Sunday, February 27, 2011

GustOrganics, New York City

Yesterday, Jeff and I went into the city to see American Idiot on Broadway. Since this was our Valentine's present to each other, we also wanted to have a nice dinner. With a little research, we managed to find GustOrganics, the first (and only, sadly) 100% organic restaurant in New York. 

We wanted a nice, leisurely dinner, so we got into the city early. We arrived at the restaurant around 5:15. Although they only opened at 5, the place was already mostly full. By the time we finished eating there wasn't a table to be had. I think we were lucky - the next time we go there I'm definitely getting a reservation, just in case.

The decor of the place was very nice, with natural wood tables and chairs and a wall of plants near and over the bar. The flowers on the table were all fresh, and it was a pretty arrangement. I'm sorry to say that the service was only so-so - between taking our order, bringing food and the check and clearing away dishes, we had every server in the restaurant visit us. We were left alone for long periods and servers were slow to bring silverware and fill up water glasses. The servers themselves were very professional and courteous - it seemed like a management/organization issue. Perhaps we got them on a bad night?

The food, however, was just spectacular. We started with some empanadas, which seem to be one of their specialties (the website discusses the Argentinian owner's obsession with the perfect empanada). Jeff ordered the jamon y queso and I ordered the humita (sweet corn, red pepper and oregano).

I wasn't terribly impressed with the dough - it seemed like quite ordinary pizza dough to me - but that may have been due to the preparation. I think this is the first empanada I've ever had that wasn't fried - it was grilled, so rather than tasting the oil, I tasted the dough itself. I tasted a bit of Jeff's first, and thought it was quite ordinary. Mine, however, was awesome. I think the sweetness of the corn was able to compete with the dough flavor better than the ham and cheese did. The corn itself tasted fresh and delicious, with just a touch of red pepper for contrast. I would definitely order this again.

They also had a nice selection of fresh juices. I'm always pleased to see something like this - since I stopped drinking soda and don't drink alcohol, restaurants tend to have little but water to offer me. Now, I'm not a juice bar person, and I've certainly never had a real green juice before, but I figured it was time to try one. I ordered the Tropical Paradise, a blend of pineapple, beets, strawberries, carrots and orange juice. I figured that the flavor of the fruits would mitigate the root vegetables. I was right, to a point. My first sip tasted mainly of pineapple and orange, but as I drank it, the beet taste grew stronger. I'm not a huge fan of beets. I've heard them described as earthy - I think that's a euphemism for "tastes like dirt." As a first-timer, the beet flavor was too strong for me. But I think if I got used to drinking this sort of thing, I wouldn't find it so bad. The other down side was that it was incredibly filling! I had to make Jeff drink the last few ounces. One of these drinks would be a pretty excellent lunch substitute - I'm sure it could hold me over until dinner. And definitely healthy!

For an entree, Jeff ordered the special: papardelle pasta with pesto and asparagus, topped with grilled chicken (which came on the side after I took my picture). The chicken portion was reasonably sized (maybe 3-4 oz?) and was delicious. They pounded it very thin before it was grilled, so it could cook quickly and not dry out. The pasta was definitely handmade and had a nice texture. The best part was the asparagus, though - Jeff said that it was like he was tasting asparagus for the first time. It was cooked perfectly, so that it was bright green but still crisp. I think it is clear that this is a restaurant that takes the quality of its produce seriously.

I ordered the tropical grilled pizza. It came on this lovely slab of wood (I really enjoyed their plating design). It is very fresh and rustic looking. The crust was slightly crispy with a little char to it. If it was the same dough as the empanadas, it wasn't obvious - it was rolled much thinner and didn't have a strong doughy flavor. I think they applied the perfect amount of topping as well. I think I'd like bigger pieces of pineapple so the flavor comes through better, but the thin slices of ham worked really nicely - especially the slightly crisp edges. What will make me go back to their pizza again and again, though, is the sauce. If Jeff had never tasted asparagus before, I had never tasted tomatoes. The sauce had a concentrated sweet tomato flavor that could only come from really high quality tomatoes. Obviously, the sauce I have been buying for myself is garbage. My new quest is to learn how to make this almost paste-like sweet sauce.

Our clean plates stand as a testament to how much we enjoyed our entrees.

The desserts were nice and small - the perfect complement to the meal and not a sweetness overload. We got the tortita - a yellow sponge cake with whipped cream and a strawberry and dulce de leche center. The cake was light and fluffy, the whipped cream fresh and delicious. The dulce de leche was good on its own, but there wasn't much of it so it got a bit lost when I took a bit of everything. The strawberry was delicious. There was just a thin slice or two inside the cake, but its strong, perfectly ripe flavor penetrated the whole bite. I definitely regretted letting Jeff have the strawberry on top.

Our other dessert was the chocolate alfajora. It was two shortbread cookies with a dulce de leche center, covered in chocolate. The chocolate was the perfect consistency - not so hard that it cracked off, but not so soft that it melted on everything. Again, the dulce de leche was good on its own (the milky flavor was delightful), but the chocolate overpowered it a bit. The shortbread cookies had a nice buttery flavor and a texture that reminded me of the Stella d'Oro breakfast cookies my grandfather always has around. It was a nice, and not overpowering, bit of sweetness to end the meal. (Though I do regret not ordering the apple tart - based on the other produce we had, I'm sure the apples would have been delicious!)

Overall, I was thrilled with our meal. I was hoping to find a decent restaurant that shared my values. I ended up with a truly delicious meal. I am definitely going back. And when I do, I think I'll find a way to order even more vegetables, since they clearly know how to select the best and cook them beautifully. Their website calls this their "flagship location," despite not having any others. I would encourage them to open more locations. Maybe Princeton next?


  1. So, price-wise, how did this compare with other dinners you've had in NYC?

  2. I think they're comparable. The prices are all listed on the menu on their website, if you're interested. They also do takeout - though probably not as far as your house ;)

  3. Charlie bro-in-lawMarch 1, 2011 at 11:54 PM

    sounds great - I'll have to try it!