So when my fiancé recently suggested we pick up some food from Gobo, his favorite vegetarian place on the Upper East Side, I was game. He’s not a vegetarian, but his sister is; she visits Gobo whenever she’s in town from Ohio. (In fact she likes it so much that he refrains from mentioning it when he goes there because he doesn’t want make her jealous.)
Anyway, it was a weeknight. We’d both been working too hard, running around like chickens with our heads cut off (woops, sorry vegetarians, bad analogy), and we didn’t feel like cooking. We didn’t feel like being “out” either. It was one of those winter nights when you just want to put on your PJs and your coziest socks in order to unceremoniously chow down. Take-out is a beautiful thing. In cases like these, I believe that the couch makes the perfect seat, your knees are an ideal table and a blanket is as lovely a tablecloth as any.
So we looked up Gobo’s menu online, dialed their number, and pulled up out front, at 3rd and 81st about 10 minutes later. I sat in our getaway car while he ducked into the purple pick-up entrance right on 81st. We could have had the food delivered, but it’s slightly easier to justify not cooking these days if at least you sidestep the gratuity. (I tend to over-tip, which is one part generosity and two parts poor math.)
The problem with acquiring dinner in this fashion is that you have to demonstrate some patience, (maybe not as much as cooking, but…). Though it was packed up tight, the food on my lap smelled delicious. I was ravenous. Would it be so bad to tear into that bag with my bare hands and go at that food as if I was some kind of rabid hyena? Yes.
Somehow, I managed to control myself, get out of the car, down the street then climb the stairs pretending that I was not salivating the volume equivalent to an ocean. My fiancé, far more civilized than I, took the time to arrange the eco-friendly boxes of food in an artistic formation. He even got out utensils and plates, all of which seemed extraneous to me at this point.
Finally, dinner. To start, we ordered Scallion Pancakes with Homemade Mango Salsa. These were perfectly crisp and packed with onions. We also got an order of the Pan Seared Spinach Dumplings, which were plump purses of goodness. There are lots of things that intrigue on this menu. Most, but not all of the selections at Gobo seem to skew Asian. The menu is broken up into quick bites, small plates, sandwiches, noodles, large plates, and salads and soups. They have another location down in the West Village.
I like what it says on the Gobo website: that the “spirited vegetarian dining awakens the five senses for each guest. Rooted in Zen compassion, Gobo is founded on the belief that delicious food and beverages using non-meat ingredients will nourish both your body and your mind.” It sounds like the dinner version of Yoga class. I inhaled deeply and dug into my entrée.
I ordered the (not-so-Asian) Butternut Squash Risotto with Toasted Almonds. Made with brown rice (of course) and large chunks of squash, this was exactly as delicious as I anticipated. It was buttery and bursting with almonds. My fiancé ordered the Sizzling Soy Cutlet Platter with Black Pepper Sauce. When he offered me some, I scrunched up my nose. “No thanks.” I don’t love meat but I don’t go for faux meat, either. I have tasted a few bites of that wheat-based seitan product before and found it strange. I can dabble in some strait-up tofu, but it seems that some of those meatless creations are for the real purists. Of course, he eventually convinced me to give it a try, and it was actually quite tasty. In fact, that black pepper sauce on the “cutlet” and accompanying vegetables was succulent and prompted me to reach across the couch for seconds.
Leftovers the next night were just as satisfying, and stretching this take-out over two dinners diminished the spending guilt considerably. Though I haven’t dined in at Gobo yet, the atmosphere looks to be very serene and appropriately Zen. And I always find that healthy vibe to be contagious. When I go, I intend to try one of their organic smoothies, a fresh squeezed juice, or…okay, you twisted my arm, perhaps a glass of organic wine. See you there. I’ll be the one tucking myself in cozily under the tablecloth…