The Red Lentil: A Tale of Two Appetizers
I know on this trip the focus is to hit up the 100% Vegan restaurants but this is our world, vegetarians just live in it. The Red Lentil is a Vegetarian/Vegan restaurant which began in Watertown, MA but also has a location in New Haven, CT. Watertown shares borders with other vegan friendly business communities, The People’s Republic of Cambridge to the East and the Boston neighborhoods of Allston and Brighton to the Southeast. This location is very convenient for those of us veg people returning to Allston/Cambridge area after a day of snowboarding. I am looking at Liz from Applelogs, seasonal apple-centric (the fruit not the computer co.) blog…
The Red Lentil – Mostly Vegan
600 Mt Auburn St
Watertown MA 02472
Kristin and I were very excited sit down with Owner/Operator, Pankaj Pradhan, to discuss The Red Lentil as it is a Boston area hit, and one of my personal favorites. Pankaj, has deep roots in vegetarian and vegan food having grown up in India. Although most people consider it common knowledge that Indian cuisine has a myriad of vegetarian dishes due to the strong presence of Hinduism and other veg leaning religions throughout India, Pankaj pointed out to us that the reliance on plant-based foods also has much to do with the socio-economic conditions found throughout the large and densely populated country. One might interpret this analysis as an illustration of how plant-based diets are a potential solution to food crisis around the globe.
Pankaj was able to find training in French cuisine and spent three years working for Carnival Cruise lines. Although this provided him with experience in a commercial kitchen as well as a sponsorship to continue his culinary education in France, he found himself preparing food that was in conflict with his lifestyle. You name it: prime ribs, steaks, burgers. Finally enough was enough and it was time to move on. After spending time making friends and mentors throughout the US, Pankaj came to Pawtucket Rhode Island and began a bright period in his development as a chef, being allowed to experiment at a well liked veg restaurant, The Garden Grille (stay tuned for that review!) This experience gave him the confidence to bust out on his own to open The Red Lentil.
I remember seeing signs in the window alerting the neighborhood to this new vegan/vegetarian restaurant and filling with anticipation. I would call the opening of The Red Lentil a tipping point in the veg scene in Boston. Prior to this establishment, there was Veggie Planet, Grasshopper, My Thai Veg Cafe (formerly Buddha’s Delight), and the Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center. That was it for a while. In my humble opinion, the success of The Red Lentil showed that the market for veg restaurants was open to serious expansion. The Boston area is now home to True Bistro (100% Vegan), Peace O’ Pie (100% Vegan), Life Alive (Mostly Vegan), Veggie Galaxy (Mostly Vegan) and the word vegan is popping up on the menu at more and more standard American diet type restaurants.
Since day one the Red Lentil has been serving two of my favorite vegan appetizers, Ghobi Manchurian and Sesame Encrusted Seitan Strips.
The photo we originally took of the Sesame Encrusted BBQ Seitan Strips went missing. Here’s one we’re borrowing from a new photographer friend Laura S. Marshall!!! Can you tell which photo was taken with an iPhone 4 and which was taken with a Canon DSLR? I want your camera Laura!!! Thanks again!
I can’t tell you the number of times me and some friends wrap up one of these appetizers and we say, “Next time, let’s just order five of these!” But then again we’d miss out on things like the Butternut Squash Polenta for dinner or the Tempeh Reuben for lunch.
Sweet Potato Quesadilla (Make sure to specify VEGAN. Nearly everything at Red Lentil can be made vegan. Just be sure to ask if it doesn’t appear as vegan on the menu.)
Thai Peanut Noodle Salad
The soups here are always great and if you like smoothies, might I recommend The Morning Glory and the Banana Wanna Date.
…and oh yeah, the Carrot Cake…
…and the French Toast…