So when a good friend of ours and former New Yorker who now lives in Austin (yes, it is awesome that we mentioned Texas in three posts this week) suggested we all meet at a new japanese restaurant on the lower east side that featured menu items specifically marked as 'vegan,' we were 100% down. And we were not at all disappointed. The food was delectable, the atmosphere cute and cozy in a modern minimalist japanese way, and the staff was beyond welcoming of us as vegan guests. So needless to say, when we heard that they were starting up a weekend brunch, we immediately made plans for a return visit.
The endearing spot in question is Family Recipe, situated just below Houston on Eldridge. Now, if you're a vegan, even in New York City, you know a decent brunch at a non-vegan place is one of the metaphorical holy grails of our culinary world. Sure, a vegetarian can just waltz into one of the gajillion brunch joints in New York and point at any number of cheesy and/or eggy dishes and sit back entirely satisfied, chatting with their pals. But for vegans, the options are significantly more limited, making us, sadly, the reclusive lost sons and daughters of the brunching hour. I know—tragic. Why? Why is the bloody mary pre-mixed with the Worcestershire sauce already?
But Family Recipe's chef and owner, Akiko Thurnauer, has thought out her vegan options fully, making sure the dishes, rather than suffering from lack of animal ingredients, are flourishing in their combination of flavors. From the sesame burdock root + carrot rice bowl—served in a small, hot cast iron cauldron—to her spicy tofu buns, the cuisine's both unmistakably asian-inspired and fresh, modern, and uniquely conjured up. Her brunch offerings are no different.
The rice bowl pulls double-duty, making an appearance on both the dinner and brunch menus, which we took advantage of right away, remembering how much we liked it last time. And Thurnauer's organic tofu scramble is wholly unique, combining fresh scallions and truly tasty hijiki seaweed strips with a distinct blend of spices, making it the first and only japanese-inspired scramble we've ever had. On top of that, she's come up with a great gluten-free waffle that's made from brown rice flour, coconut flour, and, by the taste of it, magical pixie dust (which is vegan, by the way). The waffle is crisp, light, and totally mind-blowing, especially for someone who rarely gets a chance to partake of such breakfast fare outside of their own home. These two highlights are then rounded out by seasonal fruit, brown rice crisps, and a kale salad that can easily be made vegan.
On top of the restaurant's culinary feats, we're also big fans of the fact that Family Recipe's obviously got some solid design in place, both in terms of interior ambiance and overall branding, as you can see with their business cards (above), which are printed on thin panels of wood. The logo is the crest of the family of Thurnauer's father, who first inspired Akiko's love of food. From the restaurant's site:
"Akiko's culinary experience started at an early age. When Akiko was a kid her father traveled all over the world for business and brought back many unique ingredients from Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. He took her to fine dining restaurants and street food fairs. Family Recipe is dedicated to the culinary legacy of her father, who passed away 10 years ago."
Which is what it comes down to, in our humble opinion—good restaurants and the people who run them care about what they're doing. The more that start caring about how they do it—how what they create impacts both the animals they use and the guests they serve—the closer we all get to that ideal of a compassionate world. Though Family Recipe serves animal products, they're also serving a growing community of consumers who care more and more about the impact their choices make, vegans included. The more we support that kind of thing, the better. So check them out next time you're in the lower east side or just jonesin' for a nice vegan waffle and some friendly company. Who knows, maybe they'll expand the vegan offerings ever more. We'll certainly be first in line if they do.
Below, the glorious gluten-free brown rice waffle, organic tofu scramble, the vegan rice bowl, and the store front window.