Located just a few blocks away from New York University and Washington Square sits By Chloe, right in the heart of the West Village. The modern, shabby chic interior — white walls, whimsical menu design, oval-shaped hanging chairs, and family-style table — is a perfect fit for the neighborhood. The fact that By Chloe (185 Bleecker Street) is vegan is only the icing on the (vegan) cupcake.
A Los Angeles native, chef Chloe Coscarelli grew up with a traditional diet. From a young age, there were a lot of dogs in her family, which made her feel uncomfortable about eating meat. “It was like, ‘This is so weird that I love my dogs but I have animals on my dinner table.’ It connected at a very young age, so that was when I decided to try going vegan,” she tells the Voice.
Coscarelli switched to a vegan diet after trying out vegetarianism for a while and finding that it didn’t suit her. “I’ve been vegan for over ten years now and I just love the food — I love everything about it. I love cooking vegan, so my passion for cooking really came out of taking on a vegan diet,” she shares. “Being like, ‘Oh, OK, I have to cook for myself now, but there’s not so much readily available.’ Once I started experimenting and realizing how good the food was and how good it made me feel, and how much of it I could eat and still feel great, it just kind of stuck.”
Coscarelli first came to New York to attend the Natural Gourmet Institute in Chelsea, a plant- and health-focused cooking school; she immediately loved New York and decided to stick around. After residing here for a few years, she found that the vegan options were lacking. “There’s a huge food scene here, but there wasn’t as much vegan-accessible foods, in my opinion, as a consumer in New York. I thought New York was a natural step of where I should be.”
After testing out her recipes for a couple of years, Coscarelli was able this summer to finally open By Chloe, her first restaurant. Her menu features completely animal-free fare. One of her most popular salads, the quinoa taco ($10.95) features seitan chorizo, black beans, sweet corn, avocado, tomato, tortilla strips, crema, and agave-lime vinaigrette.
The chorizo has a smoky flavoring, with a slightly spicy aftertaste; the texture of the seitan is chewy and finely chopped, something this writer imagines that pork chorizo is like. The vinaigrette is mixed with the quinoa, corn, onion, and black beans, the lime and onion creating a pungency. The only downside to the dish is that beneath all the garnishes is romaine lettuce, but Chloe manager Alyssa Fasciano explained that romaine is more dense, and other lettuces don’t hold up to the weight and water content of the toppings. Plus, it’s a taco bowl — greens like kale aren’t typically served with tacos.
Another favorite from Coscarelli’s menu is the guac burger ($9.95), a black-bean-quinoa-sweet-potato burger topped with corn salsa, onion, guacamole, tortilla strips, and chipotle aioli on a whole-grain bun. While in our experience black-bean burgers tend to fall apart, this patty is firm and retains its shape.The sweet potato lends the patty a faint hint of sweetness, which is a welcome pairing with the tangy onions and creamy guacamole. To top it off, the edges of the bun are crispy, which takes the dish to another level. Details like that are what’s really important.
The mac n’ cheese, in small or large servings ($4.95–$8.95), is drenched in a sweet potato “cheese” sauce and topped with shiitake bacon. The sauce is very sweet — sweeter than imaginable — so beware if that’s something you don’t prefer. The shiitake bacon is the star of the dish: chewy, salty, and, even though the “bacon” is dehydrated, earthy, retaining the natural essence of mushrooms. The dish is garnished with breadcrumbs, which gives it a little crunch, and cilantro for a piquant hit.
French fries are made with either potato or sweet potato, and what elevates them is that they’re air-baked. Instead of frying, the restaurant bakes the fries at a really high temperature, creating a lighter-than-average spud (which means you won’t feel as guilty eating them). The fries are served with beet ketchup and chipotle aioli, which are both made in house. The beet ketchup has a tanginess reminiscent of a balsamic vinaigrette, and the aioli has the creaminess of traditional versions, even without egg yolks.
If you’re in the mood for something sweet after your meal, try a raspberry tiramisu cupcake, topped with a heavenly soft, coconut-milk-based icing, and a raspberry in the center. It’s the cupcake that gave Coscarelli a win a few years ago on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. You probably can’t beat that.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 16, 2015
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