Eat Out and Save the Earth

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Radhika Oswal with Mark Indelicato and Mary Kate-Olsen at Otarian

Radhika Oswal with Mark Indelicato and Mary-Kate Olsen at Otarian

Otarian’s Low Carbon, Veggie Meals

New York’s hot new veggie restaurant has a cool concept – eat out and save the earth. It’s the city’s first low-carbon restaurant chain. Opening nights usually mean a red carpet but it was a green carpet which was laid out for celebs like Mary-Kate Olsen, Mark Indelicato and Vanessa Williams for the opening of Radhika Oswal’s Otarian restaurant in Manhattan.

In fact, if Oswal, a billionaire environmentalist (yes, the two words do sound strange together!) has her way, you can enjoy life and yet preserve it. You can paint the town red while going green because Otarian in New York’s Greenwich Village is all about vegetarianism and sustainability, offering fun dishes with a low carbon footprint.

Oswal, who is from Australia, is launching the Otarian with 2 branches in New York, one on Bleecker and the other on Eighth Avenue, with a third planned for Lexington Avenue later in the year. The UK is getting two outlets shortly. Otarian is on Bleecker Street, certainly the right environment for this restaurant. It is housed in the retail area of 186 Thompson Street, a condominium community, close to New York University and Washington Square Park, and its socially aware student population.

The Otarian comes to New York

The Otarian comes to New York

Well, saving the world was never this easy – the cuisine in this casual dining spot is global, offering everything from burgers to biryani, from Thai noodles to kati rolls – all hundred percent vegetarian. What is interesting is that the menu details the carbon footprint of each of its veggie dishes alongside that of a comparable meat dish. It’s enough to make meat eaters squirm! (Eat England and Sustain are Otarian’s food sustainability and carbon reduction partners.)

For those who are craving just a good vegetarian meal with options for all the members of their dining party with diverse tastes, the Otarian is a fun spot. Where else would you get biryani as well as wraps, flatbreads and noodles – all hundred percent vegetarian – under one roof?  The desserts, called Obsessions, include Choc O Mousse, Panna Cotta O Berry and Crème O Brule, all made without any eggs.

Otarian Red Curry Vegetarian

Otarian Red Curry Vegetarian

If you really care about making every little action – even dining out – count in trying to preserve the earth, here are some fun facts from the Otarian: The menu, which has about 30 items, was shortlisted from a list of 600 recipes put together by international chefs in France, the US, UK, Australia, Italy and India to create a global menu.

And for those who love trivia, here are some interesting facts – Sydney based artist created the original art work for Otarian, interior designer Jeffrey Wilkes is behind the restaurant’s look, and Indian designer Tarun Tahiliani has created the restaurant’s uniforms for the servers.

So is it merely slick marketing to capitalize on a trend or is it a genuine instinct to make changes in the world? Says Oswal, “It is the tangible display of my hope in the intelligence of human kind to understand, accept and adapt to a more sustainable way.”

Vegetable Biryani

Vegetable Biryani

We are told that Otarian has been recognized by environmental think tank the World Resources Institute (WRI) as one of 60 businesses worldwide, and is the only food establishment to try out the carbon footprinting method. It also takes recycling seriously –  98% of restaurant waste will be composted or recycled, and all packaging is compostable, recyclable or reusable.  Otarian has used innovative materials like bagasse (a by-product of the sugar cane industry which has generally been treated as waste) to help minimize the environmental impact of the packaging.

Vegetarian Tex Mex burgers

Vegetarian Tex Mex burgers

For strict vegetarians who are worried about any impact of meat along the way, the company ensures that no meat derived agents are used in processing of the flour or sugar used  at Otarian. To further reduce the carbon footprint, all ingredients are local to minimize the carbon footprint.

Tandoori Wraps

Tandoori Wraps

The restaurant which is elegant and happening, is furnished with recyclable or sustainable materials from recycled plastic, glass and aluminum to bamboo. The ceiling decorations are made of recycled aluminum and the lights are created out of broken glass. Everything has had a past life, giving sustainability a new meaning.

Otarian is also easy on the pocketbook, averaging just a few dollars more than the usual check for casual dining in New York. After all, what’s a few dollars when saving the environment?  In the end, it’s about doing good, feeling good and of course, it’s important that it all tastes good too. These are comfort foods, cooked with fresh ingredients and spices, with special sauces and condiments on the side to accelerate the spice and hotness barometer.

Mushroom cheese flatbread

Mushroom cheese flatbread

The Vego Burger, for instance, is filled with a vegan patty, hot and spicy chutney mayonnaise, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, and red onion and with it, you get a detailed breakdown of what you’re actually eating, and the carbon savings as compared to a meat alternative. Otarian even offers Carbon Karma Credits, a savings card that can be used to gain some good karma as well as savings.

“Vegetarianism, or at very least a substantial decrease in meat consumption, is a simple, immediately available way of reaching many environmental, social and economic sustainability goals,” says Radhika Oswal, for whom sustainability of the planet is a calling and a passion.

She says of the Otarian offerings, “It’s so much more than a diet, it’s the most sustainable way of living and being – it has so many answers to our current ecological problems. It is really the tastiest and easiest way to save the planet.”

Choc O Mousse

Choc O Mousse

Fun Facts for Vegetarians

  • Swapping a meat-based meal for an Otarian Carbon Saving Combo saves at least 3Kg carbon.  If done one day a week for a year, you could save enough carbon to drive from New York to Orlando in an eco-car.
  • If you filled 20 ton, 54 foot trucks with all of the meat produced in one year the traffic jam would stretch 5.75 times around the world. In 2050 the traffic jam will stretch 9.75 times around the world
  • The amount of water required to fill 2 Olympic swimming pools is the same needed to produce the meat from just one beef animal
  • If each American ate an Otarian Carbon Saving Combo meal instead of the meat equivalent, the United States would  save 26.5% of its Copenhagen Accord commitment

Perhaps the last fact is the most amazing one of all:  If every American stopped eating meat, the population of Africa (one billion) could be fed with the grain saved!

(Source: The Otarian)

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About Author

Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who writes for several international publications. [email protected] & @lassiwithlavina Sign up for the free newsletter to get your dose of Lassi!

4 Comments

  1. Wonderful Lavina….keep up the good articles…
    Sounds like a delightful restaurant for us vegetarians. I will let my fellow vegetarians know also. What kind of music does such a restaurant play? Indian? Australian? Fusion?
    Please list their web site, phone and address….how else can out of towners like us find this great place? Do they have an online menu?

  2. Lavina Melwani on

    Thanks, Mukul. It is nice for a vegetarian to be able to go to a fast food/casual dining place and know you can order anything on the menu.
    The website is quite detailed with not only the menus but a breadkdown of all that goes into each dish, and the philosophy behind the restaurant. It is http://www.otarian.com