Le Botaniste: A Vegetarian New York Restaurant That Wants to Change How We Think About Food
Coming from personal experience, rarely — if ever — will a carnivore look twice at a vegan, vegetarian, all-organic eatery; however, that may be a thing of the past. Recently, Le Pain Quotidien’s Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Alain Coumont, opened the Upper East Side, botanical-based, and affordable restaurant, Le Botaniste, a locale which is already attracting the attention of both the health-conscious and… well, people like me.
Coumont brings his innovative concept of a menu solely consisting of the highest quality, all-natural, and 100 percent plant-based products to New York City with this American debut of the popular Belgium-based counterpart restaurant of the same name. Le Botaniste exemplifies its slogan, “let food be the medicine,” in every way from its apothecary-inspired design, to the purity of the vegetables used in each plant-based dish. The restaurant has a warm, friendly, and casual atmosphere. Furthermore, it’s classy, brightly decorated, and cleverly themed.
The focus of Coumount’s eatery is, obviously, health. Keeping in line with that theme, elegantly labeled glass tincture bottles line the shelves of wooden medicine cabinets that impress patrons as they enter. Going further into Le Botaniste, you’re greeted by chefs in lab coats who can be seen creating beautiful, colorful dishes packed with fresh ingredients. On display are the many meal-building items to choose from for the option of DIY hot or cold bowl entrées. Inventive toppings include Gentse Kimchi, garlicy potato Bacalao (my favorite), young coconut ceviche, seaweed tartare, and red beet caviar.
With the menu being 100 percent botanical, as in zero animal products, the menu is seasonal, utilizing produce only at its peak of flavor. Moreover, Le Botaniste isn’t trying to be something it’s not — so don’t expect any fake, questionable meat substitutes. Chef-designed “prescriptions” (menu items) include bowls filled with a variety of bases, spreads, and toppings that make for surprisingly complex flavors, as well as appetizers that include tempeh sushi and avocado chunks rolled in a mix of seeds and topped with Masala curry.
Unique combo bowls feature the hearty Joe’s Smashed Potato, which was made with steamed, skin-on potatoes and a tasty wild mushroom sauce, alongside a nice selection of raw vegetables. Another option is the satisfying Tibetan Mama rice bowl, which is served with a coconut peanut curry sauce and steamed greens. As for the options I have yet to try, offerings include a vegetarian twist on spicy, three-bean chili; a Dirty noodle soup, featuring free-range tofu and a ginger garlic sauce; and a 'soylognese' pasta (get it?).
Though Le Botaniste emphasizes clean, eco-friendly eating, that doesn’t mean it’s against indulgence. With a seasonal, all-natural wine selection, variety of fresh juices, and a decadent list of desserts, you will leave this eatery pleased — and full. Standout desserts are the rich choco-chia mud and brownie and the coconut milk chia pudding pot. Also, delightful is the raw Key lime pie — a zesty, creamy treat that has a crunchy, graham cracker-like crust. With its inspired cuisine, driven and charismatic owner, Alain Coumont, and most importantly Le Botaniste’s commitment to its cause, I have faith that this organic concept will become widespread soon enough.