By Lisa Cardoso
#HipNewJersey took a visit to Vital Restaurant and Juice Bar in Montclair, and their natural and flavorful twist on vegan and Jamaican dishes really impressed us.
Chef Kwame Williams believes in fresh and never frozen ingredients. He is a vegan himself and took his dietary values and twisted them into vibrant meals that everyone could love. Their food is so fresh that the dishes with fish can only be ordered on certain days when they get it shipped in. This restaurant is not only for vegans though, as their progressive take on food reaches all types of pallets.
“When you dine with us, you find that food is not just about the maintenance of the body. It can also be healing to the soul.”
Food: The first thing we tried was the Vital Hummus, a black eyed pea hummus served with plantain chips. The plantains were just the right amount of crispy and acted like a pita bread for dipping. This dish was my favorite part! Hummus is all the rage right now, and this black eyed pea hummus paired perfectly with the plantain chips. I highly recommend this.
As another starter, we ordered the Jerk Chicken Wings. These are your typical chicken wings that most enjoy on football Sundays, but tossed in a jerk sauce. Jerk sauce is a Jamaican sauce and it is spicy! (A yellow pepper next to the jerk chicken wings is included on the menu to indicate spiciness) Our hands were dirty after eating this one!
After asking for their recommendations, the waiter kindly told me that their most popular dish was the vegan Curried Cauliflower with coconut rice and sauteed kale. As soon as the bowl hit the table, I grabbed my phone for a picture. It was colorful and presented nicely. Curry is a dominant flavored spice that paired well with the sweetness of the cauliflower. Kale is everything right now, appearing in kale smoothies, kale sweatshirts that Beyoncé wears, and now kale on top of curried cauliflower. I’m not vegan by any means, but this is something I would enjoy having again.
Just for our own guilty pleasure, we ordered their vegan mac and cheese. Macaroni and cheese…vegan? What? Absolutely! They use a cashew cheese sauce and mix it with shell pasta. 100 percent vegan and 100 percent delicious!
They also have a variety of fresh juices, smoothies, elixirs, coffees, and teas! We tried the Sunsplash, a juice with grapefruit, orange and mango. It was refreshing! A drink I would pair with a hot sunny day. The Caribbean music helped me feel as if I was sitting at an outdoor restaurant by the beach and not in the winters of New Jersey!
The atmosphere: Located on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair, if you’re not hip, you’re out. Montclair is known for their appealing restaurants with dim lighting and exotic styled food. Vital nails it on the exotic foods, but is different in the lighting. There are bright lights and green walls that create the Caribbean vibe that helped us escape the cold weather outside.
We went on a Wednesday and although we made reservations, we didn’t need one. They had a few tables and we were seated immediately. Our food came out quickly, which is always great when you’re starving. I can’t speak for the weekends, but I’m sure being located on Bloomfield Ave and having an individualistic take on food could call for larger weekend crowds.
Sunsplash Juice: $3.50
Vital Hummus: $7
Jerk Chicken Wings: $10
Curried Cauliflower: $18
Macaroni and Cheese: $8