A review of Park Slope eatery Sun In Bloom by Nell Alk.
They say good things are hard to find, but vegan, mostly gluten-free, raw-happy Park Slope gem Sun In Bloom is pretty easy. For this Chelsea-dweller, it’s just four travel directions: across the street, down the Brooklyn-bound 2-3 line, off the Bergen Street stop, down the block. Non-red-liners can take the 4, 5, B, D, N, R, or Q trains to Atlantic Ave, which means just a short five-minute stroll during the home stretch.
Then again, the relative convenience is almost irrelevant. As founder Aimee Follette noted during our visit, SIB is a destination restaurant; many of its loyal customers don’t live nearby, at least by NYC standards. After a recent lunch there, it’s easy to see why they’re willing to travel.
To begin with, the clean white walls depressurize, the dark wood tables comfort, and two sizable windows (and a glass door) offer nice light during the day with a pleasant view of the quiet sidewalk outside. The vibe is serene—no harried or impatient waitstaff here—though, if you happen to be pressed for time, you can take a little relaxation on your way with pressed juices and decadent gluten-free desserts to go. In fact, pretty much the entire menu is accessible to those who want or need to avoid gluten, and one of the things that makes SIB so special is that you don’t miss it. Ditto for the less universal but still plentiful raw-friendly components of the menu.
Speaking of which, sitting down for a meal on a particularly steamy day in the city, my lunch friend and I were thankful to start off with the Raw Alkalinizing Green Soup. Served cold and consisting of romaine, cucumber, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and avocado, the smooth, thick brew was exceptionally refreshing. We’d have gone so far as to top it off with some cilantro and chips, but it was still yummy, and we imagine it’s the perfect thing for those who like their cool-off pure and clean.
Then, in a very tasty follow-up, we had the Bella Devine Salad—organic kale “massaged” with a live sesame ginger dressing and raw homemade sauerkraut, finished with dulse seaweed, slices of avocado, and kale chips for a little added crunch. (See photo at top.) Not only is it healthy as heck, but it also presented a really pleasing medley of textures and flavors.
So did our next course, the Bloom Burger, which we hear is an SIB-loyalist favorite. Ordered either on an Ezekiel sprouted bread for the gluten-tolerant or wrapped in sturdy collard greens for the -sensitive, this scrumptious concoction was likened by my meal partner to an elevated reinvention of a falafel sandwich, and it was as special as the latter is ubiquitous. The soft, slightly sweet sesame seed-drenched (and we mean drenched) bun was a heavenly handle for the vibrant insides, which comprised sprouted sunflower seeds, dehydrated caramelized onions, chickpea miso, tomato, basil, cabbage, and a live sunflower dill dressing. Enjoying as a wrap (my personal preference) provided a cathartic crunch and lighter touch; either way, all of those amazing ingredients came through. It’s not a huge portion, volume-wise, but the fact that many of the ingredients are raw and alive gives it enough density to sate, and the complex flavor palette means you’re likelier to savor it long enough for your hypothalamus to catch up.
And so it was that, by the time we’d devoured our soup, salad, and burgers, we could have called it a day and been very satisfied. But that wouldn’t have made for a complete-enough review of the menu; or so we were willing to rationalize, if it meant we got to keep trying things like the Blueberry Ginger Smoothie, which arrived in a jam jar and immediately blew us away with its airy lightness and subtle floridity. At first sip, it’s unassuming, tasting gently like its lavender hue. Then BANG!—the ginger hits the back of your palate—and you’re not only pleasantly surprised, you’re going back in for more of that floridity to balance that delayed gingery zip. Feeling eloquent, my table mate exclaimed, “It’s fucking good. You can quote me on that!” Needless to say, it was delish, and the accompanying bendy straws were a fun bonus.
Next in line was the tempeh-based Reuben Special, which happily avoided the drippy Russian dressing mess that so often attends the “real” thing. It came on a toasted sprouted several-grain bread and the tempeh/sauerkraut filling lived up to that word, being on the heartier side. Texture was nice, though we thought perhaps it could have used some more kick in terms of seasoning and color. The live dressing’s consistency was halfway to hummus, which is why it held to the confines of the sandwich so well. And it would have been interesting to try it with added avocado, a menu option we didn’t notice at the time.
Then again, we’d already eaten well over a large meal apiece, and we not only hadn’t finished; we hadn’t even gotten to the best part yet. What came next changed my understanding of what’s possible using gluten-free ingredients. And it’s funny to think that pancakes—SIB’s Gluten-Free Pancake Stack, to be precise—could be so revelatory. But they were: the three cakes, made from scratch with sorghum and corn flours, were melt-in-our-mouths amazing. Vegan and soy-free (made with rice milk) as well, these bad boys tasted even better than the buttermilk breakfast indulgence of our pre-plant-based days. Topped with shaved caramelized apple upon request (caramelized bananas are the default, but we were in an apple-y mood) and germinated spiced walnuts, served with a side of Vermont maple syrup, our forks couldn’t stop. Having recorded our reactions at the time, in playing it back I heard myself say, “This is bomb. Oh my god. So good.”
As if the pancake stack weren’t finale enough, a bombastic, angular slice of raw blueberry cheesecake on a rustic wood-block server was plunked down before us. Despite our progressing food coma, we had at it. With a crust made of almonds, fresh coconut, and dates and the cheesecake itself made from soaked cashews, lemon juice, agave, coconut oil, lecithin, and a ton of blueberries, this cake took just that. It was rich, not too heavy, and had a real, non-saccharine blueberry flavor with just a dash of that lemon juice zing. Intact blueberries hidden within created some nice textural surprises and helped maintain the feeling that, as far as desserts go, this one does a body good.
Really, that’s the amazing thing about Sun In Bloom—the food is wonderfully unique and delicious, yes, but it’s also super-healthy and energizing, not to forget mindful of animals and the Earth. Are you hankering for an edible adventure? Looking to improve your health from the inside out? A fan of food that not only tastes good but feels good (and is good for the world)? Pop by SIB ASAP.