By Katja Lierhaus ’16
I walk into Red Lentil and the garish green walls immediately overwhelm me. I don’t know where to look. My eyes jump from the white square ceiling tiles to the oddly fancy linens. The haphazardly placed tables add to my initial confusion. As the hostess leads my sister and I to a table next to the window, I wish that we just went to Life Alive in Central Square. At the first glance of the menu, however, I know that this place will be good. The menu offers eclectic cuisine options – edamame to a hummus platter, Belgian sweet potato fries to chips and guacamole, Chimichurri Seitan and Jamaican Jerk Tempeh to Pistachio & Coconut Herb-Encrusted Tofu. I now begin to understand the seemingly random décor of the restaurant.
As my sister and I peruse the menu, we share a nonalcoholic ginger brew. Reed’s Original is light and does not have an overwhelming amount of fizz. As my sister put it, it has the “perfect amount of ginger punch.” If you’re sensitive to ginger’s tanginess and sharpness, this drink is the perfect introduction to the exotic spice.
We finally decide to start with Gobi Manchurian – cauliflower tossed with Indian seasonings, breaded with chickpea flour, fried, and finished with sweet and spicy tomato sauce and fresh cilantro – and the Hummus Platter – pita slices served with chipotle hummus and accompanied by baba ganoush (flame-broiled eggplant), red pepper dip, and olives. These two dishes pair perfectly with each other. The cauliflower isn’t overly breaded or oily. Although I wouldn’t say it is light, the seasonings awaken my palette leaving me satisfied with just a few pieces. This dish alone could be easily split between 2-4 people as a starter. The hummus platter is also a delight to the senses. The pita bread was soft with an ever-so-light crunch and the three dips—hummus, a spicy red pepper dip, and baba ganoush— pair perfectly together.
The next round is a healthy serving of the Kale Carnivale Salad – kale with sweet roasted corn kernels, apple, jicama, red cabbage and tamari almonds, tossed in creamy tahini maple dressing – and Moussaka Pizza – grilled eggplant, grilled onion, roasted red pepper, goat cheese, and mozzarella cheese topped with fresh basil. My sister and I are a little disappointed with the kale salad. The maple doesn’t shine through the dressing and the apples, jicama, and corn aren’t discernable enough for our taste. Although it isn’t bad, I wouldn’t order it again.
The pizza is also a little lackluster. We chose the gluten free crust, which was thin, crunchy, and a little sweet – everything I could ask for in a thin crust pizza. However, the melted mozzarella cheese dominates the pizza. It unfortunately masks the earthiness of the eggplant, the sweetness of the onions, and the deep flavor of the red peppers. The goat cheese, however, enhances the pizza by offering surprise bites of creamy tang.
Shamelessly a little stuffed for the night, I begin to plan another trip, particularly for brunch where they offer eggs, omelets, tofu scramble, vegan waffles, French toast, and pancakes, and even vegan gluten-free pancakes. The latter I will try the next visit as anything vegan and/or gluten free intrigues me. What then are they made out of?! Made with sweet potatoes and dates and served with a fresh fruit compote and maple blueberry sauce, these pancakes are a must-try for my next visit.
Found at 600 Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown, Red Lentil is located two miles east of Harvard Square and is a must-try for those who enjoy eclectic cuisine. Simply follow Mt Auburn Street toward Watertown by bike, zipcar, or by foot if you want to go for a little bit of a walk until 600. Alternatively, you could take the 71 busline right from Harvard Square toward Watertown Square via Mt. Auburn St. Get off at Mt Auburn St @ Kimball Rd, and then by foot, head southwest on Mt Auburn St toward Kimball Rd. Red Lentil will be on the right. This trip takes about 15 minutes by car.
Note: The chef of Red Lentil worked closely with HUDS to develop new vegetarian and vegan options this year as well as the kale and beet burger, and sweet potato and black bean burger. Also, if Red Lentil is too far from campus, they offer delivery service through the app Diningin.