For Earth Day, I visited Otarian, a vegetarian restaurant that focuses on serving an environmentally conscious mission by offering meals made with fresh ingredients are sourced primarily from local farms. Moreover, a majority of the restaurant's design is built from recycled materials from the floor, table and chairs to the ceiling decoration which is made from recycled aluminum.
Each customer who reaches the counter is met with a sleek fastfood style menu that outlines the vegetarian offerings as well as a measure of the amount of carbon it took bring this meal to the consumer.
Fresh food and produce is delivered daily to Otarian, and whatever does not get used either goes to City Harvest or is composted at the end of the day.
With a $20 gift certificate in hand courtesy of Foodbuzz and Otarian, I ordered a vegetarian biryani ($9.95), which was accompanied by a cucumber yogurt (non-vegan).
The biryani's hot and spicy flavors were nicely complemented and tempered by the cool refreshing cucumber yogurt. After making my way through half of the of the entree, I found myself full, much to my surprise. Overall, I think this entree has good potential, and with a bit of extra gravy, and greater moisture in the rice, it would be something I would order again.
I finished the meal with an egg-free choc-o-mousse ($4.95). Sweet and pleasing as you would expect a chocolate mousse would be. This was another item that I couldn't finish, while good, it was also very filling. I also found it too sweet for my savory palate, but I'm sure it's personal preference.
I applaud Otarian's ambitious effort to carve out a sustainable vision in the fastfood segment of the New York City's competive restaurant landscape, and I hope that many other restaurants adopt the measures and standards set by Otarian. There are some questions that I asked the staff that remain unanswered, such as: Which farms are the ingredients sourced from? What is the distance limit Otarian sources ingredients? No one knew. It seems that these details were absent from the one month long training. I did receive an interesting answer when I asked: Are the ingredients organic? One of the staff members answered, "Yes." But when I followed with, "Why don't you guys advertise about it?" It was followed with a more ambiguous response of the ingredients are sourced from farms with sustainable practices vs. organic. By no means was I trying to be difficult, I was simply curious and these were the questions that occurred to me during the course of conversation.
I wish Otarian with the best of luck with its venture to aggressively grow its chain. I would like to see some more detail surrounding where it sources its ingredients, and the local farms and businesses it supports.
Thank you Foodbuzz for facilating the opportunity to review this restaurant, and Otarian for the $20 gift certificate.