New York’s Dirt Candy has been on my bucket list for quite some time. But with a teeny tiny seating area and an apparently rabid customer base, getting a reservation here as a weekender is damn near impossible (last-minute cancellations announced by “Twitter Table Lotto” make it more accessible to locals). I made a reservation in August for a trip in October, leaving exactly two months of building anticipation for the meal.
The menu is vegetarian, with most, if not all, items available vegan. All of the appetizers and the entrees are named for a single vegetable, which either appears in several variations (cucumber soup with cucumber jelly) or stars in the show with some sidekicks (spinach served with grapefruit, pistachios, and smoked ricotta). Also, jalapeño hush puppies with maple butter. Just cuz.
Our second appetizer was more sophisticated, setting the tone for the rest of the meal. Composed of thin strips of potato salad, crispy Japanese yams, grilled chip-like sweet potatoes, along with julienned olives, bitter greens, and apples, this was the lightest, most delicate assemblage of tubers I’ve ever tasted.
We ordered all four entrees: beans, broccoli, parsnips, and corn. The first two were outstanding.
Beans consisted of tofu poached in coconut sitting on a raft of long beans in a little pond of saffron sauce. I’m not being dramatic; this is exactly how it looked. Crispy fried green beans – life rafts? passengers? – finished it off. Each component, including the tofu slab, was perfectly seasoned. This dish was beautiful, creative, and delicious.
Broccoli came as a barely smoked hot dog wiener (whaaat?) with broccoli kraut, broccoli rabe, and a side of salted crispy kale. Served in an airy bun and topped with vinegar and zippy barbecue sauce, one bite led us to abandon any doubts (square bun included). I can’t remember the last time I ate something this tasty and just plain fun.
We weren’t huge fans of parsnip (parsnip gnocchi with radishes):
or corn, which sounded tempting (grits, corn cream, tempura egg, huitlacoche corn fungus) but was also a bit bland.
Still, the pleasure we took in the appetizers and first two entrees was enough to keep enthusiasm high. Innovative, flavorful, and fine but not outrageously priced vegetarian dining like this just doesn’t exist in DC. The bad news is that you have to travel to Philadelphia or New York, but the good news is that Dirt Candy is moving into a bigger space late next year, so at least we out-of-towners will have a fighting chance of getting a table.
430 E. 9th St
NY, NY 10009