Restaurant Review: Souen

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

athens, GA

sisters can be bossy, selfish, and teasingly cruel. trust me, growing up i was one. i used to lock my sister christine out of her own room, tell her that i was actually part of an alien breed, or confide to her that i was conflicted with a debilitating disease that could only be eased by eating her Starbursts. but that was last year.

now i like to think i've grown out of this brat phase and have truly developed that special bond that can only exist between sisters. she knows all my quirks, my expressions, my true self. and vice versa. sadly, we now live far apart (about 846 miles apart to be exact) and i miss her dearly. so i was delighted when during my visit home, i had the chance to see her yesterday in athens, ga where she has just started her sophomore year at the university of georgia.

athens is completely charming. it's an archetypal college town where everything is imbued with bulldog pride. the campus is beautiful (but quite hilly!) and the many quaint shops and restaurants are sprinkled throughout downtown or the five points. i got a little private tour of north campus via christine where i saw the famous arch (which you only walk under once you've graduated UGA), the many historic buildings and even saw a glimpse of the colossal football stadium.

afterwards, we had worked up quite an appetite. one of the best restaurants in athens is five and ten, run by top chef masters alum hugh acheson (aka mr. unibrow). it's elevated southern food with a focus on good quality, local ingredients. and deliciousness. it must be one of those places that all the locals know a.k.a. there was no obvious sign outside, causing us to drive right past it two, okay maybe three or four times.

i was so happy once we did find it, because the small restaurant is adorably eclectic and the food was top-notch. to start off with, i had the fresh corn soup with sautéed leeks and crispy almonds on top. it was so creamy yet light and really tasted like biting into a fresh corn on the cob. dinner was the wild striped bass with this pea/bean puree that i had to keep myself from licking off the plate it was so good!

and for dessert, of course, we had a buffet of choices. my favorite was the très leches cake with espresso cream-- such a brilliant combination of flavors. definitely one of the best dining experiences I've had recently. does the South know how to cook or what?!

what a great way to spend the evening with my favorite essy! ILY xo

Five and Ten
1653 South Lumpkin Street, Athens, GA