Last week, I ventured downtown on a Sunday morning for brunch time at Quintessence, an organic raw vegan restaurant in the East Village nestled on E 10th Street between 1st Ave and Ave A. As one of the first vegan restaurants established in New York City, Quintessence has been changing the way New York eats since 1999. With a menu comprising of raw, organic, gluten free and vegan delicacies, Quintessence is every plant-based foodie's dream and an oasis of vegan delights. From cashew milk to ketchup and mustard, everything at the Quintessence Restaurant is handmade from scratch, according to owners Mun and Raw Chef Dan. Ever since founding the restaurant 15 years ago, Mun explains how altering the way she ate changed everything. Her temper changed, the menstrual cycle improved, her energy was lifted.
As far as sustainable dining experiences go in New York City, Quintessence is high up on my list. There's no greenwashing here. Unlike many restaurants offering the occasional one or two organic options on the menu, all the ingredients sourced at Quintessence are 100% organic, vegan and cruelty free.
The ambiance and decor of the newly renovated Quintessence restaurant is wonderful. I particularly love the look and feel of the exposed wall of ivy with kisses of sunflower. What the restaurant lacks in size, they definitely make up in taste and creativity.
Sunday's meeting with Mun and Dan started off with some delicious vegan pumpkin spice lattes made from real pumpkins (unlike Starbucks) and house-made cashew milk. We talked about organic food, recipes, and how the eco-friendly and green movement has contributed to the increasing interest in vegan and organic food. What was meant to be a 30 minute interview turned out to be a two hour conversation.
Dan and Mun believe in the power of eating life foods: "Life Food consists of fruits, vegetables and grains that are never cooked. In fact, nothing is heated above 118ºƒ. By not heating food, all the natural enzymes are left alive and intact. This helps reverses the aging process by providing our bodies with all the enzymes we require to repair cellular damage and to create billions of healthy new cells every day."
Let's move on to the food. Part one of brunch was the Fofu Florentine: two slices of sprouted kamut bread topped with fresh spinach, avocado, tomato, cashew hollandaise sauce and caramelized onions, dusted with black pepper. Quintessence is a pioneer of many vegan inventions. Take "fofu", for example. When asked to define what fofu was, Raw Chef Dan's reply was, "it's tofu without soy." Fofu looks and tastes very much like tofu, but it's actually created with irish moss, cashew nuts and a touch of seasalt. Speaking of cashews, this cashew hollandaise sauce is to die for.
Another interesting piece of information I learned after speaking with Mun and Dan is that apparently they were the inventors of the chia pudding long before it became popular in the mainstream market. According to Raw Chef Dan, when chia seeds first came into the health food market in New York, no one knew what to do with it. People would sprinkle the little chia seeds in dishes, but no one knew to soak it. It was after rounds of trail and errors when the first bowl of chia seed pudding was served at Quintessence. With that said, of course I had to try the original chia pudding. Here it's topped with walnuts, coconut vanilla cream, cinnamon, fresh strawberries and banana. Simply delicious.
For anyone who is interested in learning more about raw food, Chef Dan offers a five day cooking course where you can learn about vegan cooking methods and deepen your understanding of the benefits of eating life foods. For more information, please visit www.rawchefdan.com and do drop by Quintessence to sample some of these delicious goodness.
Photos by Leanne Wei