Last night, I went to Counter, the vegetarian restaurant on the Lower East Side. It was my friend's birthday, which meant her choice, and I didn't mind going wherever she wanted even though I'm not vegetarian and generally try to stay away from meat-free restaurants. I have had some great vegetarian meals in the past though, so I tried to get excited about the restaurant and decided to have a positive attitude. Totally backfired.
Before I criticize everything, I will say that the restaurant had really good bread: thinly sliced mini loaf of whole wheat with what seemed to be some sort of tomato-ey crust. Also, they served olive oil with shredded tofu and cilantro to dip. I really enjoyed that, and I ate a lot of it because the food to come left me very hungry.
I decided to do a soup and salad for my meal, mostly because none of the entrees enticed me. Also, I probably wouldn't have been much more satisfied with a $20 dish comprised mostly of vegetables than I would with a soup and salad.
I started with the Parisian-style chevre salad. I love chevre so this really jumped out at me. This is how the menu describes the dish: baby spinach, mango and pistachio crusted goat cheese with citrus dressing ($12). This is what came out of the kitchen: a normal sized salad plate with a few baby spinach leaves, some baguette croutons, one orange segment, an indecipherable dressing, and four goat cheese medallions the size of dimes. I was really disappointed, mostly because I was interested by the mango. When I asked the waiter about it, he took my salad away and brought it back to the kitchen. "The kitchen says that the mango wasn't fresh enough to put on the salad so they left it out," he reported. Oh. Luckily, he said he would comp. me the salad so that made me feel a little better.
For the soup, I ordered the roasted butternut squash soup with wild mushroom dumpling thing. My birthday friend ordered the market salad, which looked like any generic house salad. For $7 I guess it was alright, if you want a general salad. As entrees, my two dining companions ordered the Italian farmhouse panini (walnut-lentil pate, plum tomato, rosemary aioli on crunchy bread) and the wheat penne and pine nut pesto (broccoli rabe, sundried tomatoes and roasted portobello mushrooms). I didn't try either of those, but I got a chance to look at them for a long time because my soup took forever to arrive. The waiter explained "Oh, they made the wrong soup so they are making the correct one now." The farmhouse panini was very large and looked okay I guess, just a lot of heavily toasted bread. The penne looked pretty gross to me, the broccoli rabe just filled the pasta bowl lifelessly like some seaweed that washed up on the Jersey shore.
My friends were halfway through their entrees when my soup finally arrived. Luckily, it was a giant bowl. I was hungry. The mushroom dumpling thing was questionable. It was crispy and fried with a sweet dumpling crust. I couldn't really taste the mushroom filling. But the soup itself was good, among the best of the butternut squash soups that I have tried.
Birthday girl got a chocolate tart for dessert, but I am strictly against eating dessert food that is vegan. There is something wrong with that in my mind. Anyway, I just got a coffee. The waiter forgot to bring it and I have to remind him, which is fine because he said he would brew me a new pot. When he brought my coffee, the cup had pretty much spilled all over the saucer, with grinds galore floating in the top of the cup and in the mess on the saucer. I didn't want to bother him anymore, but I did not want to drink grinds. He took it back and brought me another cup. The coffee was actually good, but it was too much effort to get it.
This place is way overpriced for the food that they serve. It is absolutely not worth the prices. I am glad I got my salad free because I was annoyed about how bad it was and how poorly represented it was by the menu.
It seems like it might be fun to go here for drinks and try their small plates? They have an extensive drink menu, even a $600 martini.
Anyone else been here? Was it just a bad night for me?