Owner and chef Franklin Becker opened up his first restaurant, the Little Beet, a year ago, and the popularity of that first endeavor drove him to open the Little Beet Table (333 Park Avenue South, 212-466-3330), a sit-down, upscale version of the fast-casual Little Beet, last month.
“I felt like there was a need for a gluten-free [restaurant] in the city,” says Becker. “Our wheat source is so polluted in the U.S., I just felt like, why not give people a gluten-free option? So that was the challenge with the Little Beet and that was the challenge with creating the Little Beet Table; and after the Little Beet, it was time to answer that call [of creating a sit-down restaurant].”
Both the Little Beet and the Little Beet Table are not only vegetarian-friendly but 100 percent gluten-free. “I want everything to taste great,” says Becker. “If I can’t make it taste great, then I’d rather just avoid doing it. When I look at vegetables, I want to highlight the vegetable itself and make sure that the nuances of the vegetable come through. From there, I want to build supporting characters around it.”
Becker does a great job of that throughout his menu. Take the grilled beets ($13), a variety of beets in pink and purple hues plus house-made pumpkin-seed-almond granola, Greek yogurt, honey, and arugula. The yogurt provides a neutral bed for the rest of the ingredients, and while the granola is immediately sweet, its aftertaste is quite salty. It pairs nicely with the muted sweetness of the beets.
The quinoa “risotto” ($23) is a vegan variation on a traditional risotto, featuring quinoa, a cauliflower purée, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and a plethora of other vegetables. The quinoa provides a protein base that more traditional rice would not be able to lend, while the cauliflower purée adds a creamy texture that the dish would otherwise lack, since it contains no dairy. Our only complaint: It’s a little on the salty side.
Becker ended our conversation by sharing his fairly resolute viewpoint on vegetarian cooking: “[Vegetarian cooking] is fairly simple: Pick an ingredient, whether it’s squash or zucchini or cauliflower or mushroom, and then do as little or as much to it as necessary to enhance the flavor. That’s pretty much it.”
More:Vegetarian and Vegan