Mind your tempeh - Brooklyn Paper

Mind your tempeh

Where’s the beef?: As part of the First Annual Vegetarian Restaurant Week, V-Spot co-owner Dan Carabano invites the borough to enjoy a three-course, $28 prix-fixe dinner at his Park Slope restaurant.
The Brooklyn Paper / Daniel Krieger

Carnivores be advised: October is “World Vegetarian Month.” To celebrate the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle, “Brooklyn Goes Veg!” is sponsoring a month-long series of raffles, talks and the “First Annual Vegetarian Restaurant Week,” Oct. 21-27.

Participating in the weeklong affair are eight eateries throughout the borough that specialize in meatless fare, including Park Slope’s The V-Spot.

V-Spot, which claims to be the Slope’s only vegan restaurant, kicked off the “First Annual Vegetarian Restaurant Week” on Thursday with a raffle and giveaway of 100 free meals. From Oct. 21-27, V-Spot’s owners, brothers Alex and Dan Carabano, are offering a three-course, $28 prix-fixe dinner that includes an appetizer, entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage.

“Anything that promotes vegetarians and vegans is something I want to be a part of,” said Dan.

“Brooklyn Goes Veg!” is a project of Hol-Life Industries, founded by Melissa Haile, a Bedford-Stuyvesant-based holistic health counselor who “helps people trying to make the transition from meat-eating to a plant-based diet,” according to the organization’s Web site. Its purpose is to “promote and increase awareness of plant-based diets for healthier living.”

The V-Spot proprietors also enjoy extolling the virtues of vegetarianism. The Sunset Park siblings have been changing the minds of veg-curious diners since their opening in July 2006. Neither had restaurant experience, but hunger drove them to open V-Spot.

“We really like the neighborhood and enjoy eating here, but Dan [a vegan for six years] had a hard time finding restaurants in the area for a meal. We realized there was no place catering just to vegetarians or vegans in Park Slope,” said Alex, who became a vegetarian two years ago.

“Our goal is to break negative stereotypes the public may have about vegan cuisine,” he added.

Their first swing at demolishing the hemp-curtained vegan restaurant stereotype: create an environment that is as comfortably sophisticated as any bistro along Fifth Avenue. The brothers placed expansive windows in the front of the dining room; the tables are dark wood; and the brick walls, where painter Martine Silva’s abstract canvases hang, serve as a gallery for local artists.

At first glance, the cafe’s menu reads like that of any casual bistro with “Buffalo chicken,” “burgers” and a “BLT club”; however, anything on the roundup that sounds like meat isn’t.

“There’s no meat products on the menu at all,” said Alex. What diners will find on the roundup is a variety of soy and wheat-based ingredients meant more to resemble than mimic the real thing.

“We can’t really make the ingredients taste like meat, but we can offer meals with plenty of flavor and texture that will satisfy our customers,” said Alex. A small selection of mostly organic wines from international vineyards is available to complement the cuisine.

Order a “chicken cutlet” for instance, and the cafe’s cooks, working from the brothers’ and a few of their Colombian-born father’s recipes, will blend ground tempeh (fermented soybean cake) with lentils, black beans, carrots and peas. The cutlet is then seasoned with a mix of “secret” herbs and spices and then grilled. The smoky taste of the grill and toppings such as guacamole and grilled red peppers may not please a hard-core carnivore, but anyone with a little flexibility would be happy.

Who frequents the place? Alex described his clientele as “a young crowd, hipsters with lots of tattoos who are really nice people.” Among them are those who adhere to a strictly vegan diet, vegetarians and meat-eaters.

“Veganism can be a little extreme for some people,” Alex said of those who seek to exclude the use of animal-derived products from food and clothing. “But we’re seeing more diners in the Slope looking for healthy options.”

The brothers hope that “World Vegetarian Month” and “Brooklyn Goes Veg!” will entice people who have shied away from vegan cooking to stop in for a meal.

Said Alex, “When diners give our food a try, they’re surprised and impressed.”

For a complete list of restaurants participating in the “First Annual Vegetarian Restaurant Week,” Oct. 21-27, call (347) 241-5058 or visit www.brooklyngoesveg.com.

The V-Spot Cafe (156 Fifth Ave., between Douglass and DeGraw streets, in Park Slope) accepts American Express, MasterCard and Visa. Entrees: $14-$18. The cafe’s “restaurant week” offer is a three-course $28 prix-fixe menu. V-Spot serves dinner on Monday evenings and is open 11 am-10 pm Tuesday through Sunday. Brunch is available on weekends, 11 am-4 pm. Subway: R to Union Street. www.thevspotcafe.com. For more information, call (718) 622-2275.

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