Enter Le Botaniste, a natural wine bar and cafe that opened in February on Lexington Avenue near 64th Street that's out to prove that vegan and gluten-free dining can be both crave-worthy and easy on the wallet (as in $8-$15 entrees, which go down well with a crisp white or bold red).
The restaurant is the brainchild of Alain Coumont, the creative force behind Le Pain Quotidien (a little chain you may have heard of) who is a bit of a healthy living evangelist. “Alain has converted me and some of our team members to a plant-based diet already," says Laurent Francois, managing director of Le Botaniste. And the hope is that the hungry (meat-eating) diners of Manhattan are next.
Coumant says this new concept (which, like LPQ, he first launched in Belgium before bringing it stateside) comes from his increasing awareness of how our diets affect our bodies and the environment, and his self-proclaimed “desire to offer a health-focused, eco-friendly, organic menu that is, above all else, delicious.”
On the green scale of iceberg to spirulina, how healthy are we talking? Le Botaniste is the sort of vegan, gluten-free, and organic restaurant that has an impressive wine list—sulfite-free, pesticide-free, and biodynamically grown—and takes dessert seriously. (Chocolate mud pudding, anyone?)
The space, which was formerly an LPQ, is designed to resemble an old apothecary. Think tinted glass jars lining shelves and staff members wearing white lab coats—all of which helps emphasize the food-as-medicine philosophy, a principle which Coumant lives by and encourages his team to adopt. “If you eat well with quality ingredients you’ll notice that you just feel better in general," asserts Francois.
What's on the menu is definitely way easier to swallow than cough syrup. There are vegan sushi rolls, a "superseed" encrusted avocado, and a mezze platter including seaweed tartare, green pea hummus, red beet caviar, and coconut ceviche (all under $9).
The selection of bowls, priced at $14, includes options like the "Tibetan Mama" Rice Bowl (brown rice packed with coconut peanut curry and greens), Joe's Smashed Potato (potatoes with mushroom gravy and colorful pickled vegetables), and Dirty Noodle Soup (brown rice noodles, tofu and vegetables in a savory broth). And Le Botaniste is seasonally driven—so expect updates to the menu throughout the year.
For a neighborhood in need of a good-for-you, good-for-your-wallet option, Le Botaniste is just what the doctor ordered. —Kristy Mucci
Le Botaniste, 833 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, 10065, 917-262-0766, lebotaniste.us
All about eating your food in bowls? It may be time to try a poké bowl—or one of these 'grammable Dragon Bowls from Cafe Henrie.
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