Designated Diner: Going vegan on Canal
Designated Diner: Emma Fick
Day job: Artist/illustrator and author of "Snippets of Serbia," annotated illustrations done of Serbia while living there. She's working on a second volume, "Snippets of New Orleans," that will be previewed in the coming weeks at NolaVie. Stay tuned!
The restaurant: Good Karma Cafe, in the Swan Yoga Studio, 2940 Canal St.
Why she’s a good sport: We chose this vegan-only option for her, having heard it’s a good and rare NOLA take on that cuisine. Says Emma: “Vegan is a little offbeat for me. I always wonder, will it be tasteless? I’m a healthy fan of lard and seasoning.”
Will she get it here? No and yes. Thumb’s down to lard but thumb’s up to seasoning. Good Karma proves that healthy needn’t be bland.
Its MO: Well, vegan. No dairy (unless you count almond milk), and lots of local produce (we watched bags of carrots being carried in the door), with a tilt of the head toward local (red beans) and international (curry). But more creative than imitative – potatoes in the beans, Malaysian spices in the curry.
What Emma looks for on a menu: I’m definitely an adventuresome diner; if I can’t decide what to order I always get the weirdest thing on the menu, like a po-boy with cow tongue. On a recent foray to the Hong Kong Market, I was drawn to the tripe.
What she looks for in a restaurant: I like a place that knows its aesthetic, whether it’s ramshackle or posh. I like a menu that’s not too big – 10 things done really well. I eat a lot of eggs, and I like orange foods. It's my favorite color. A good egg yolk is orange.
Her go-to places: Any John Besh restaurant to show off the city. And I love Coquette, but also any good hole in the wall. But I mostly reject talking in superlatives. I have many favorites.
Worth shouting about at Good Karma: If you’re hungry or want to share, go for the Everything Plate. It’s replete with rich flavors, from the daily special (red beans during our visit – no NOLA wannabe, this version, but a Latin rendition with carrots and potatoes) to the spicy Malaysian curry, nutty brown rice and Sanbar soup. Exotic, tangy and somehow the flavors all complement one another in a way that wants you to go for a mash-up on the fork.
Also: The Teriyaki Tofu Wrap features grilled tofu, almond sauce, veganaise and arrives dressed. Whatever veganaise is, it makes the whole satisfyingly juicy. It’s an excellent wrap with surprisingly complexity. I would swear there’s no way this could be vegan.
Color palate: For this artist who craves aesthetic food, the mauve-colored Nutty Bliss smoothy appeals. Thick, sweet, creamy and purple. What’s not to like?
The digs: Basic but colorful. Diners order at the counter from a chalkboard menu. In addition to tables, a corner seating option offers cushions on the floor.
Sweet tooth: Yes, vegans can have dessert. A lavender cake with thick icing scored high marks without need of eggs and milk.
The bottom line: Creative cuisine that doesn’t let vegan boundaries limit the richness of the dish.
Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie. Email her at email@example.com.