Vegan comfort food, meet classic French cooking.
At P.S. Kitchen, a new vegan eatery in Hell’s Kitchen, chef Gary Barawidan’s spinach-artichoke dip begins with a béchamel sauce, one of the five French “mother sauces” prepared with butter, flour and milk.
“We create a béchamel — you have flour, water, we use Earth Balance [butter],” explained the 38-year-old chef, an alum of Avant Garden and Danny Meyer's Union Square Café.
“Then we cook it down and add spinach to it. Then we add some nutritional yeast, some Vegannaise, all the creamy vegan fats. It tastes exactly like Super Bowl spinach-artichoke dip... it just happens to be plant-based.”
Unpack any item on the menu at the restaurant, launched by partners Craig Cochran and Jeffrey LaPadula this week, and you’ll find the same level of technique.
Fried hen of the woods mushrooms star in P.S. Kitchen’s deconstructed take on the buffalo chicken sandwich ($17), but the “house blue cheese” may be more intriguing: it’s made from tofu, oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, a thickening agent called xanthan gum, a blue-green algae known as spirulina, and dried mushroom powder “to create that funk,” in Barawidan’s words.
Strawberry shortcake ($16) comes plated with almond cream, a blend of cashews soaked in tofu, cocoa butter, vanilla paste, almond extract and sugar.
Vegan cuisine is a creative challenge for Barawidan, whose butter-laden career path changed course when an unremitting case of plantar fasciitis — the result of hours on his feet in the kitchen at Union Square Café — prompted him to try an anti-inflammatory vegan diet.
His Southern grits ($16) apply the same “fat upon fat upon fat” method as Danny Meyer’s first restaurant, but the fat comes in the form of coconut oil and Earth Balance butter. Nutritional yeast produces the cheesy flavor.
In Barawidan's opinion, veganism isn't about doing more with less: "You’re not losing anything — you’re actually gaining a lot of things in return."
A name like P.S. Kitchen strives to capture that idea.
“This is more than a restaurant and the postscript reflects that there is more to the story," partner Craig Cochran said. "P.S. We donate all profits to charitable organizations. P.S. We hire staff from underprivileged backgrounds," he added, referring to kitchen porter positions staffed by the DOE Fund and Bowery Mission. "P.S. All food and drink is plant-based."
P.S. Kitchen is open daily at 246 W. 48th St. from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.