Category Archives: Red Lentil

The Red Lentil in Watertown: Full of surprises

Now that my boyfriend is living just an hour south of my house by car (as opposed to six hours southwest by plane), I’ll be going to the BC area a lot more often!  On my last such visit, I brought my mom along to see the bf’s new place, and she graciously offered to buy us lunch while she was there.  We picked The Red Lentil, an unbearably cute little spot in Watertown, MA.  Mom and I had been there once before, as a stop on the way to IKEA in Stoughton.  We thoroughly enjoyed it last time so it was an easy choice to make again.

Before I get into the food, I should say that this is one of those (many) quirky New England addresses for which you can’t rely on your GPS.  It COULD lead you about a mile or two astray if you use GPS or even Google Maps — I say “could” because there are two 600 Mount Auburn Streets in Watertown, and if your GPS is wired like mine it will pick the wrong one.  The way to fix this is to make sure it’s going to zip code 02472.  Or, just call them when you’re close and they’ll help you out.

With that out of the way…

We arrived around 1 p.m. and the place was still packed from the lunch rush.  Fortunately there was one table left in the corner that would accommodate us, and we were seated immediately.  The two parties after us, though, had to wait until tables cleared out, so we got there just at the right time!

I wish I had thought of an inconspicuous way to take a picture of the restaurant interior, since it’s really got a great ambiance for such a small place.  It’s well lit and welcoming; upscale-feeling without being intimidating.  The walls are painted a non-threatening bright green.  Very inviting.

We were handed our menus promptly after sitting down, but before we’d even had a chance to look at them, a server emerged from the kitchen and plopped a trio of INCREDIBLE-LOOKING SAMOSAS right on our table!  He told us they were on the house and then whooshed back into the kitchen.  I must stress that no one had any idea I was a food blogger, and in fact I hadn’t even taken my camera out of my bag yet so they couldn’t even have guessed.  They were just feeling generous that day I think!

FREE samosas from Red Lentil! With two dipping sauces.

Like I said I hadn’t even had time yet to whip out my camera, and by the time I had, my mom and the bf had already eaten over half their share!  These things were delicious — creamy lentils, peas, and potatoes with just the right spices, served piping hot with two (cold) dipping sauces.  The green one was overwhelmingly cilantro-based, and the brown one I couldn’t entirely tell — definitely spicy with some kind of fruit, maybe tamarind?  I preferred my samosa sans sauce, personally, but I would’ve enjoyed the sauce on something else I think.  Maybe as salad dressings.

Sadly I have no idea how to pick up these babies for yourself, since they’re not on the Red Lentil menu.  I’m hoping they were testing them out on us as a potential addition.  If you ever do get the chance to try them, though, you should!

The Red Lentil is all-vegetarian (yay!), but the menu claims that all of its entrees (for lunch, anyway) can be made vegan upon request.  Still, all three of us (one vegan, one vegetarian, and one mom-who-doesn’t-eat-meat-but-doesn’t-mind-beef-stock-soup) ordered menu items that were already vegan to start with.  Hooray!

My mom special-ordered the Tuscan Portabella Sandwich as a wrap (it usually comes burger-style):

Tuscan Portabella: Grilled portabella, roasted red pepper, caramelized onion, greens and pesto aioli. With a side salad.

I have to say, there were a lot of tomatoes in this wrap for something that didn’t even mention them in the description, so beware: if you’re allergic to tomatoes  or don’t want them for whatever reason, you’ll want to mention it to your waiter before ordering this dish.  That said, Mom let me try some of this and it was awesome!  I’m glad she got it as a wrap, since it was definitely hearty and the bread might have made it a bit too much so.  The aioli made everything super-creamy (and too oily for me, I admit) and the portabellas were chewy but not tough.

With sandwich orders at Red Lentil you get a choice of side salad, sweet potato fries, or tortilla chips.  Mom ordered a side salad, thinking the fries would probably be too greasy (and not getting chips is a no-brainer when we go out, since they’ll be just about the same anywhere).  The salad was pretty good.  In fact, I enjoyed it more than my Caesar (more on that in a minute).  However, when the boyf’s Reuben came out, I definitely wished we had gotten more fries!

