Dining yogically at Sutra

I never forgot about the blog; I just managed to make it two months or so without writing on LIF. I'd like to pretend it never happened, but time stamps don't lie. But three days before Thanksgiving seems as good a day as any to set an intention to re-commit to this little blog. Pinky swear.

With that, I'd like to talk not about yoga, but tell you about a restaurant called Sutra. On the eve of possibly the most ridiculous eating holiday on the planet, though I do love it so, Sutra is at the center of a more civil, sane and gentler kind of food indulgence. I'd hear murmurings about Sutra from food friends, particularly vegetarians, and I also heard about it from yoga peeps. Like Ubuntu in Napa  (where I ate the most incredible vegetarian meal my tasteybuds have ever had), Sutra is both yoga studio and restaurant.

It is a darling little spot on the main drag in the Wallingford neighborhood, and the restaurant works very hard to be efficient. Its open kitchen, which lines the side of the small dining area, churns out vegetarian verging on mostly vegan and limiting diners to two prix fixe ($35) seatings a night to cut down on leftover food getting tossed at the end of the night. All the wine is local or organic. Our water also came purified and free of chemical impurities or something like that.

All very well indeed, but what matters to me is the food. Oh, the food. If I was the violent type, I would beat myself up repeatedly for not making it there sooner. The meal starts with a ggggooong from Chef Colin, who introduces dishes with titles like New England and Red Kuri Pumpkin-Leek Soup with a Garlic and Marjoram Gremolata Served with a Pickled Treviso Radicchio-Roasted Yellow Beet and Shaved Fennel Salad. Despite its name, the first course won me over immediately, with the tart acidity and crunch of the pickled radicchio cutting the sweet richness of the smooth, lightly creamy pumpkin-leek soup. But then the second course -- Lemon-Basil Cashew Cheese Stuffed Pimiento Pepper Served with a Beluga Lentil-White Chanterelle and Porcini Ragu -- arrived, and I was smitten again, convinced I could eat this dish every day of my life. The in-house, lightly fermented cashew cheese, both chewy and light, was encased in a perfectly spicy and completely adorable petite little pepper. I wanted to cuddle it.

But then there was a third course. Curses, Sutra, can't I just be happy with the dish I just ate? But the gnocchi (technically Celery Root Gnocchi with an Ambrosia Apple-Heirloom Tomato-Peach & Limon Habanero Caponata Served with Fresh Arugula finished with a Balsamic Reduction and Truffle Oil) was a fantasy of pillowy gnocchi snuggled next to chunks of fruit married with luscious tomatoes and the pop of habanero. The fresh arugula salad with its simple balsamic dressing provided a lovely, peppery balance. It is in contention for Nicole's Top Dishes of 2010.

I adored the fourth course, but the bar had been set very high. Plus I had trouble wrapping my brain around how the chef made a dairy-free truffle taste as sumptuous as the kind with heavy cream. Coconut was the alternate, vegan-approved fat for Sutra's version and the Raw Cacao-Dusted Madagascar Chocolate Cardamom Truffle had that intense hit of chocolate any self-respecting chocolate addict craves. A delicious tiny cup of fresh ginger apple cider was served on the side.

I came away the kind of full I always wish for, neither too full nor convinced I will be hungry again in an hour. The gong, and perhaps the dish titles, are the only elements that give the place a slightly cheesy vibe. In fact, the restaurant is so elegant and its food so sophisticated that the yoga elements become incidental. At the same time, my nerdish yoga self was happy to know how much care was paid to the vegan food, how much attention was paid to minimizing waste and to how damn delicious it all was.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 gongs


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Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr