Otarian Restaurant West Village NYC


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.

Each meal is served in packaging materials that is either compostable or recyclable. The restaurant is also furnished with waste bins with either recyclable and compostable options, which I wish every fastfood restaurant would offer.

Each member of the staff has undergone roughly a month of training covering the restaurant's mission, menu, and ingredients, including two days focused on solely on the topic of sustainability.

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.

23 comments:

Belinda @zomppa said...

What a neat model - it's good to know they are hoping to start a chain - good indication that fast food does not necessarily have to mean bad food and styrofoam!

Emily said...

I think it's refreshing to see a more sustainable focus in the food industry. It is unfortunate that this was not emphasized more in employee training. I have heard that sometimes farms cannot be considered organic or cannot afford to purchase the labeling right but may be technically organic, if that makes sense.

Angie's Recipes said...

How ironical that an environmentally conscious biz dosn't provide a compostable or recyclable packaging.

tasteofbeirut said...

That packaging also struck me; I was wondering if there was much in terms of atmosphere.

Joanne said...

This sounds like an awesome concept for a restaurant, although, like you, I would want more information on their sources, etc. It seems that visibility should be one of their priorities!

Stella said...

Hey Christine, this restaurant's concept is so wonderful. I wish we had more places like this around here, though I agree with Joanne about the food sourcing and visibility...

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Christine, this sounds like the perfect place to visit for Earth Day. I love that they used recycled materials.
Sam

Cool Lassi(e) said...

They are on the right track. Love their mission and certainly love that mousse!

Kim said...

I love reading about all food establishments there in NYC. I think you all are so luck to have so many options to chose from. This looks like a fun alternative to the everyday fast food. I know I would definitely enjoy it!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Really enjoyed your review of Otarian, FLB. Its on my to-try list and I do find it curious that they couldn't answer your distance questions. Seems like pertinent information to me. I do look forward to checking it out myself though.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Christine - great review. You asked smart questions, which hopefully will be more thoroughly answered in future visits.

Lori Lynn said...

Sounds great, I would definitely give it a try. Thanks for the information Christine, excellent review!
LL

TKW said...

Wow, that's a restaurant with a serious social conscience! Impressive!

Mimi said...

Hopefully this will become the new standard for restaurants.
Mimi

Sook said...

Sounds awesome, Christine. Thanks for this post.

Juliana said...

Christine, nice restaurant...like the concept :-)

Bridgett said...

What a fun place to visit for Earth Day.

A Canadian Foodie said...

Great review. Interesting observations. I won't ever go there... not because of your write up, of course! Just because I live too far away, and when I get to NYC again, my list is already too long to add this to it.
:)
Valerie

5 Star Foodie said...

Very interesting place, thanks so much for the review!

OysterCulture said...

Great review - and you really want to support guys like this. The comments on the responses were very interesting - was it lack of knowledge or a bit of greenwashing - sounds like they are trying hard to be green, but like you said the training may not have reached everyone. Organic seems to me to e a bit like green tech - its pretty ambiguous for a lot of people - even through the definition is really refined - it just gets tacked out without a lot of thought.

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Great review and wonderful concept. I wish them all the best!

Debinhawaii said...

Very interesting--sounds like a cool concept!

Chef E said...

Wow I am intrigued! I have to check this place out, and do some research.

You are so awesome for bringing this to our tables Christine!