Tempeh Reuben: Thinly sliced, grilled tempeh, grilled onion, tomato, vegan Russian dressing and organic sauerkraut on whole wheat bread. With sweet potato fries.

As you can see, the fries are sliced big and thick, steak fry-style as opposed to the thin ones I was expecting.  Definitely baked, too, since they were practically greaseless.  Needless to say, this sweet potato-fiend was envious!

Cross-section of the Reuben -- notice the fries are already almost gone...

First: that discolored grayish spot in the middle of the sandwich is light distortion from my camera that I couldn’t figure out how to photoshop out of there.  It isn’t mold!

OK.  This is a HUGE sandwich.  I don’t know about your definition of “thinly-sliced tempeh” but what is in that sandwich looks like thick slices to me.  I only got a few bites of this one but here’s what stood out in my mind.

  1. Softer than it looks!  I was thinking something, at least the bread, would crunch.  I was (pleasantly) surprised when it didn’t.
  2. Really, really tasty bread.
  3. Really, really tasty fillings, but…
  4. The tempeh was sadly a little charred.  If you like charred, cool.  If you’re like me and don’t… well, it was distracting.  I seriously think it could be a contender for QuarryGirl’s Vegan Reuben Wars if it hadn’t been so burned-tasting.  Or maybe I just have overly-sensitive taste buds.

Finally, I ordered what turned out to be the most boring, least worth-it dish of the afternoon:

Vegan Caesar: Our homemade croutons covered in ali-oli and a delicious vegan Caesar dressing makes this Red Lentil favorite. Tossed with organic greens, shredded carrot, cucumber, sprouts and olives. Ordered with dressing on the side.

BLAH.  This was just not good.  For $9 I expected better.  Or at the very least, bigger.  I know I ordered my dressing on the side, so it looks barer than usual, maybe, but let’s be honest here, this is a Large Pile of Lettuce.  Mostly iceberg.  You are seeing all of the “extras” in the photo…there are no additional olives or croutons or sprouts or anything hiding underneath the pile of green.  They might have made up for the boringness with a fantastic dressing, but it was just so-so (and you can see, it came in a thimble).  I’ve had much, much better vegan Caesars in my day, and it pains me to say it but I’ve made better Caesar dressings than that in my own kitchen…sorry Red Lentil!  Finally..WHERE ARE THE CROUTONS!?  There were MAYBE ten teeny little 1/2 inch-cubes in this entire salad.  They are supposed to “make” the salad, according to the description, but I could barely taste them.  I am a huge fan of vegan Caesar salads in general, and vegan Caesar croutons specifically, so this made me very sad!

Our waiter came by to ask if we were interested in anything else, but by this time we were all too stuffed to even look at a dessert menu, so we declined.  But the good souls at Red Lentil surprised us once again!  Before the check arrived, one of these was placed down in front of each of us:

Rice pudding. Mmm!

A little tiny bowl (probably about 1/4 cup) of rice pudding!  This plus the samosas more than made up for the money I felt I lost on my salad.  The pudding was sweet, really sweet, and the sweetness combined with whatever spices they used created a taste that I can only say reminded me very much of Froot Loops.  I’m not sure what flavor it was, exactly, that caused me to draw that comparison…but for sure, Froot Loops.  With a few tiny pieces of cashew thrown in that I wasn’t expecting.  This was ALSO not listed on the menu, so if you go, your likelihood of getting rice pudding may vary…

So!  Caesar notwithstanding, I can confidently recommend Red Lentil as a terrific place to eat lunch if you find yourself slightly west of Boston.  It is quality food without being too terribly expensive (for a metro area).  I personally can’t wait to get back there and try the rest of the menu!  They also have an expanded menu for dinner and a brunch menu on Sunday.

The Red Lentil is located at 600 Mount Auburn Street in Watertown, MA. http://www.theredlentil.com/

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