by Scott Kearnan
| January 10, 2011
Photo: JOEL VEAK
When the North End raw-food restaurant Grezzo closed earlier this year, vegan foodies were left with a niche - not to mention stomachs - that needed filling. While there are a few casual joints around the city for Hub herbivores, Grezzo was really the only game in town for finer fare in a sleek, more-glam-less-granola setting. That's too bad, since the inventiveness of higher-end vegan cuisine does a great job chewing up and spitting out that lingering popular preconception that animal-free eating limits you to heaping plates of lawn-mower litter. But since its November opening, True Bistro has taken up the mantle of proving such notions false. Dip your fork into a bowl of seared spaetzle ($14), and you'll find a fennel sausage that's a delicious doppelganger for the real thing - but its pork-like texture and taste actually come from a blend of seitan (wheat gluten sometimes used as a substitute for tofu), fennel, and spicy pepper. Served on top of vegan noodles with tomato, kale, kalamata olives, and tarragon, it's a testament to the skill of chef Stuart Reiter, formerly of Newton's raw Prana Café. Here there are only a few raw plates on the menu - like a marinated portabella pave ($16) with a side of subtly sweet parsnip puree - but Reiter gets both the elegant entrees and the shareable small plates right. From the latter, we could stuff ourselves silly with oyster mushrooms ($7) crusted in cornmeal and dipped in a horseradish/dill aioli: close your eyes, and you'd think you were chowing down on calamari. But open them again for the gorgeous presentation of the black bean and plantain torte ($7), a slice of beautiful brown and orange layers served with salsa verde and a white dollop of fermented cashews that makes for a superior stand-in for sour cream. Dishes like these should help True's colors shine through, even for omnivores.
True Bistro | 1153 Broadway, Somerville | 617.627.9000 | Lunch: Tues-Fri, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sat-Sun, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. | Dinner: Tues-Thurs, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sun, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. | Red Line to Davis Square; 88 Bus to Holland & Broadway