Pistachio Portobello Neo-V Mac & Cheese
"Thank you James Beard," is written on a mirror in Dragonfly Neo-V. Why? Because Magdiale Wolmark, Dragonfly's highly talented vegetarian kitchen specialist, has been honored as a semi-finalist for the Best Chef: Great Lakes category of the James Beard awards, i.e. "the Oscars of cooking."
If you've never been to Dragonfly, that's reason enough to give the best vegan restaurant this city's ever seen a try. Other reasons would be its artsy mood and boho scene, achieved partly through a stylish pale-green look, modern music and very outside-the-icebox approach to haute cuisine.
The Hook: No macaroni, no cheese
Vegans need comfort, too, but even committed carnivores would love this ingeniously reimagined "anti" mac. Before describing it, I want you to know that the dish absolutely works and it absolutely delivers on the crowd-pleasing aspects of regular mac and cheese.
It's made with pearl-shaped tapioca-textured Israeli couscous (extremely different from the more familiar, rice-like North African couscous). Those soft and warm pasta globules become supremely creamy in a non-dairy house-made "cheese" sauce created with soy and cashews.
Simultaneously rhyming with the nutty couscous yet providing "meaty" contrast is a darkly and crackly nut-crusted portobello mushroom cap. Rounding out the surprising presentation are aromatic, tinily diced cooked pear bits and raw microgreens. To eat this is to believe in the existence of absolutely comforting yet absolutely cholesterol-free mac and cheese.