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Fine dining options for vegetarians and vegans?

MC Slim JB | Feb 7, 2008 05:28 AM

My impression of Boston is that it's still pretty difficult for vegetarians of various stripes (pesco-, ovo-, lacto-, etc.) -- and extremely difficult for vegans -- to enjoy meals in fine dining restaurants. The more animal products your diet includes, the easier it is. But I also think that many dishes that look vegetarian aren't, thanks to practices like the heavy use of meat-based stocks in many professional kitchens.

In most Western (Europe/Americas) fine-dining restaurants here, I think you're lucky if they offer a steamed vegetable platter. I remember stalking out of the Julien Room when this was all they offered my vegetarian date whose birthday we were celebrating.

So here's my question: what fine-dining restaurants have you uncovered that do more than pay lip service to vegetarians and vegans? The list I came up with is pretty short:

* L'Espalier -- does an amazing degustation of seasonal vegetables (it's billed as a five-course tasting menu, but with amuses and other freebies it's more like ten), but it's loaded with butter, cream, and cheese.

* A handful of mid-range places that clearly love and respect their vegetarian customers -- Rendezvous in Central Square, Craigie Street Bistro, The Blue Room, Ten Tables, Henrietta's Table, Oleana. Tamarind Bay (which uses a lot of ghee), Addis Red Sea (actually pretty vegan-friendly). I'd be most interested in hearing about more of these.

* A few places that are borderline fine-dining: Myers+Chang, Pho Republique. Cafe D, The Beehive, Vee Vee.

* For pesco-vegetarians, the fancier Japanese restaurants (the Oishiis, Douzo, Fugakyu, etc.) and Western seafood places (Azure, Turner Fisheries, etc.).

There are plenty of places that aren't fancy/formal enough to qualify as fine dining establishments: the other Ethiopian and Eritrean places (Fasika, Asmara). Veggie Planet. Centre Street Cafe. Mediterranean-diet cuisines, e.g., Greek (Greek Corner), Lebanese (Reef Cafe), Israeli (Rami's). Most Northeast and Southeast Asian restaurants, whether they specialize in vegetarian dishes or not. The more modest Western-style seafood places.

What else have you found that's fine dining and truly vegetarian-friendly?

(I actually went to Yelp first with this question, thinking their seemingly youngish demographic might have a higher content of vegetarians and vegans, but the response there has been underwhelming. I still haven't figured out what local Yelpers are good at, food-wise. There are few real Chowhound types there, from what I can see.)

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