Tasting menus are the highest form of fine dining. But opting out of meat consumption when ordering one is not exactly accepted. (You want what without the foie gras?!)
But that appears to be changing, with a handful of renowned chefs ushering in a new era of Michelin-starred vegetables, hidden bacon not included. There are now more healthy, high-brow options that put produce on the pedestal it deserves. That’s great news, whether you’re a devoted vegetarian or just like to limit your grass-fed steak habit to once a week.
Here are four stellar restaurants (in alphabetical order) where you can treat yourself to a night of beautifully-crafted, delicious courses—from fresh hearts of palm with purple basil to arugula ice cream (really). —Lisa Elaine Held
John Fraser’s Upper West Side establishment has been forging a path for the vegetables-as-entrees movement since it opened in 2007. In addition to his special, affordable Meatless Monday prix fixe, he also offers a vegetable-based chef’s tasting menu every day of the week with dishes that are consistently impressive, like foraged green croustillant with asparagus, avocado, and green peppercorn. $98 for 7-course daily tasting menu, $58 for 4-course Monday prix fixe, Upper West Side, www.dovetailnyc.com
Gotham Bar and Grill
Greenmarket- and farmer-advocate chef Alfred Portale has been offering veggie-based summer lunch menus for a few years—and even created a cookbook with recipes from his menus last summer. But this season he went one step further, introducing a six-course dinner version, which currently features veggie ceviche, chanterelle mushroom crepes, and an incredibly inventive arugula ice cream. Expect dishes that change with the harvest, and farm sourcing info you can count on. $80, Union Square, www.gothambarandgrill.com
Chef Shaun Hergatt is really passionate about vegetables (and working out!), and his dishes are often finished with beautiful edible flowers that can make you reluctant to dig in. But you should, especially into his new five-course vegetarian tasting menu, just introduced this June, which features arugula soup with lovage oil and garden peas with lemon essence, all inspired by growing and eating veggies with his family growing up. “This evolved into creating lifetime memories for my guests by utilizing the best produce at their peak of ripeness, delivering a healthy and tasty experience,” he says. Now you know where to schedule that next lunch meeting. $50, NoMad, www.juninyc.com
Spinach mascarpone ravioli and a mixed pea salad with fava falafel are just two of the mouth-watering items on chef (and healthy school lunch advocate) Bill Telepan’s July Meatless Monday menu. He first introduced the four-course menu back in May and updates it every 30 days, as the season gets hotter and the produce options vary. Prepare to eat what the farmers are serving. $75, Upper West Side, www.telepan-ny.com