I've never really written a 'restaurant review' but I felt this restaurant was especially noteworthy. I first heard about Souen, a restaurant that specializes in vegan, macrobiotic food, in an article featuring Alicia Silverstone. Now, say what you will about her eating habits when it comes to feeding her child, but I've been a big fan of her overall vegan, healthy lifestyle. I even have her cookbook, The Kind Diet.
The beauty about Souen is that it accommodates so many different diets: vegan, vegetarian, gluten-intolerant, raw... you name it. And these days, we all know somebody (or are that somebody) who has one of these limitations when it comes to eating out. Souen sounds like a scary concept. Vegan? Macrobiotic? My sister Christine always makes fun of me by saying it reminds her of the scene in Baby Mama when Tina Fey orders that terrible yeast ball at a raw foods vegan restaurant in order to impress her date. In fact, when I asked my friend Sonia if she wanted to meet me at Souen for dinner, this is how our conversation went:
S: What place do you suggest?
M: There's a vegan macrobiotic restaurant Souen that's super healthy but really good, I promise!
S: Uuhhhhh lol
But honestly, everyone I've taken there has really enjoyed it! I first went for lunch with my friend Anne Larimer (who is gluten-intolerant) and the second time with Sonia and our friend Mythili (all of us are on-off vegetarians/vegans). The first time, I ordered the Macro Plate (shown above) which I would recommend getting with the carrot dressing. The second time, the three of us had quite the feast! Started with Seitan 'Meat'balls... probably the best thing I've had here and definitely a good transition for those who are typical meat-eaters.
Mythili and I also got fresh-pressed juices to drink (a current obsession of mine). Mine was beet, kale, apple which as I told Sonia would 'put hair on your chest' (she was not a fan). The juice was good and definitely fresh but I like my juices to be ice cold, and this was room temperature (echh!).
For entrees, we all ordered something different. I got the Broccoli Tofu, Sonia ordered the Tofu Teriyaki, and Mythili had the Mushroom Risotto. I tried a bite of everyone else's dish, as I'm prone to do, and they were all incredibly hearty and flavorful. My favorites so far would be the Macro Plate (I loved the variety) and the Mushroom Risotto.
Note: Souen also serves several fish dishes for pescetarians, which I have yet to try.
I've known both Sonia and Mythili since high school. In fact, Sonia and I go way back. We were actually neighbors who took all the same classes/did all the same activities together in high school. Both our siblings are now in the same year, at the same college together as well. She's pretty much the spacier, smarter, Indian version of me. Both Sonia and Mythili also know all about this blog of mine and my food-phototaking obsession, which can become a bit of an inconvenience at times (mostly for my fellow diners). But every time a new dish would arrive they'd say encouragingly, 'Take a picture, take a picture!' before we'd all dig in. It was so sweet.
To end our meal, we got dessert. I was probably most intrigued/skeptical about the dessert. Vegan desserts always have the right intentions, but rarely follow through in execution aka lack flavor/texture/buttery goodness. The Cocoa Creamy Parfait we ordered though was SO good, I could eat it everyday! The crumblings of (gluten-free) granola were perfect with the cocoa and soy vanilla layers. It was not too sweet which was something we all noted. This made the flavors of the cocoa really stand out, like eating a square of really good dark chocolate after living off Hershey's. Some people may not like that intensity, but when it comes to desserts, I'm an equal opportunist.
From what I gather about the macrobiotic diet (and honestly, I still don't fully understand what it is) is that your meal should be composed of a nice balance of nutrients. Not too much protein or too much salt or too spicy. No extremes in general but instead a combination of whole grains (mostly brown rice) along with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Pretty much how all of us should be eating anyways, right?
Sure, the health benefits are great. I mean, I definitely felt my inner-Gwyneth and even after our huge meal, wasn't weighed down but in the end the food has to taste great. Souen fits my expectations in all the right criteria: it's healthy, it's delicious, it's affordable. It's also super popular. Lunchtime is not too busy, but a Friday dinner will probably require a 30-45 minute wait. Unfortunately, the service seems to vary according to how busy the restaurant is as well. But I've had much much worse. Overall, Souen is a restaurant I will go to again and again whether I'm vegan, macrobiotic, or just plain hungry.
Souen Union Square (2 other locations in Manhattan as well) 28 E 13th Street NY, NY (212) 627-7150