Meatless Monday: Till Dynamic Fare

Anthony Dominic, Crave

When bar manager Branden Yearsley delivered my dish, I thought there had been a mistake. I was expecting tofu, yet it looked like there was breaded chicken on my plate. "Nope-that's the tofu," he assured me, nodding to the disguised strips of curd. And, as promised, a warm bed of dairy-free mac and cheese was nestled underneath (and bonus Brussels sprouts).

As a vegetarian, I know I'm in good hands at Till Dynamic Fare, but the Cashew Smoked Tofu and Vegan Mac n Cheese ($19) surprised me. No hot, soupy mess here. Fat macaroni noodles are carefully coated in a zesty mock cheese-an amalgam of cashew sauce, roasted peppers and dijon mustard. "We were trying to achieve the texture and color of a yellow cheddar base," says owner-chef Magdiale Wolmark. "We needed a nice, smooth sauce, something thick that would really bind the noodles together the way cheese sauce would, and this is what got us there." I couldn't help but drag every last sprout through the sauce, too.

To tie the dish together, Wolmark also adds a touch of cashew to the tofu, which is marinated for 24 hours in balsamic vinegar and tamari. The real kicker: The tofu is smoked with applewood Wolmark prunes from the restaurant's urban garden. The flavor really shines through. The tofu is sweet, smoky and crispy (all of the things I want tofu to be, but it never is).

I can say the following with confidence: This is the first time I've enjoyed a cocktail with mac and cheese-and it felt so right.