A Fascination with Vegetation - Purée Organic Cafe Now Serving Dinner
The cuisine offered at Purée Organic Cafe on Thursday evening was a vegetarian meal that felt like comfort food. The flavors were spot on, the seasoning was appropriate, and the textures were rich.
Since opening, Purée has served easy lunch fare made from scratch. Everything is natural, gmo-free and suitable for a multitude of dietary restrictions. When their head chef took advantage of an opportunity to move to Rome, Jenan McClain and her husband Bryant decided to bring on the ebullient Chef Ulfet Ralph, a change which has given them the flexibility to add more hours to their service.
Chef Ulfet and the McClain's aren't reinventing the wheel in terms of cuisine, but they are offering something we really haven't seen much of in Charleston. In the lowcountry, there is an abundance of deep green leafy vegetables and lots of legumes, but Gluten-Free, vegan, and vegetarian options aren't standard. Although, at Purée, you don't have to be a vegetarian or a vegan to love their dishes. Chef Ulfet is taking recognizable southern staples like fried chicken and pilou, and amping them up with high protein grains. She is substituting the meat for traditional asian meat substitutes like seitan, and disguising foreign ingredients in more easy to recognize formats, adding a level of comfort to a cuisine that seems obscure to many.
Thursday's tasting menu was a mini snapshot of the dinner dishes that are being offered at Purée. Exclusive of a few tweaks I would recommend to the atmosphere, nothing was amiss in this meal. The alcoholic aperiti, made with ginger, carrot, and orange juice with organic vodka was refreshing, and tart enough to excite the palate. Dishes like the Spicy Pumpkin Shooter with Candied Pumpkin Seeds accompanied by a Quinoa Shiitake Pilou with Fig Dressing were light and fresh.The Mixed Mushroom Fricassee with Parsnip Mousse and Coconut Foam was particularly interesting for me. I loved being able to taste the hint of coconut over the creamy parsnips. Pickled Apples lent a hearty bite to the salad of Bibb and Radicchio with Radishes and Maple Vinaigrette.
Most exciting was the entree duo: a vegan "Rainbow Row" Lowcountry Braised Seitan, with a texture reminiscent of a pork loin, and a gluten free Lentil-Walnut Cashew Terrine that was plated to resemble a meatloaf. These were accompanied by Sautéed Collards, Mini Corn Cakes and Sweet Onion Jam.
Dessert was a Coconut Creme Brulée filled with specks of vanilla, along with a crispy shortbread cookie, which was equally pleasant on the side of the brûlée or dipped in the Turkish Coffee withHomemade Cherry Liquor.
The upscale plating and presentation took the dining experience to the next level. If I could think of one complaint, it would be that the bright mint green walls just aren't the best atmosphere to showcase dinner cuisine. I would suggest leaving the walls by the register the same color but painting the rest if the room a deep burnt orange, and definitely installing some dimmer switches
My meal at Purée was wholly satisfying and I am excited to see how their menu evolves in the coming months. Chef Ulfet has quite a bit of experience in the kitchen and should have no trouble carving out a crowd of enthusiastic eaters in Mount Pleasant.