Using Valentine’s day weekend as an excuse, James and I decided to turn last Friday night into a date night. Tempted to return to our favorite spot, Wild Ginger, we searched through vegetarian restaurants looking for a new contestant. COUNTER came out on top.
First impression: The photos on the website make this lower east side restaurant look a lot nicer than it actually is. Aesthetically, the 50s-diner-style back of the restaurant awkwardly contrasts with the trying-too-hard-to-be-trendy front of the restaurant. We had made a reservation, but it somehow disappeared in the hands of the confused host. Luckily there were open tables.
Appearances aside, we settled into our corner booth and had higher hopes for the quality of food.
Drink Impression: COUNTER has a long list of organic and sustainable wines, beers, and cocktails. I chose the Rioja, El Coto, Spain. Dry and chewy and very good. With that description, I could be a sommelier.
James chose the Peak Organic espresso amber ale. He enjoyed it, but I am still a bigger fan of Rogue Mocha Porter. Dark beer wins.
Food Impressions: James and I decided to order three dishes and split everything.
Dish no.1–Wilted kale, wild rice, and sour cherries.
Perfectly steamed kale and thick wild rice seem like the last ingredients to pair with sour cherries, but apparently opposites attract. Fresh and sour and delicious.
Dish no.2–Smoked mozzarella and basil flatbread.
This flatbread in one word: “meh.” Even with smoked mozzarella the pizza was bland and very small for the price. It is hard to tell from the high-quality iPhone photo, but the far end of the pizza was burnt and the cheese compromised.
Dish no.3: Seitan-mushroom veg. burger with fries, aioli, and chef-made ketchup.
Just like the flatbread, a very tiny serving size for too much money. Yes, I am all for decreasing gigantic American portions, but that should also come with a decreased price tag. The burger itself was good, although I liked the fries better. The ketchup (James swears it had cinnamon in it) would have been fantastic if even just a sprinkle of salt had been added.
Overall impression: Not going back.
Our waitress was inexperienced, unnecessarily soft-spoken, and generally confused. She grabbed my wine glass before I even had a chance to finish the last sip.
Food was okay, but it is not worth paying New York City prices for food that is just okay.
Atmosphere was not cool, no matter how hard they tried.
Don’t worry, date remained most triumphant. We had a great time entertaining each other at the restaurant and decided to walk around for a while before finding dessert.
The night was freezing and windy, but somehow we ended up walking across most of Manhattan. Wandering down a few of the crooked streets, we found the perfect place to eat dessert and warm up. Cafe Angelique.
My dessert: Lemon-raspberry loaf cake
and Hojicha tea.
James’ dessert: Vanilla milkshake… in a carafe!