26 June 2010

Whole World is reopening

It's official: following months of delays after a fire damaged its kitchen, Columbus' original vegetarian restaurant is reopening. The Whole World Restaurant and Bakery appeared at Comfest, and a sign proclaimed the grand reopening to be Tuesday June 29. This is great news for a great organization.

23 June 2010

Vegan baker wins Cupcake Wars

Since I spend my spare time watching almost every competitive food program on television, I was particularly pleased when Chloe Coscarelli won Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. The vegan chef took the crown by preparing 1,000 cupcakes for a singles event, including a chocolate strawberry shortcake, a dark chocolate orange and a raspberry tiramisu. The theme of the ingredients was aphrodisiacs.

All we need is for a vegan chef to win Iron Chef America or Top Chef Master and vegetarian fine dining might get its due recognition. Much like Pattycake in Columbus, Chef Chloe demonstrated that vegan dessert can be more amazing than its non-vegan counterparts.

18 June 2010


Basil is an upscale Thai establishment on the Northern tip of the Short North. The menu features a ton of vegan and gluten-free dining options.

Diners with dietary restrictions should be very pleased by the menu at Basil. Almost 70 percent of the menu is available as a vegan preparation, and another 50 percent of it can be made gluten free. The menu is a combination of traditional and modern Thai dishes alongside a few fusion dishes.

One other nice feature of Basil is the $7.50 lunch special. Diners get a soup, an appetizer and limited choice of lunch-portion entrees for this low price. While I didn't sample the lunch deal, it looks like a tremendous bargain.

I started with the fresh rolls, which were cold rice noodles, mint, carrots and tofu surrounded in a rice wrapper and served with plum sauce. The carrots were beautifully crunchy, the mint added a bright layer of flavor and the sweetness of the sauce brings the whole dish together successfully.

I also sampled the vegan Tom Ka, a coconut milk soup with root vegetables, mushrooms, tofu, citrus leaves, lemongrass, green onions and cilantro. While the flavor was pleasant, the dish lacked the complexity that is traditional with this Thai classic.

The Thai eggplant is served in a spicy brown sauce with tofu, white onions, jalapeño peppers and Thai basil. The texture of the eggplant was perfect--soft without being overly chewy. The peppers and onions added texture to the dish. The least successful part of the dish was the tofu, which didn't seem to integrate into the dish. On future visits, I might order the eggplant without tofu.

Basil features an extensive cocktail menu in addition to limited beer and wine options. The service is friendly and capable. The decor is stark, dark and understated.

Overall, I liked Basil but didn't love it. Having eaten at Nida's and Thai Grille recently, Basil didn't seem to be up to their level. However, the $7.50 lunch special should be hard to pass up, and Basil is different enough from the other two aforementioned places to make it a decent change-of-pace option.


Basil Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

13 June 2010

Little Palace

Little Palace re-opened recently after a long remodeling process by new ownership. The new crew also operates Club 185 on Livingston and the Rossi in the Short North, two places with a focus on comfort food and bar staples that have been added to the menu at Little Palace.

While the famous neon sign stayed on the exterior, the inside has been tastefully remodeled. The bar also benefits from a fix-up that also added a few microbrew selections.

There are not a ton of options for vegetarians at Little Palace. The main choices are a couple of individually sized pizzas and a stromboli. There are also appetizers and salads.

I started with the garlic bread, which was four thick triangles of white bread, smothered in butter, garlic and melted cheese. It was served with a lightly herbed tomato sauce. The quality of the garlic bread was somewhat lacking; it was either slightly too expensive or could have been prepared with better quality ingredients. I would opt for the salad on another visit.

The vegetarian stromboli, however, suffered none of the shortcomings of the garlic bread. The beautifully browned half moon shell was stuffed with mozzarella cheese, cremini mushrooms, red onions, green olives and fresh jalapeño peppers. When paired with the tomato sauce, it was absolutely delightful.

The individual pizzas are about the size of a dinner plate and are made with a hand-stretched crust. Vegetarian options include cheese, bianco and Margherita.

Little Palace is open late seven days a week. It should provide yet another late-night dining option for residents in and around the Central Business District.

Little Palace

Little Palace on Urbanspoon

05 June 2010

Plantain Cafe

Plantain Cafe is a Cuban eatery that is the latest addition to the burgeoning Gay Street dining corridor. It features limited vegetarian dining options prepared in an authentic Cuban style.

Initially, I was hesitant to dine at Plantain Cafe because the menu only offered black beans and rice as the house standard vegetarian dish. More recently, the dish has been augmented by the addition of three different plantain preparations, giving me just the incentive I needed to sample the wares at Plantain Cafe.

The black beans and rice were subtly flavored and deceptively delicious. The beans were laced with hints of garlic, pepper and cilantro, and the flavor bled into the sticky pile of rice. The rice and beans were served with plantain chips, fried, mashed green plantains and sweet fried plantains. The crispy chips were fantastically addictive. The mashed green plantains (called tostones in Spanish) were a great mix of savory and salty notes. The sweet plantains, probably the version most diners are familiar with, were also outstanding.

The decor at Plantain Cafe screams Caribbean. There is seating inside and outdoors.

Service was a little slow and inefficient today. Plantain Cafe gets a pass because this is their first year of business, and they might not have expected an influx of business from the Columbus Arts Festival. Next year, they should be better equipped to deal with the ups and downs of business in Columbus' Downtown.

Plantain Cafe

Plantain Cafe on Urbanspoon

03 June 2010

Thai Grille

Thai Grille in Uptown Westerville occupies the space of the former Michael's Pizza, which was closed because of a fire. The restaurant brings flavorful fare to Westerville's main thoroughfare, and they up the ante by using locally sourced, organic ingredients with plenty of choices for vegetarians.

The decor at Thai Grille is understated. Service is brisk and attentive.

I was absolutely amazed by the volume of vegetarian options on the menu. With the exception of grilled meat and seafood dishes and the soups, all of the other dishes were vegetarian or could be prepared vegetarian.

Vegetarian appetizers included spring rolls, summer rolls, curry puffs, chive pancakes, tofu satay, the green salad and the papaya salad.

I sampled the curry puffs, which were reminiscent of tiny samosas. The puffs were filled with liberally spiced potatoes and peas that were served with a sweet dipping sauce with chunks of cucumber, red pepper and red onion. It was delightful.

There are a wide variety of vegetarian entrees as well. However, in order to get a feel for the flavor of Thai Grille, I had to order the tofu curry.

The tofu curry was served in a thick coconut milk that exploded with spices. The dish also came with potato, carrot, onion, pea pods, zucchini and squash. Since Thai Grille's focus is on local ingredients, the vegetation in the dish changes with the seasons.

Diners also get rice options, which include jasmine rice (also called Thai hommali rice), brown rice, white sticky rice and black sticky rice. The sticky rice options cost an extra $1.50.

There are a number of dessert options at Thai Grille. There is an extensive list of teas, and a limited selection of beer and wine that is well-suited to the cuisine.

Thai Grille is another great addition to Central Ohio's dining scene. With the multitude of meatless options, it should put Uptown Westerville on the map for vegetarians.

Thai Grill

Thai Grille on Urbanspoon