While I last visited the Green Owl for a third sampling of their Raw Night an entire month ago, somehow I never took the time to summarize it with a blog post! How dare I. Needless to say, I now feel obliged to offer a at least a brief bit of commentary on my April excursion to Madison’s only restaurant offering gourmet raw cuisine.
Juice: Pineapple Jalapeno.
The citrusy sweetness of the pineapple mingled surprisingly well with the spicy kick of jalapeno, culminating in a veritable chorus of liquid deliciousness to wake up the palate.
Appetizer: Cucumber Pineapple Gazpacho and a salad of fresh greens, orange sections, red pepper slices, corn tortilla croutons, and creamy avocado-citrus dressing, topped with pumpkin seeds.
Rating: Gazpacho=A, Salad=C-.
A chunky blend of classic south-of-the-border ingredients, including cilantro, bell peppers, and tomatoes, the gazpacho offered a wildly different take on the soup I know quite well (just check out my family’s longtime recipe for perfect tomato gazpacho), though in this case, different meant incredibly tasty! However, the salad proved more…mediocre. Rather limp greens and raw bell pepper slices (one of the only vegetables whose taste I don’t enjoy) lacked almost any of the promised yummy-sounding avocado dressing—I only found a small dollop hiding amongst the lettuce—while the blue corn tortilla croutons offered little flavor and a displeasing overly crispy texture. Come on, Green Owl, shouldn’t vegans take a bit more pride in their salads?
Entree: Sweet baby pepper rellenos (top right corner) filled with a nut-based taco “meat” filling with creamy cilantro-lime sauce, tacos in blue corn tortillas filled with spicy sunflower seed “bean” filling, lettuce, tomato, onion and yellow zucchini, served with guacamole, pico de gallo, another dollop of the taco bean filling, and a veggie-packed spicy coleslaw.
Somehow, the Green Owl managed to impart a roasted succulence into their baby pepper rellenos—I had to continually remind myself of their rawness! Hearty and slightly sweet, the nut meat provided a tasty filling and worked well with the creamy cilantro-lime sauce; who doesn’t love a good avocado-based dressing? The pico de gallo, a palate cleanser of tomatoes and more pineapple, proved refreshing and yummy, while I would venture to call the guacamole some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Much more enjoyable in their complete taco shell forms due to their more pliable texture, the blue corn tortillas redeemed themselves from the so-so salad croutons. On a less positive note, both the coleslaw and taco bean filling held undertones of an unpleasantly bitter flavor—most of my dining companions left their second dollop of the filling untouched. While coleslaws should function as refreshing dishes, this spicy version rested heavy on the palate.
Dessert: Pina Colada Cheesecake with a macadamia-coconut-based filling and top pineapple layer.
As with any raw meal, dessert proved one of the highlights. Creamy and unctuous, the middle macadamia layer contrasted beautifully with the toothsome coconutty crust, while the citrusy pineapple layer on top provided a welcome note of acidity. I would have enjoyed a bit more of the pineapple layer, expecting more of a fruitiness to the cake based on its description as a tropical drink.
Service: Steadily improving! In my previous reviews of the Green Owl, I’ve commented heavily on the less-than-desirable quality of service, especially the restaurants tendency to rush meals. Happily, this time, our server imposed no hurried sense upon us, making our dinner much more pleasant. She also became adamant about ensuring that one of my dining companions recieved not a dash of avocado in her meal due to an allergy, which all of us admired. One criticism, however: our server did forget to bring silverware with a couple of our courses.
While I will have to miss the Green Owl’s next Raw Night (which is tonight, actually!), here’s the very spring-like menu for the evening:
Small Plates: Cream of spinach soup with fresh herbs, topped with marinated mushrooms; Vegetable rawvioli of thinly sliced beets with a savory nut cheese filling, drizzled with herb oil; Seasonal salad of spring mixed greens, radishes, sunflower seeds, red onion, and grapefruit-basil vinaigrette.
Entree: Nut gnocchi Carbonara in a creamy sauce with fresh peas and eggplant bacon. Served with a side of marinated asparagus with a creamy raw “hollandaise” sauce.
Dessert: Vanilla bean cheesecake with a chocolatey sauce and fresh berries.
Until next time, Ali.