The Vegetable Superstar (Vegetabilis stellae)

Seared and Raw Cauliflower from West Bridge. Hover/click for details. (Photographs by Bruce Peterson. Food Styling by Rowena Day/Ennis.)

We’ve all seen a shift away from the rigid tripartite menu structure (appetizer + entrée + dessert) toward modular plates meant to be shared. The unexpected winner in this scenario? The veggie order, which, freed from side-dish status, is now lavished with the labor-intensive attention traditionally reserved for multiphase flesh projects like porchetta, cassoulet, and the Craigie on Main burger.

Case in point: At Bondir, chef Jason Bond takes entire heads of cabbage grown on his Concord farm, vacuum-compresses them with herbs and duck fat, then cooks them sous vide, a series of techniques that transform a stereotypically unsexy vegetable into an evolved species of finessed produce—one that should push the vegetable medley into most assuredly deserved final extinction.

Bondir, along with locavore specialists like West Bridge and Journeyman, are the restaurant kingdom’s most outwardly flamboyant champions of the vegetable golden age, but they have company. Indeed, it’s a sign of the times that one of the best dishes at Tiffani Faison’s excellent barbecue joint, Sweet Cheeks, is an impeccably balanced roasted Brussels sprout salad. Even food trucks like Mei Mei Street Kitchen (try the kale salad topped with egg, panko, and feta) and sushi counters like Café Sushi (don’t miss the elaborate vegetable nigiri) have enthusiastically taken up the mantle—for evidence, see the following exhibits.


Seared and Raw Cauliflower from West Bridge (Pictured Above)

Cauliflower is one of those foods that, when boiled, can make a sensitive tot cry—which is why it’s taken a while to achieve “It” vegetable status. But in the hands of chef Matthew Gaudet, the cruciferous specimen gets seared like a steak, topped with an assemblage of creative textural elements and flavors, and plated like a work of art, making it one of the hippest dishes in town—and proving beyond a reasonable doubt that it’s never been more fun to finish your vegetables.


Ten Tables J.P. 

Roasted cauliflower, pine nuts, raisins, capers.




Salad of gingered red and golden beets, ricotta salata, mustard, sunflower seeds.



Beet–cocoa nib mousse, beet “ribbon,” roasted beets, beet “paper,” buckwheat–cocoa nib crumble, blackberry sauce.


O Ya 

Roasted-beet sashimi, myoga ginger, basil seeds, shiso, wasabi–white soy sauce.



Mei Mei Street Kitchen 

Smoked carrots, black-sesame purée, ricotta, cranberries, sunflower seeds.



Braised heirloom carrots, cannellini-bean purée, crispy black rice, kale chips, tomato-molasses barbecue sauce.


Sweet Cheeks

Shaved carrots, raisins, blue cheese, walnuts.




Braised celery, black-garlic gnocchi, chicken confit, crispy chicken skin.


The Gallows 

Braised celery, smoked trout, brioche toast, poached egg.

What’s Next:

Cutting-Edge Veg

Accompanying the reign of the vegetable on menus is an increased reliance on unconventional plant life.


Illustration by Lucy Engelman

1. Samphire/Sea Beans

Grown on the coast, these small plants have a snappy texture and a salty finish. (Used at Bistro du Midi, Menton)

2. Pine/Spruce

The branches/needles of evergreens add bracing, herbal notes—basically rosemary on steroids. (Used at Asta)

3. Seaweed

Crumbled like an herb and steeped into broths, this ocean plant contributes vegetal oomph. (Used at West Bridge)

4. Hay

When used as a base for roasting, it imparts grassy, slightly malty undertones. (Used at Puritan & Company)

5. Phytoplankton

Rehydrated phytoplankton provides a burst of aquatic flavor in fish dishes. (Used at No. 9 Park, L’Espalier)

  • lifealivecafe

    Yoo-hoo?! Boston Magazine…? We think you missed a spot!

    This is Life Alive Organic Café & Urban Oasis addressing you with friendly fervor!

    Although we are thrilled to see some of Boston’s finest vegetarian
    dishes highlighted and honored in your beautifully displayed “VegetableSuperstars” feature, we feel by not discovering our authentic, organic veggie-inspired oasis, you’ve overlooked a Boston jewel!

    We invite you to come and experience our warm and
    vibrant “Vegetarian Wonderland” and taste the unique, heavenly nourishment from our flavorful, sweet, and savory creations.

    Our meals are crafted with vital organic vegetables and
    nutrient infused “superfoods” (sourcing all ingredients sustainably and from local farms whenever possible.)

    Our Rebel Bowl is a perfect example; a gathering of chopped beets, sweet carrots, crisp broccoli and scrumptious kale, along with nutritious sprouted legumes. This “veg-tacular” colorful arrangement
    is gracefully placed over a bed of short-grain brown rice, tri-colored quinoa, and garnished with hijiki (a health building seaweed.) We then delicately sauce with a fusion of our freshly prepared & raw Ginger
    Nama Shoyou sauce, our Sesame Ginger sauce, and a loving gift of omega-3 rich flax oil! We adore this meal with added kobocha squash, creating texture and character!

    We also invite you to indulge in our sweet & tender Swami Bowl – filled with pearl onions, plump raisins, carrots, and tossed with broccoli & kale, over nurturing short-grain brown rice. We then
    drizzle this craved and desired dish with our addictive Miso Curry sauce, and accent with roasted tamari almonds! We recommend adding raw shredded cheddar to this luscious meal to accentuate its sweet and savory taste!

    Serving whole, pure vegetarian goodness is our passion and
    mission. Our goal is for our menu to satisfy the most humble of palates, as well as the most discriminating of foodies. We hope that our supreme quality and commitment to excellence in vegetarian cuisine can be shared with your readers in future issues.

    Thank you! email:

  • lifealivecafe

    Swami Bowl, anyone?? Delicious!

  • Laura

    Life alive is the ONLY place I will g for an amazingly satisfying, nutritious, beautiful, and thoughtfully prepared vegan meal. It is rare to find a gem like LIfe Alive and I consider myself extremely blessed to have them, the staff, and their nourishment in my life!