Chef Amanda Cohen Scrapping a La Carte Menus at Dirt Candy
Chef Amanda Cohen upgrades the dining experience at her vegetable-focused restaurant, Dirt Candy, collaborating with sommelier Lauren Friel, and eliminating a la carte menus. Starting September 5, Dirt Candy will no longer offer its standard dinner menu in the dining room, and will instead ask customers to put themselves in the hands of chef Cohen and her team.
"I've run Dirt Candy for nine years, and a whole generation of vegetable-focused restaurants have followed our lead, but I'm ready for something new," says chef Cohen. "This goes against New York City's dining trends right now, but I have a great dialogue with my customers and they're ready for the next vegetable frontier. Getting rid of the a la carte menu provides me with an opportunity to take more risks, to try more experiments, and to kick off an even cooler, crazier, all new vegetable party."
Diners at the relaunched Dirt Candy will be able select one of two options: The Vegetable Patch ($57, tip included) featuring roughly five courses of the restaurant's most popular dishes, such as Portobello Mousse, Tomato Cake with Smoked Feta, and Grilled and Smoked Broccoli Dogs; The Vegetable Garden ($83, tip included) is the more adventurous offering, serving up an array of vegetable dishes that will change on a regular basis, such as Eggplant Foster flambéed tableside and served with lemon ice cream, basil crème anglaise and eggplant thumbprint cookies, Peking Peas with sugar snap peas, pea pancakes, and crispy pea skin (made from yuba) grilled on the table in a miniature binchōtan, and Lettuce Soup with coconut, peanuts and lime. The menu will reflect seasonality, and diners will get the opportunity to try the kitchen's ever-evolving experiments alongside it.
Chef Cohen will continue her long-running relationship with forager Tama Matsuoka Wong of Meadows and More, who showed up on the Dirt Candy doorstep two years ago bearing wild greens, roots, and berries picked from the mountains, meadows, and marshes of New York and New Jersey. And she'll be sourcing her microgreens from Brendan Davison's Good Water Farms in Bridgehampton, NY.
In addition, she has teamed up with sommelier Lauren Friel (formerly of Ana Sortun's Oleana and Sarma in Cambridge, MA) to expand Dirt Candy's wine cellar. Pairing wine with vegetables is notoriously challenging, and Lauren will be searching out lesser-known wines, some of them natural, and as many as possible from female winemakers, to match Dirt Candy's wild flavors, ranging from fermented black beans to caramelized yogurt, giving diners a chance to taste what happens when a fresh tomato meets the perfect varietal. Dirt Candy also exclusively serves Canadian Beer, evoking chef Cohen's Canadian roots.
Dirt Candy will continue to offer an a la carte menu at the bar and during brunch service. Some of their dinner classics, like Korean Fried Broccoli, Carrot Sliders, Hush Puppies with Maple Butter, and Dirt Candy's signature Crudité with Hoppin' John Hummus will appear on these menus for more casual diners.
Since opening the original, game-changing Dirt Candy in 2008, chef Amanda Cohen has received numerous accolades including a glowing two-star review in The New York Times (the first vegetarian restaurant in over 17 years to be ranked this highly by The New York Times). In 2015, the restaurant relocated to a brighter, airier space on the Lower East Side and became, at the time, one of only four restaurants in New York City to eliminate tipping completely, paying everyone from dish washers to waiters to line cooks a living wage above the state minimum. In the nine years Dirt Candy has been open, it has paved the way for vegetable cuisine and it will continue to do so in this new creative format.
The last opportunity to order a la carte for dinner at Dirt Candy will be Thursday, August 31. The restaurant will be closed from Friday, September 1, until it reopens on Tuesday, September 5. Dirt Candy's hours will remain Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. until 11 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday for brunch from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.