At Délice & Sarrasin, French Classics Go Vegan

September 15, 2016 11:50 am Last Updated: September 15, 2016 11:50 am

NEW YORK—At Délice & Sarrasin, you’ll find mainstays of French home cooking—cassoulet, coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon. The twist is, they’re all vegan.

The Caron Soriano family, which runs the restaurant, happens to hail from the meat-loving region of Toulouse, in the southwestern part of France, rich in duck and goose dishes. There, hearty cassoulets and fatty foie gras reign.

Cassoulet Toulousain. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Cassoulet Toulousain. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

The West Village restaurant started off with a focus on crepes—including savory “galettes” that they would make vegan at any guest’s request. The crepes remain, but now the new menu embraces French classics, overseen by executive chef Yvette Caron Soriano. Her son Christophe is often in the front of the house, receiving guests. With his tall frame, he has to duck around the chandelier hanging from the middle of the ceiling.

The whole family is vegan, motivated by a concern for the welfare of animals as well as for their personal health.

Over the last year, Yvette has been testing the recipes on non-vegan friends, without telling them. For the most part, they didn’t even realize they were eating vegan dishes.

The one clear exception was the salmon steak, which is bound on the outside by seaweed—in the guise of fish skin. But it’s far easier to get vegan products of high quality here in the United States than in France, according to Christophe, with the possible exception of vegan cheese. When he was in Paris recently, he faced a dearth of options—like french fries and salad.

Yvette doesn’t shy away from turning even foie gras—that stalwart of Toulouse cuisine—vegan. Made with smoked tofu, it has a silky soft creaminess, more along the lines of mousse of foie gras; and with some spices and a bit of white truffle, there’s nothing in flavor to miss from the real thing (Foie Gras Vegan, $15). Served on the side, the homemade onion jam adds a sweet contrast, while the red fig jam has a delightful grainy texture.

Foie Gras Vegan fait-maison avec Confiture de Figue at Délice & Sarrasin in the West Village, Manhattan, New York, on Sept. 6, 2016. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Foie Gras Vegan fait-maison avec Confiture de Figue at Délice & Sarrasin in the West Village, Manhattan, New York, on Sept. 6, 2016. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Another great starter is the Crème de Carotte aux Lentilles Corail ($11), made of pink lentils and carrots and served on bread slathered with a coconut-based vegan butter, with no uncertain amount of garlic. The Caron Sorianos are particular about finding high-quality products. They searched and tested a variety of vegan butters before ordering the particular brand they now use, flown in from California.

The Escargots Beurre Maître d’Hôtel ($12) (snails) are actually slices of oyster mushrooms. It’s a clever move. The appeal of the dish was never in the texture of the snails (rubbery at worst, and usually not memorable), but in the accompanying sauce. Here it’s again prepared with coconut-based vegan butter, along with parsley, shallots, and lots of (and lots more) garlic. “I’m a little Mediterranean,” said Yvette, by way of explanation.

As for fake meats, they’re made with soy and vegetable fibers. For example, Yvette brought out the cassoulet dish. “Here is a pork sausage—normally; duck—normally,” she pointed, along with long-simmered white beans (Cassoulet Toulousain, $25). The Poulet Basquaise ($22), with spicy vegan chorizo and vegan chicken legs, is served with couscous, peppers, onions, and tomatoes.

A meat eater could probably tell that vegan meat doesn’t fall apart the same way as real meat does when cut into—but the flavors are right on, and Yvette has a good hand with spices.

She loves to cook. “I enjoy knowing that people are enjoying themselves,” she said.

The restaurant is small and cozy, in a mostly gray palette, with some pops of lively red. One of the exposed brick walls is covered with family photos, and old-time French music plays in the background.

For dessert, you can pick from sweet crepes ($10) to vegan rice pudding, intensely floral with its infusion of lavender ($10), to éclairs ($4)—all, of course, vegan.

Délice & Sarrasin
20 Christopher St. (between Waverly Place & Gay St.), West Village, Manhattan 

10 a.m.–11 p.m.