When news hit Astoria that there would be a brand new restaurant opening nearby that would feature vegetarian/vegan options we were so excited. We immediately began researching the menu, our mouths salivating with the promise of a vegan meal we could walk to. When we found the menu the vegan options are simply listed as ‘ask your server.’ Our vegan fantasy was stopped dead in its tracks. . .
As any good blogger would do, we promptly emailed the owners to investigate the plans they had for vegan options. They couldn’t have been kinder. Alex and Natasha (brother and sister entrepreneuers behind Bear) assured us that the menu was in the works and we would be invited to taste things once they were up and running. True to their promise, an invitation arrived to the pre-opening party at this new neighborhood haunt-in-the-making. We promptly collected a couple of meat eating and alcohol drinking friends to join us and RSVP’d yes!
The evening was a tasting filled with small bites from the menu which was filled with a delicious sampling of traditional Russian and modern cuisine. Our table sampled stewed tomatoes (we couldn’t get enough of these), scallop ceviche with salmon caviar, potato and roasted onion croquettes w/ crème fraiche, cold mushroom salad, honey drizzled pears w/ blue cheese, and roasted duck with granny smith apples. Our companions were licking their plates and looking for more, and every time a Bear employee passed by our table they assured us that something vegan was coming. . .
Although we only had the opportunity to taste two of Natasha’s vegan dishes those two happened to be two of the best vegan dishes we have ever tasted. The shiitake mushrooms roasted with garlic and tomatoes and topped with cilantro sprouts were beyond delicious. This is saying a lot considering that Erich is not a lover or a liker of fungi. This sentiment was seconded by one our carnivorous friends who is also no friend of mushrooms. The texture of the mushrooms was perfect, the rich flavors of garlic, sage, and mushroom provided the richest base note and the bright flavor of the tomato and the light note of cilantro that followed left us craving more.
The other dish Natasha served up was mashed yams with truffle oil, sage, and dill. Amazing! (It’s worth noting that WT almost always wants more salt on his food. He’s a poster child for hypertension really!) The food we had at Bear was perfectly seasoned and deliciously balanced- no extra salt needed. Every bite was a flavor experience we’d like to experience again. Natasha has a true passion for food that reads in the dishes she serves.
We highly recommend this spot, and hope that they continue to think about the vegan and vegetarian New Yorkers. We’d really like to see them add an actual vegan/vegetarian section on the menu, but if the food they serve when we arrive is as good as the pre-opening we will definitely be regular visitors.