn’t get soggy where it was in contact with the vegetables. Plus, the vegetables here were more flavorful. Vermillion’s vegetables retained more of their flavor (as opposed to Devi, where the vegetables were almost pureed, and had a more uniform flavor).
The gobi portugese was good. The cauliflower was decent, but the gravy was very flavorful. The red peppers added just a hint of spice, which I liked. I have to say, though, that the gravy was really rich; I don’t think I could have finished the whole thing on my own. (That’s not even counting the coconut rice, which again, was good — it was a nice contrast to the spicy cauliflower — but really rich.)
For dessert, we had the “vermillion hedonism” — a dark chocolate cake with “masala orange” and blueberry sortbet. It was surprisingly good. The chocolate cake was warm, and the blueberry sorbet was a nice contrast. Neither was mind-blowing, but both were solid. The “masala orange” was actually pretty cool: a couple of slices of orange with a bit of Indian spice. The contrast of the sweet orange and the spice was a nice combination, and I would have liked to see a dessert play up that theme.
All in all, Vermilion was a solid restaurant. There were lots of vegetarian selections, and the items we ordered wer all good. Nothing stood out as especially impressive, but nothing missed the mark, either. If you’re looking for authentic Indian (or Latin) food, you won’t find it here, but if you want an interesting take on some classic Indian dishes, Vermillion is your place. Two and a half stars.