Lighten Up

Written by admin on . Posted in Eat & Drink.


January brings a slew of New Year’s resolutions, like the perennial mantra to eat healthier. Since wan lunchtime salads quickly lose their appeal, consider these local eateries offering delicious dishes that also keep your waist small.

Ozu (566 Amsterdam Ave., near 88th St., 212-787-8316): This Japanese restaurant focuses on vegan dishes that eschew refined sugars and showcase fresh produce and whole grains. The pocket-sized eatery has only 26 seats, but dishes out huge portions. Kabocha, a Hokkaido squash similar to butternut, appears throughout the extensive menu. In an appetizer, the steamed pieces are smothered in a seitan sauce so delicious it ought to come with a spoon. Steamed kabocha, carrots and sweet potatoes, or a generous romaine salad with a tangy beet dressing, accompany the entrées. Try the broiled Ozu croquettes, five palm-sized patties of couscous, millet, kasha, lentils and diced vegetables. Even better is the Ozu roll, a Japanese-style burrito. Kabocha, beans, mushrooms, tofu and eggplant fill a whole-wheat tortilla, griddled until crispy.

Ozu croquettes. Photo by Marcella Veneziale

EJ’s Luncheonette (447 Amsterdam Ave., near 81st St., 212-873-3444): EJ’s is known for diner classics like mac-and-cheese, but the ’50s-throwback restaurant has always had healthy offerings, like seven grain bread and plenty of salads. Also consider the fluffy multigrain flapjacks, which have the smooth texture of traditional pancakes, but are pumped up with ground whole grains. Skip maple syrup and butter for toppings like fresh strawberries or cinnamon and raisins. If pancakes don’t tempt you, try the low fat cinnamon honey granola, health kick omelet (egg whites, mushrooms, tomato and basil) or the “minute man,” two poached or soft-boiled eggs with lettuce and tomato. Lunchtime crowds slurp up the homemade chicken noodle soup and salmon niçoise salad, a twist on the traditional French dish made with tuna. Wash down the grub with the aptly named Health Kick Carrot Juice: straight-up carrot with a pleasantly sweet taste. That’s one grease-free spoon.

Café Viva (2578 Broadway, near 98th St., 212-663-8482): Café Viva seems like any small pizza joint: a smattering of Formica tables, glass case of pizza by the slice and the aroma of oregano and basil in the air. But besides plain dough, the restaurant offers whole wheat, corn and spelt crusts, and tops them with everything from dairy-free pesto to soy sausage. The Zen pizza holds a bevy of antioxidant-rich ingredients: pesto, crumbled tofu, sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized red onions, shitake and maitake mushrooms and whole roasted garlic cloves top a crunchy, cornmeal-
dusted spelt crust. The paper plate proves these slices are greaseless.

Josie’s West (300 Amsterdam Ave., near 75th St., 212-769-1212): Josie’s cozy, modern room bustles with patrons, especially during the $20.75 prix fixe brunch. Vegan options abound, including a warming butternut squash soup swirled with pesto and an all-veggie meatloaf. Josie’s meat and cheese are always natural and organic, including the white cheddar that tops the three-grain veggie burger. The charred and smoky patty bulges with quinoa, bulgur and couscous. It’s served on a fluffy whole wheat bun, and comes with a choice of fries (skip), potato or fruit (better choices) on the side.

Edgar’s Café (255 W. 84th St., near Broadway, 212-496-6126): Edgar’s offers a whopping 22 palate-pleasing salads to choose from, including Mediterranean bean and smoked tuna carpaccio. The herbaceous shrimp and arugula salad features a generous serving of perfectly steamed shrimp, peppery greens and sliced artichoke hearts. An oil, lemon and herb dressing comes on the side. Even the pressed red pepper and mozzarella sandwich does little diet damage. The portion is reasonable, the peppers plentiful and the mozzarella sufficient to lend a pleasant melt. A large, crispy romaine and radicchio salad accompanies the sandwich. Diners enjoy these dishes in a romantically lit space decorated with Edgar Allen Poe memorabilia, celebrating the café’s namesake.

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