The Undercover Vegetarian: Superba Snack Bar
Cauliflower t-bone with basil puree and orange/olive pistou at Superba Snack Bar.
Here again, at Superba Snack Bar, we find a kitchen obviously in love with meat in all its permutations. And yet, chef Jason Neroni and crew also have an affinity for vegetables and, unlike many of Neroni's contemporaries, he avoids putting meat in his vegetable options.
That means the entire "from our backyards" portion of the menu is fair game for vegetarians (or it was during my visits). Not only that, but you'll find far more thought and invention on this portion of the menu than many chefs give their vegetable options. The cauliflower t-bone is a thing of beauty, both on the plate and on the tongue. When presented with it, my steak-loving child pronounced "I wish this was my entree ... or maybe three servings of this." The cauliflower is hearty and singed at its edges, and the accompanying orange and olive pistou and basil puree add sweetness, a bright freshness and depth.
Many of the vegetable dishes have that combination -- a vegetal base with a pop of sweetness, and then something mellow and hearty to round it all out. Black kale comes with pickled golden raisins, pine nuts and Parmesan. Raw squash salad finds its perk in sweet sungold tomatoes and its grounding in a pistachio aioli.
There are also usually at least two meat-free pastas, and while I preferred the pastas that came with ingredients like chorizo or sea urchin, there's no sense that the vegetarian options are throw-aways. Take for instance the gnocchi with braised broccoli necks, vincotto and hazelnut bread crumbs -- the dish is inventive, thoughtful and delicious.
So while Neroni and crew obviously love meat, they're paying just as much attention and giving just as much care to every dish on the menu. Even a steak-lover could eat meat-free at Superba and never feel as though he was missing a thing.
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