Day 19: In which Jessica goes noodlin’ at Franchia.
I had never had Korean cuisine, so I figured Franchia, located just a few blocks from our hotel in Gramercy Park, was a good place to start. I mean, when you see this on the door, you know you’re in a good spot:
Ok, I’m sure there are vegan restaurants out there that suck. This wasn’t one of them. First of all, the interior is insanely cozy, with dark wood and low lighting and 3 levels of seating. Granted, that mood lighting made for some pretty terrible pictures, but how could I complain? It was just too awesome. This place seems to be pretty well-known for their tea menu, and had it been colder or rainier outside, I would have definitely ordered some of the tea…but I really just wanted a beer. And that beer went really, really well with the food my aunt and I ordered. First up: more dumplings!
These are the tofu and watercress dumplings, and they are a whole different ball game from the dumplings I had at lunch at Red Bamboo. I opted for steamed again, and these are the most delicate, thin wrappers…they look lovingly pinched together, don’t they? Also, I had never had watercress before, so there’s that. (It’s pretty darned awesome.)
Seriously. So adorable, I almost felt bad eating it. They came with a spicy ginger sauce that was crazy delicious. I love ginger. Everything was just perfectly seasoned. A good start, I’d say.
My aunt and I were both in a noodle mood that evening. She ordered the Pad Thai, without peanuts. Do you know that I have never had Pad Thai? Well, I hadn’t, anyway. The flavor was, quite honestly, not up my alley, but she seemed to really enjoy it. There were nice chunks of scallions perfectly cooked in there that I was pretty jealous of, though. And little bits of tofu ‘egg’, which were a little too realistically egg-y for me. Still, she likes Pad Thai a lot and said that it was really yummy.
I had the Singapore curry angel hair. It’s this lovely mass of thin noodles that had that awesome fried taste, slightly singed, tossed in a mild curry sauce. Mixed in were loads of peppers, onions, and these really interesting ‘lobster’ balls that tasted like what I remember shrimp tasting like, except way less pungent. Just slightly fishy, with that chewy texture. I had never had vegan seafood mock meat stuffs, so this was definitely new for me…and it was good! Not something I’d buy on a regular basis or anything, but it was fun in this dish. I asked for it spicy, so the waiter brought me this gigantic dish of hot sauce (like sriracha) that I promptly dumped half of onto my noodles. It was the best. Filling, but not way too much food. They also brought us some vegan kimchi to share:
Horrible picture, but I had to include it because I’d never had kimchi before. The only kind I can get around here has fish in it. Man, it was so fracking amazing. I need to figure out how to make my own.
I also just wanted to point out that the dishes and utensils Franchia used were awesome. You saw the rad little plates they gave us for our appetizers, but our main dishes came on these plates that had awesome quotes on them (no I can’t remember what mine said), and the chopsticks were metal and had this wonderful heft to them, unlike the plastic or bamboo chopsticks you get in a lot of places that are sort of hard to handle. All in all, a decidedly wonderful experience. I want to go back and drink tea and sample their amazing dessert menu!