I took tasting notes all night long – literally, I grabbed a pen out of my purse and scrawled comments on the back of the menu between each course! – so in this post, I’m mostly just going to transcribe the notes I wrote that night. I think that’ll provide the best possible window into the wondrous meal we experienced, as well give you some fun (and sometimes funny) insights into what was going on in my head as I was eating each course. Here we go!
Amuse bouche: Pineapple Gazpacho
Sweet, garlicky, crunchy red bits (?) on top
Appetizer: Focaccia Bread, three kinds
Caramelized onion, grape tomato, white grape
The bread was served with softened vegan butter and, silly as this may sound, THE best salt and pepper Matt and I have ever tasted in our lives. Every grain of the coarse Hawaiian pink sea salt danced on our tongues, and the pepper was made of the most fragrant, flavorful, freshly ground peppercorns on the planet. We’d go back to this restaurant just for the salt and pepper. No joke.
Then the actual menu dishes started coming out! Those first two were just freebies.
Nine of the ten courses came with perfectly-paired 2-ounce wine pours. Matt and I really enjoyed how the sommelier himself came to our table between each course to pour the wines and explain why he chose them.
Course #1: Pickled Cucumber Spaghetti, Fresh Basil
Wine: Lamberti, Prosecco, Veneto, Italy, NV
Raw! Crunchy, very fresh fragrant basil, tightly wound/bundled cucumber noodles, hint of vinegar. With bubbly Prosecco = 😀
Excellent, light opener.
Course #2: “Cruciferous” Vichyssoise, Cauliflower Couscous, Fried Leeks, Chives
Wine: Marc Bredif, Chenin Blanc, Vouvray, France, 2008
Zero “sea” taste, naturally sweet (soy or almond?) cream, well-seasoned cauli, hair-like fried leeks. Fruity-tart wine intensified sweetness of cream. Also raw?
I love the bowl it was served in! This was a surprise early favorite of mine.
Course #3: Grilled Pain Rustique Panzanella
Wine: Craggy Range, Sauvingnon Blanc, Martinborough, New Zealand, 2009
Citrusy/grapefruity wine, bread cubes like toy blocks—fresh charred smell, strong tomato scent, fruity extra-virgin olive oil, pickled onions, microgreens, oil + wine play off each other, divine with the salt
This simple salad elevated panzanella to truly gourmet heights.
Course #4: Broccolini Tempura, Thai Dipping Sauce
Wine: Riefle, Gewurtztraminer, Alsace, France, 2009
Sweet & sour effect with the wine—Thai basil, lime, ginger in sauce; TENDER broccolini lightly salted, slight greasiness, tip-of-tongue heat, lemongrass? Cilantro, “white” spice, pickled scallion
Unbelievably light; Matt’s early favorite.
Course #5: Cavatelli Pasta, Mojo Verde, Cilantro, Avocado
Wine: Mer Soleil, “Silver,” Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, 2008
Served warm, avocado + basil fragrance, lemony avo mash, toothsome fresh pasta, microgreens. SPRINGY. Tart, unoaked wine.
Forgot to take a photo till I’d already had some bites—oops! Loved the chewy, handmade pasta.
Course #6: Carrot Marmalade, Passionfruit Granita, Peanuts
No wine. Granita = puckeringly tart, ice cold. Soft, mild carrot. Peanuts = much-needed fattiness. Matt liked; too tart for me.
We got a break from the wine for this course. The marmalade was good, the granita too sour.
Course #7: Grilled Leeks, Glazed Cipollini Onions, Romesco Sauce
Wine: Terrazas, Cabernet Sauvignon, “Reserva,” Mendoza, Argentina, 2006
PURE leek/onion—overwhelmingly allium. Onions actually better than leeks. Buttery-tasting, but not GOOD. Matt liked. Wine pairing = eh…don’t like cab sauv either. Least fave.
My least favorite course, unfortunately, though Matt loved it.
Course #8: Ruby Red Grapefruit, Coconut-Mandarin Toffee, Cashews, Cilantro
Wine: Quady, “Essenia,” Orange Muscat, California, 2006
Thank goodness for fatty cashews. Grapefruit = too TART! No cilantro. Muscato too orangey. Syrup alone = syrupy, sticky toffee goodness. Master Cleanse flavors!
The whole thing altogether seriously tasted like the Master Cleanse lemonade drink! Ha.
Course #9: Vinegar Marinated Strawberries, Liquid Licorice, Vanilla Oil
Wine: Banfi, Brachetto d’Acqui, Italy, 2009
GORGEOUS sugar webs! “Liquid licorice” too anise-y for me, but marinated strawbs = sweet + acid, + sparkly Banfi = perfect. Hello Pernod! I taste Christmas…
Hehe, gotta love these tasting notes. Hey, I was on my 8th wine pour by then!
A blurry close-up of the impressive “sugar webs”:
Course #10: Caramelized Pineapple, Sweet Fennel, Mango Granita, Chervil
Wine: Michele Chiarlo, “Nivole,” Moscato d’Asti, Italy, 2009
Crunchy candied fennel, melty tart-sweet mango granita, grapefruity/grapey wine. Hint of orange throughout dish = eh.
The sweet courses were nice, though I did wish there’d been at least one non-fruit dessert.
It was between the ninth and tenth courses that Matt proposed.
But you’ve already read that story, right?
Thank you, Nana Restaurant, for creating this incredible fine-dining vegan tasting menu, for providing such a romantic and memorable 3-hour feast, and for being the greatest setting imaginable for our engagement! And an even bigger bravo for Matt, for finding this amazing venue and planning the most perfect proposal a [veg foodie] girl could ever ask for.
QUESTION: What’s the best vegan restaurant meal you’ve ever had?