When you're trying to eat healthy- and especially to eat clean- finding restaurants where you can safely choose what you want can be a challenge. There tends to be a lot of hemming and hawing over what you can order without driving the waitstaff and the cooks crazy with special requests. A lot of time you end up paying more money for substitutions or not getting your money's worth because once you take the bun away from the sandwich and sub a side salad without dressing for the fries, you're not left with a ton of substance. It absolutely can be done, but it sort of wears on you after a while.
Then there's HuKitchen, a restaurant committed to serving foods with ingredients that are as pre-industrial as possible- meaning no processed food or refined sugars. One of the founders is paleo and while most of their food fits within the paleo/primal blueprint, there are some limited servings of whole grains, dairy, and legumes available. Vegans and vegetarians would also love the menu as well. Everything is gluten free, aside from the beers. You can read more about them in the FAQ on their website.
The first thing I noticed upon entering the establishment was just how cool the decor was. It has this clean, urban grotto-gone-green vibe with wooden seats made out of varnished driftwood and big screens displaying menus available at different food stations. The menus clearly list all of the ingredients, and the coolest part is that you can pretty much assume all the food is paleo unless it explicitly notes that it contains grains or dairy. That was just so refreshing for me and made ordering a lot easier and quick than normal.
The staff was really helpful. They offered free samples of everything so you could be sure you ordered something you liked and were happy to explain the ingredients used in each dish. I always get frustrated when I can't get that information at other restaurants without the waitstaff giving me the stink eye, so this was right up my alley. They knew what they were talking about and they did it all with a smile on their faces.
Which brings me to the actual food, which was absolutely awesome! I ordered the organic thai chicken with coconut milk, turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, cilantro, basil over mashed sweet potatoes and carrots. The chicken was tender and juicy and the whole dish felt like comfort food with none of the guilt. I also ordered some roasted cauliflower on the side so I could increase the veggie content of my meal. It was pretty good and it was seasoned in a way I wouldn't have done it myself. My meal also came with a piece of grain-free veggie bread. Honestly, I don't know how they got the consistency so perfect because it really did have a great bread-y consistency and it tasted pretty good too. My friend Steven ordered their quarter chicken with mashed sweet potato and carrot and caramelized pineapple drizzled with cashew cream. He thought the chicken was wonderful and when he let me taste the pineapple, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I could eat that every day! I've never heard of cashew cream before, but you can bet I've been looking up recipes online ever since. I can't get it out of my mind! All of that came to just under $30 for two people which is really not that bad when you think about the quality of the ingredients being used and the labor that goes into it. Additionally, I tried their mango infused water with chia. I had never had chia before so I wanted to try it out. In the end I don't think it won me over, but I'm not a huge fruit infused water fan so I didn't expect to love it all that much. I will say that they had a ton of different teas and waters to choose from so it was fun to look at the wide selection.
After we ate our meal we decided to try out their sweets. After my heavenly experience with HuKitchen's cashew cream, I was easily drawn to their mash bar. Now, as far as what a mash bar is exactly, I'm not sure, except to say that it's yummy! After many failed attempts at trying to understand what it was supposed to be, I just asked the server to give me whatever their most popular one was, which turned out to be the Organic Berry Coconut concoction. It was organic vanilla chia pudding with strawberry, blueberry, and cashew cream. It was very refreshing and sweet without being overly sugary. One issue with paleo for me is that I never feel like I get a proper desert because fruit is great, but it doesn't always do it for me when it comes to satisfying my sweet tooth. Well the addition of the pudding and cashew cream certainly took it to the next level. I can't wait to go back and try a different mash from their menu next time. Steven got a 72% dark chocolate bar with almond butter and puffed quinoa. I'm a fan of super dark chocolate and this is lighter than what I've been eating, but the square I had was creamy and delicious. It made for a nice change because usually "specialty" chocolate with added ingredients doesn't come dark enough to make it primal/paleo. Our deserts were about $5 each.
Some of the reviews I read online about this place disparaged the pricing of the food, but honestly I felt like it was worth every penny. We over-ordered while we were there so that I could review different things. I could have easily been satisfied with just the bowl of chicken over the mashed sweet potatoes. Taken alone, that would have been just under $10, which is totally reasonable. Maybe people were upset about the portions? I think people just have a distorted view of what a proper portion of food is these days. Who knows? I didn't see a problem with the pricing and because I deal with purchasing these kinds of ingredients myself, I was surprised they weren't charging more.
What I'm saying is that we should all be eating at this place. Their mission is spot on, their food is incredible, and what's more, it's incredibly good for you. These are the kinds of restaurants we should be supporting. If more people realized that eating clean doesn't mean eating boring, I think there would be a lot more demand for places like HuKitchen. I would love to see more locations open up around the city, but for that to happen, the food revolution will have to gain ground. Let's help them kick it into high gear!
If any of my New York slayers end up trying HuKitchen, let me know your thoughts and your favorite dishes in the comments!