Best High-End Vegan Dish

Vegan Charcuterie at Gather

We can't figure out what's greater, the oxymoronic shock value of chef Sean Baker's signature dish at Gather, or the sheer exuberance of its execution. Vegan "charcuterie": Though the menu sets off the second half of the name in quotation marks, it's sort of a pointless demarcation. The four to six elements described in the constantly changing dish read like a mini thesis on the potential of vegetables, nuts, and seaweeds in a kitchen with an inventive spirit. Baker turns out highly concentrated vignettes of seasonal vegetable cookery, composed on boards that look like mini bread peels: There might be tiny carrots cooked sous vide, sunchoke carpaccio with wisps of greens that look like garden thinnings, a custard made from beet juice (called "blood," in keeping with the faux charcuterie theme) served with a simulacrum of goat cheese made with cashew milk. Even when one element doesn't quite work, the combined weight of intention and effort add up to a nightly tour de force even lovers of actual charcuterie — the kind not set off by inverted commas — can applaud.

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