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Vegetables - But Not As You Know Them!

Red Lentil, New Haven – Restaurant Review

By Brian Scott-Smith | December 14, 2011

Gobi Manchurian
Sesame encrusted Seitan
Shepherd's Pie
Macrobiotic Platter

We’ve all heard it from our mom’s – “eat your vegetables, it’ll help you grow up big and strong.” But vegetables are boring, right? Wrong!

Chef and Owner Pankaj Pradhan

From the moment you walk into the calming green interior of the Red Lentil Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant in New Haven, CT, you just know you’re in for a treat.

Chef and owner Pankaj Pradhan has created another masterpiece with this second Red Lentil restaurant, the original being in Watertown, Massachusetts.

A huge space, with plenty of tables and smiling, helpful staff.   And already I’ve forgotten there’s no meat on the menu here.   Talking of the menu, it’s a simple two pager. Pradhan’s training over the years in the restaurant and hospitality business is clearly evident, keep it simple and give the customer what they want.

My eating companion and I pick two appetizers to try out, the Gobi Manchurian – a dish of cauliflower, breaded in chickpea flour and spices then deep fried, served with a spicy tomato sauce and fresh cilantro at $8.

And to accompany that the Sesame encrusted Seitan strips – Seitan what? It’s a protein gleaned from wheat and has a texture very close to meat, pan seared and served with a miso-horse radish dressing; also $8.

As we wait for them to arrive I talk to Pradhan about his inspiration and background.

The Green Interior of the Red Lentil

“I grew up a vegetarian, born and raised in India and I went to culinary school and travelled the world as an employee of the Carnival Cruise Line. In that time I travelled to forty different countries, and learned as much as I could about each countries cuisine. I then had the opportunity to train at the world renowned Cordon Bleu School in Paris before finally coming to the US in 1998.”

Pradhan is a go-getter, charismatic and driven, and always looking for new ideas.

His background and culinary education can be seen in the Red Lentil Restaurants, from the décor to the hospitality you receive from his staff and the fact that, even now, as the owner of two successful restaurants, he still rolls up his sleeves and cooks in his kitchens.

Our appetizers arrive and our host bids us bon appetite.

The dishes are colorful and the smell of spices is sweet without being overpowering. Can this really be cauliflower that I’m eating? So light with a nice tang of sauce. It’s so good my eating companion says, “I’ll be back here again” and that’s after just a few mouthfuls of this incredible dish.

And so to the Seitan encrusted with sesame seeds. OK Pradhan, you’ve given us meat, you can tell us, we won’t say!

This wheat protein not only looks like cubed meat, but even has that ‘meaty’ texture. I know, pure vegetarians will be rolling their eyes at this meat eaters comments, but if you’re deciding to lay off the meat or considering transitioning to a vegetarian diet, this is a great half-way house.

Already fast filling up on these substantial starters, the entrée’s arrive.

We’ve ordered Shepherd’s Pie and a Macrobiotic Platter. Both arrive steaming and stunning to the eye.

Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Sauce

The Shepherd’s Pie has Yukon Gold potato, sweet potato and a host of other delectable ingredients, smothered in a cashew gravy and a cilantro sunflower pesto. It towers on the plate demanding to be eaten and despite having no meat, is filling and comforting, as all potato topped dishes should be.

The platter is a complete contrast, layers of colorful grilled seasonal vegetables and a choice of protein; I opted for tofu, and sea vegetable salad. It’s more of what you’d recognize as a typical vegetarian dish, simple flavors but augmented by a plum sauce and that salad, giving a contrast between hot and cold.

Both dishes were hearty and filling and priced at $16 and $13.50 respectively, they won’t burst the bank, but big enough you have to take the remainders home for lunch the next day.

A final shared portion of decadent chocolate cake with a raspberry sauce sealed our fate.

We were persuaded, eating your vegetables is good for you.   If only they had been served up like this when we were kids, there wouldn’t have been tears before bedtime when mom said, “You don’t get down from the table, until you’ve eaten all your vegetables.”

You can also savor Red Lentil in Watertown, MA, see their website for further details.

TELEPHONE(203) 891-7105

Red Lentil
25 Temple Street
New Haven, CT 06510

WEBSITE: theredlentil.com/newhaven


Mon-Thu: 11AM-9.30PM
Fri: 11AM – 10AM
Sat: 9AM-10PM
Sun: 9AM-3PM and 5PM-9.30PM

There are daily specials, and brunch is served on Sat and Sun only between 9AM-3PM.

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