I'm always excited when I hear about a new vegetarian restaurant. Maybe it's because I haven't yet found one that I absolutely love. A client tipped me off to Walnut Grille, which opened in Newton Highlands in March this year. The mixed reviews on Yelp didn't deter me from heading straight over with my family. We arrived at noon on a Saturday and it wasn't crowded. What first struck me was the odd decor. After viewing online the innovative menu, I was expecting to see either an earthy decor with a lot of browns and deep greens, or ultra modern with black, white and neutrals. I was greeted by green, but a lime green, as well as sparkly silver chandeliers with purple crystals and silver-trimmed booth chairs. It also smelled of incense. The waitress greeted us quickly and was friendly. I noticed that there were several families with young children, so it appeared a kid-friendly place.
The majority of the menu is vegan and has a nice selection of soups, salads and appetizers that are out of the ordinary such as the Ocean Salad with hijiki (brown sea vegetable), jicama and soba noodles, and Gobi Manchurian, cauliflower coated with chickpea flour and cooked in a spicy sweet tomato sauce. I stayed basic, figuring that if their simple menu items tasted great, I'd venture back for the more exciting options. I ordered the Beluga Lentil Soup, All Greens Juice (organic cucumber, celery, spinach, kale and parsley), and PLT made with portabella mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, tempeh bacon and vegan Thousand Island dressing on crusty whole wheat bread. My son ordered cheese pizza from the kids menu, and my husband ordered the Buckwheat Pancakes made with sweet potatoes and dates, served with fresh fruit and vegan whipped cream.
I've made fruit smoothies with greens at home but I'd never tasted an all-greens drink. It was blended to order and my first thought was earthy. I immediately detected cucumber and celery. The juice wasn't sweet or chilled, so it wasn't too pleasant going down, but I guess I got what I ordered! The lentil soup was fine but not very special. The ingredients tasted homemade but I'd wished there were more lentils or that it had deeper flavors.
My PLT plate looked delicious so I dug in. Maybe a little too quickly because I'd eaten most of the sandwich before realizing that I forgot to look for the tempeh bacon. The sandwich was loaded with shaved juicy mushrooms and the dressing was pleasant and tangy but I couldn't recall other flavors or textures resembling soy bacon. The sweet potato fries were perfect, my favorite part of the whole meal. They're not usually cut that thick but were enjoyable because they tasted freshly made.
My husband's pancakes were large and covered with chunks of fresh fruit. He said they tasted ok, nothing special. I stole a bite and thought the buckwheat made them a bit heavy and dense. I couldn't detect any sweet potatoes in the batter and wondered if they were even in there.
My son's pizza was generous for a kid size. Unfortunately he took one bite and wouldn't eat the rest. It had a really thick layer of cheese so it was very oily and rich, but the strange part was the sauce. Actually I didn't see a sauce, but there was a very tangy flavor under the cheese like balsamic vinegar. It was also loaded with garlic. I've learned that the one taste kids don't typically enjoy is tart! It was just too strong-tasting for my son to appreciate. I took the leftovers home for myself to eat later but it was too greasy and odd tasting even for me so I threw it out.
I so wanted to love this place and give a raving review but with each menu item I kept saying "it's ok, it's fine." Most of the food lacked any memorable flavors, except ironically the kids pizza, which should have tasted the simplest. I would be interested to visit again and try the dinner specials because I'm a fan of all their ingredients—seasonal vegetables, fruits, grains and plant proteins—there must be one thing on that menu that I will love! Walnut Grille is open weekdays 11am-10pm and weekends 9am-Sat 10pm/Sun 9pm with brunch on weekends. There's plenty of free parking in a shared lot behind the restaurant. If you've eaten here and recommend a certain dish, please let me know!