Friday night, I went to Grezzo's in the North End for vegan raw food. The menu on the link is mostly the same, though the specials have changed.
For those of you who aren't familiar with vegan or raw food, the basic concept is this: vegan means that there's no animal products involved (no meat, eggs, milk, cheese, honey, yeast, maple syrup) and raw means that nothing is heated over 112 degrees. They also don't use any canned or processed ingredients. The literature on the table mentions that raw food is supposed to give you a buzz after the fact, but I don't honestly remember the whys of it. For more about the raw food movement, visit the Living and Raw Foods website.
I was intrigued by the idea. I've heard of the raw food movement, and I know a lot of people swear by it. I'm neither a raw foodist or a vegan, but I am an adventurous eater and figured I'd try it. Plus, my cousin was in town to run the marathon, and had expressed interest in eating there. So after the race, I headed over with her (I'll call her C, for cousin, just so I don't have to keep writing "my cousin") and P (as a side note, P and I had stayed with C when we went down to the inauguration, so we wanted to treat her to an awesome night out as thanks).
So, we get to the restaurant for our 6:30 reservation. And this place is tiny. I mean, seriously, probably about the same size as my shoebox condo, but elongated. It was very cute, though, tastefully decorated, comfortable chairs, and (/open geek out moment) cool menus with magnets that slid open so they can change the menu (/end geek out moment). The tables were very tight though, because they were trying to squeeze in as many people as possible, and there was very little room to actually sit in the seats if there was someone sitting at the table behind you. P is tiny, and even she felt like she didn't have enough space.
The waitress was very friendly and had a great spiel about the menu. Answered all our questions (what's the lobster really? mushrooms. What're the oysters? mushrooms. What's the cheesecake? nuts. What's the cream? nuts.) and was all in all quite enthusiastic. So I ordered the drink special (Grapefruit and Orange cocktail with lemongrass, thyme, and chili-infused sake with a pink salt rim) while P and C were deciding what they wanted to drink. And we waited. And waited (no water mind you, though they did bring some spiced olives for the table). It took about a half hour to get my drink and more time after that to get P and C's drinks. Another ten to fifteen after that to get the straws we'd asked for (by then, we'd just decided to drink out of each other's glasses to taste. My drink was not good. I tried to take a couple sips, but it just wasn't happening. So I set the drink off to the side and asked for water. And the waitress didn't even ask how my drink was until right before dessert (when it was far too late). She did take it off the bill, though, so I have to give her props for that.
I decided to order the tasting menu and P and C each got an appetizer and an entree (plus P got a dessert). We all shared the dishes around, so I'll just list below what we got and my reactions to them.
Vietnamese Coconut Soup - lemongrass, ginger, mustard greens, mint and basil
This was ok. It was actually pretty creamy, and while I realize I prefer soup hot, it was better than I expected it to be. The basil was quite good, the mustard greens added a kick, and the lemongrass and ginger added some crunch. The tasting menus size was definitely enough of it, though.
Mushroom Soup - baby bellas, soaked dulse and pineapple
This was also ok, and I definitely didn't need more than my little serving. I'm not sure what all was in it, but it was a little sweet, a little savory, with a small spicy kick.
Sliders - spiced patties on vine-ripened tomato, pommes frites and pickles, creamy "bleu cheese" watercress
This was the best course of the whole meal (except dessert). It's the only one I really truly enjoyed eating. It was their take on a hamburger (not sure what the patty was made of), but the tomato buns went together really well with the pickle, watercress, and potato chips (the chips were potato slices soaked in vinegar and then dehydrated).
Gnocchi carbonara - dumplings, creamy rawmesan and fresh English peas with pea shoots and crispy eggplant
The dumplings were made out of mushroom, the peas had some wasabi on them I think, and the pea shoots were pretty but rather tastless. All in all, this course was fine but pretty uninteresting and didn't taste like much. C ordered a full appetizer of this in addition to the smaller one I got on the tasting menu, and it didn't come at the same time as mine. In fact, when her entree came out, she still hadn't gotten the gnocchi, even though we'd already asked twice. The gnocchi came out after the entree (the waitress said the kitchen was backed up, but when I went to the bathroom, I noticed that they were chatting. It's seriously restaurant 101 to deliver food in the right order and at the same time as the other people eating at your table).
Seaweed salad - kelp noodles, sea beans and nori with wasabi vinaigrette
I hated this dish. It's the only one I really couldn't eat at all. Not because of the spicy, because I like spicy. But it tasted like they'd just sprinkled wasabi over it, like wasabi flavored veggies. Ugh. Thankfully, C enjoyed it and ate the whole thing.
Falafel in a lettuce cup
This was pretty good as C's entree. Didn't disappoint (though I only had two small bites, but she seemed to like it well enough). The problem was that it came out by itself and P and I were left without our entrees. Ours came out after C's was already finished. Again, restaurant 101.
Star Anise Crusted Papaya Steak - dill vermicelli with cucumber and olive salad
The papaya steak was really interesting - it looked like fish (they even made the little hash marks), but tasted like papaya. It was pretty good, actually.
Land and Sea - maitake, yellow oyster, black trumpet, hedgehog and honshimeji mushrooms. Smooth lemon "ricotta", dulse and Maine coast kelp
The first couple bites were good. But raw mushrooms only go so far, and I guess I realize now that I vastly prefer them cooked. I think that might be personal preference, but I couldn't finish this dish.
Rich brownie sundae - vanilla gelato, chocolate truffle sauce, brazil nut crumble
This was the best course of the night. There was also a little dash of mango and raspberry coulis on the side that was a wonderful counterpoint to the chocolate.
Chocolate Torte - apricot and candy macadamia crust with lavender blue gelato
This was quite good as well. The torte seemed rather like chocolate mousse and the gelato was delicious. The waitress forgot to put the order for this in, so there was another wait at this stage.
In looking at my overview, I realize I gave a lot of pretty goods and fines for the courses. But really, for the price we were paying, only the sliders and the dessert seemed worth it to me. None of us really enjoyed the meal (I don't think), though we found it very interesting, and there were courses here and there that were enjoyable.
But the thing is, we were there for three and a half hours. Yup, that's right, three and a half. And it's not because we were chatting non-stop and just never left. It would good to catch up with both these lovely ladies, but it was also frustrating because there were such long waits for everything, and by the time we left, it was 10p.
I would definitely not recommend this restaurant. If the service is poor and the price high, then I'd expect the food to be fantastic to make up for it. But it wasn't. I hear there's another raw food place in Beverly that's better, maybe I'll try that one next.