The Vegetarian Option: Quantum Leap
Tucked in among the chess boutiques on Thompson Street in the West Village you'll find the West Village outpost of Quantum Leap, a popular and mostly vegetarian restaurant (there is also fish on the menu). Quantum Leap follows the trend of other West Village vegetarian restaurants in selling fake meat versions of restaurant classics, but in my experience many of the dedicated vegetarian restaurants fall a bit short in the flavor department.
We started with an order of the soy nuggets ($5.95), which ended up being the highlight of the meal for me. I've tasted many different brands of fake chicken nuggets, and there were among the best. On the outside they are coated with a thick, crispy coating while remaining moist and chewy on the inside. Highly flavorful and almost spicy, they were served with a dipping sauce that was more ketchup than barbecue sauce but was still tasty.
We followed that up with an order of Vietnamese spring rolls ($4.50). The interior of the spring rolls forgoes the fake meat for crumbled tofu, along with chopped up mushrooms and carrots. In fact the filling reminded me more of dumplings than spring rolls; not necessarily a bad thing, but unusual at first. The wrapping wasn't anything like the Vietnamese spring rolls you'll find at real Vietnamese restaurants, but these were tasty two-bite snacks.
As an entree I selected the comfort food I usually can't enjoy other than in eggplant form—chik'n parmigiana ($12.95). The fake chicken was dense and delicious, with good mozzarella and a nice tomato sauce. It wasn't advertised on the menu but it comes served on a pile of noodles in an under-seasoned pesto sauce and some steamed vegetables that needed salt. My dining companion had the chipotle chik'n sandwich, served on a toasted bun reminiscent of a grilled cheese sandwich.
I left Quantum Leap with mixed opinions. Some of it was very good, some of it was merely fine. I think the restaurant may be best for convincing your skeptical carnivore friend that vegetarian food is more than tofu and salads. Once you've convinced them of that, I'd try to find a place with more consistently good food.
Quantum Leap (West Village)
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Brooklyn-based Eat to Blog and the creator of BrooklynVegetarian.