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Star-Studded Restaurant Opening: Otarian

Posted Apr 15 2010 8:12pm

For someone who gets heart palpitations at sight of even a minor celebrity, last night was basically a heart attack.

Let me back up.

By a grand stroke of luck, I was invited to attend the grand opening of Otarian in New York City. As “the planet’s first low-carbon  [and vegetarian!] restaurant,” it’s safe to say I haven’t dined anywhere like it before. With locations both uptown and overseas in London, I have a feeling Otarian will be coming to a city near you in the not too distant future!

Upon arrival, my eyes zeroed right in on the bar, where I snagged a glass of Veuve Clicquot (!) and took in my surroundings.

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The party was just starting to warm up, and after a few minutes, I noticed the food starting to come around. Check out Otarian ’s menu ! I don’t think I’ve ever drooled this much over a “fast casual” restaurant’s offerings, so I was jazzed to sample the goods.

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First up was the Roasted TomatO soup. Delicious! And served in little bamboo cups. Points for sustainability already!

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I also got to try the Avocado Tomato Mozzarella salad, which, of course, couldn’t have been anything but great, given the ingredients.

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The labels for each dish even showed the carbon emission savings of consuming this dish instead of one that wasn’t sustainably produced.

So what’s up with the paparazzi? Are there famous people coming or something?

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As I was happily paparazzi-ing my salad, flashbulbs started going off in a total frenzy and they all seemed to be pointed at this blonde chick walking by me.

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She must be important—she’s standing in front of that official-looking backdrop thingie…

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…and that’s because she’s Mary-Kate Olsen . Gotcha.

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WHAT?! [Heart begins to race, despite the Veuve’s best efforts.] Holy guacamole, please don’t let her look at me, except I kinda want her to… Well, she’s not even really looking at Radhika [Oswal, Otarian owner and CEO]…I’m probably safe…

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…oh, wait…she’s gone already. And with nary a “You got it, dude!” I guess I will forgive her for that one.

There were more celebrity arrivals, but you “have to” read to the end of the post to see them! You’re here for the food anyway, right?

Once the paparazzi calmed down, I figured it was safe to resume my role as “food paparazzi”. That’s what a nearby party-goer actually said as she looked curiously at me aiming a tiny point-and-shoot at an even tinier veggie burger.

I imagine I’ve been called worse! I’ll take any name, as long as it’s in the name of deliciousness.

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Pardon my hasty (and blurry) photos, but as these were passed appetizers, I had to work quickly if I wanted to get my shot! It was worth it—the Toasted BurritO was muy rico.

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This little veggie burger—I believe it was the PortobellO Mushroom—was way better than I expected. Not that I expected anything bad, but after this taste I was officially convinced that someone knows what they’re doing in the Otarian kitchen.

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If you are in New York or London and can make it to Otarian , I command you to try these:

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Sweet Potato Chiplets! (Side of taco optional.) They have this thick, crispy coating not unlike a chicken tender, but that’s all sweet potato in there. Swoon!

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For any Indian food lovers out there, the Mushroom O Paneer wrap is a spicy bit of yum. Don’t forget the raita!

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I couldn’t believe how good the food was, considering the projected price point (and the fact that the menu didn’t seem so diverse when I perused it quickly before the event—I was wrong!). Everything was hot, too! Impressive for passed apps, no?

After the paneer, I decided I was done tasting. All the samples look small on their own, but they were starting to gang up on me.

Confronted with the Spinach Potato O Tart, however, I figured I had room for one more bite.

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Wouldn’t you?

We heard Radhika speak about Otarian’s mission and philosophy , which is really admirable. Few companies are so committed to reducing their impact on the environment, and the fact that Otarian actually puts that at the forefront of its menu and marketing has the potential to really set an example of a sustainable business model. I hope the trend spreads!

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Everything in the restaurant, from the ceiling decorations down to the floor tiles (including the paint on the walls!) is made from recycled and reclaimed materials. What’s not to like?

Well, I can’t say I “like” having butterflies in my stomach, but I’m not about to complain. Here are the rest of my non-food paparazzi shots from the evening.

Ugly Betty fans, how about a little Mark Indelicato ?

Yes, please. I’ll even throw in some Vanessa Williams to up the ante.

I shouldn’t have expected less, but these people are seriously stunning in real life. It’s not all camera magic!

Same goes for Judah Friedlander . :)

Love his character on 30 Rock!

Sadly, I didn’t get to schmooze with the celebs. That would’ve cost me my spot in the path of all the food. Priorities, people.

Do you know of any sustainable businesses like Otarian ? Have you ever had a celebrity sighting?

New Yorkers, Otarian opens next week: April 19th on Bleecker Street and April 23rd on 8th Avenue.

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