Eat Your Vegetables!
Mid-priced Mediterranean vegetarian eatery successfully sprouts in Rye
Fire-roasted eggplant with tahini, garlic, and lemon is excellent.
The kale and quinoa salad can be topped with an organic egg.
The polished interior has ceramic tile floors and a pressed-tin ceiling.
Vegetarian restaurants have become a viable alternative when food-fetished friends discuss dining options. The meatless menu at Rosemary and Vine is Mediterranean/Middle Eastern in concept, reflecting the fledgling owner’s Lebanese heritage. The restaurateurs sought to create a dining model that focused on sustainable, local, and organic ingredients in an environment where all could feel comfortable. Despite their lack of previous restaurant experience, they have done an admirable job.
The room is well put together, carrying the casual concept. It has an amalgam of design features — a blend of brown and black handcrafted ceramic floor tiles, whitewashed pressed-tin ceiling, repurposed wood all around, black gas-pipe furniture bases, and a comfortable banquette lining the long wall opposite the handsome bar.
It was a bagel shop in its previous incarnation, and remnants of that use remain. Blackboards tell us that all of the food is freshly prepared in the compact open kitchen and which organic products are in the larder on a given day — a Northeast chalk map points to their places of origin.
Just like the business before them, Rosemary and Vine offers take out and delivery service. This combination of waiter service and to-go orders can result in some snafus. One evening a server apologized for the long wait between courses. Apparently, the kitchen was obliged to focus its resources on a large outgoing order. The traffic can be a distraction to full-service diners; to access the ordering and pick-up area, patrons have to walk through the dining room’s center.
We tried The Tasting on our first visit, small samples of a quartet of dips. The unadorned family-recipe hummus and mouhamara (roasted pepper, pomegranate, and walnut purée) were mild, but the chipotle-spiked hummus-of-the-day and the fire-roasted eggplant babaganoush were outstanding. A ramekin of herby house-marinated olives and pita chips rounded out the platter. House-pickled vegetables packed the appropriate pucker, but the French lentil salad was a bit heavy on the lentils and light on the salad. Avocado crostini were pretty and well composed. Tati Lena’s fatoush salad was generously portioned and fresh, if a little timid in flavor.
The main courses were more monochromatic in presentation and taste. Five-cheese mushroom lasagna needed both olfactory and optical enhancement. The saffron-scented tagine was flavorful but lacked texture, and the truffled summer-garden fettuccine packed plenty of truffle oil and vegetables, but the pasta was not quite al dente.
The family-recipe falafel missed the mark with our group. It didn’t have the wow factor of the falafel that I first fell in love with in the mid-’70s at New York City’s Mamoun’s on MacDougal Street. There, a warm, fresh pita fondles the crisp, moist, tender, tasty orbs topped with creamy tahini. Unfortunately, Rosemary and Vine’s version doesn’t measure up. The accompanying tahini and hummus, as well as the suggested, and much needed side of tasty homemade pickled turnips, tomatoes, cucumbers, and mint ($2.50) came to the rescue.
The choices on our second visit faired better. The gazpacho blanco was visually appealing, packed with flavor and punctuated with the crunch of toasted slivered almonds. Rough chunks of roasted beets were sweet and tender, the pomegranate molasses and mint adding interesting notes of flavor, with labneh (strained yogurt) supplying a creamy counterpoint. Kale and quinoa salad with romaine, flat parsley, slivered almonds, baby arugula, shredded (not the advertised shaved) Parmesan topped with an organic egg was fresh and lightly dressed with the omnipresent tahini. The Provençal frittata was moist, light, and airy.
Sides are offered but a $2 tariff for house-made hot sauce, homemade ketchup, or chermoula (Moroccan pesto) seemed steep.
We were told that all desserts were vegan but never told why. They were not so much disappointing as they were lacking, too austere and simple, more like a pastry or slice of cake you might purchase in a bakeshop rather than a restaurant. The chocolate-banana filo could have used a moistening drizzle of honey, the almond-arborio rice pudding would have benefited from a spoonful of the homemade compote of dried fruits from the sides menu ($3) and the flavorful, fresh lemon-rosemary cake yearned for a dollop of something smooth, maybe the excellent labneh. Warm chocolate cake was offered with a non-vegan option of whipped cream and a garnish of strawberries, helping offset its crumble.
A compact wine and artisan beer (both tap and bottled) list, as well as inventive, low alcohol “cocktails” (they don’t have a full liquor license) are offered, and the coffee is from Coffee Labs Roasters in Tarrytown.
Rosemary and Vine was started from seed. It has established solid roots and, watered with experience, will continue to climb.
Rosemary and Vine
29 Purchase St, Rye