One of my family’s favorite local spots to eat is Eden Restaurant and Lounge in Salzburg Square off of Route 101. It’s got an upscale atmosphere but it’s not too fancy, not too expensive, and the food is generally great. And the complementary bread is a really tasty herbed flatbread with tomatoes, which my (also vegan) sister and I usually devour before anyone else has even noticed its presence. Basically, Eden is “special” enough that we wind up eating there a lot for special occasions. There’s a wide variety of omni cuisine there, though it definitely leans toward being Mediterranean-inspired if it leans anywhere.
My standby (a.k.a. the dish I’ve had to order 90% of the time because it is the only vegan option on the menu that is hearty enough to be considered a meal) is the Lebanese Sampler, recently renamed from the Lebanese Tasting. It’s served in a square dish with four also square compartments, and each compartment holds a different Lebanese item: hummus, dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with rice), tabouli salad, and a generous serving of pita bread. Well, although this dish is indeed delicious, as I’ve said I order it nearly every time, so on the most recent “special occasion” I decided to try something new.
The bottom of Eden’s menu states “Vegetarian items available upon request,” and my mom (who is not in fact vegetarian, but eats that way most of the time) has lauded their “vegetarian sampler” in the past. So when the waiter got around to me, I asked if it would be possible to prepare a vegan sampler of some sort (and reasoned that if it was too much trouble I could always just go with the ol’ faithful standby). He explained that for the (ovo-lacto-)vegetarians, the cook usually just takes one of those same compartmented plates used for the Lebanese Sampler and fills it with a selection of side dishes prepared for the (meaty) main courses. Not the best, sure, but sounded good to me, especially when a look at the non-veg menu revealed that beans, risotto, sweet potato fries, and basmati rice were among the choices — decidedly more filling than a little hummus and pita! My sister and I decided to go for it. In a twist of irony, Mom went with the Lebanese Sampler.
About five minutes later the head chef came out to talk to me, basically affirming that he would pick some sides and cook ’em up for us. I reiterated that we were vegan, so no milk or eggs should be used. He gave all signs of understanding and returned to the kitchen.
In a short amount of time, the entire rest of the family had their food – everyone but my sister and me. We waited about 5 minutes more for our meals, which was actually pretty exciting since I figured they must be cooking up something awesome for us if it took extra long.
Well, as is often the case in life, there was good news and bad news. First, though, my EXTREME apologies for the low-quality picture: it’s dark in there and I thought a flash photo would attract a lot of unwanted attention. My photo does not do the food justice!
The good news: This food was indeed 100% vegan, and DELICIOUS! The one place where the picture DOES do the food justice is in what’s evident in the bottom half: the mushroom-and-onion quarter and the asparagus quarter are already half-eaten! Evidently I already had started chowing down before remembering I was supposed to blog about this and needed a picture! Oops. The food was as tasty as it should be: sweet but pungent salsa (had red onion and bell pepper chunks in it), above-average hummus and dolma (that really is a compliment – I’m very picky about my hummus), bold roasted veggies, and simple but flavorful mushrooms and onions. I certainly have no complaints about the cooking – everything was prepared perfectly.
The bad news: LOOK at that plate again. I mentioned how I’d already eaten some asparagus and some mushrooms, but those sections were certainly not overflowing when they were brought to the table – I don’t even think one mushroom slice arrived overlapping another. So my dinner consisted of:
- about a quarter-cup, max, of mushrooms and onions
- three or four small asparagus stalks and maybe 1/2 of a medium tomato
- a quarter-cup of pineapple salsa
- one single dolma
- and maybe three tablespoons of hummus?!
Does this seem a little, uh, sparse to anyone else? I know it’s a popular conception that we vegans subsist on iceberg lettuce, air, and our own ethical superiority, but really — that is not enough food! There is a teeny bit of protein in the hummus/dolma corner, but nothing with real sticking power and definitely not enough calories to be considered more than a small snack. I wish they’d at least added some beans or basmati rice under the mushrooms. By the time I got home, I was already considering a snack – not something you want to be thinking about after paying for a relatively fancy meal. I think the next time I go, I’ll try to figure out a non-rude way to ask the chef if I can be the one to choose the four sides, instead of him. Maybe he just didn’t realize how sparse it was until it was finished? Or maybe the basmati rice, the beans, and the risotto are all prepared with cream or butter or something?
One more word of warning if you do decide to go here (and you should go, it really is a nice place – just play it safe and order the Lebanese Sampler unless you’re planning on going to Subway later): the stuffed eggplant roll appetizer is NOT vegan, though the menu says nothing to the contrary – the walnut-pomegranate filling also contains yogurt. Sorry dudes :(
Eden Restaurant and Lounge is located at 292 Route 101 in Amherst, NH, in Salzburg Square. http://edenrestaurantandlounge.com/