Opening almost exactly one year ago on 30th Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets, Your Healthy Kitchen eluded my notice, despite my dogged efforts to eat everything in Astoria. All that changed with a superlative Twitter recommendation from an Astorian named Mike (@MooMan24). I resolved to visit as soon as possible, and last night my friend Suzanne (@QnsKitchen) and I embarked on a truly unique and creative dining experience.
Chef, owner, and fellow Astorian Monica Pelaez greeted us with a question that foreshadowed the experience ahead: “How hungry are you?” “Very,” we replied and peered around for a menu. Monica excitedly explained that her shop does not have a menu. Instead, she creates customized meal experiences based on a few variables. The first, of course, is how hungry you are. But Monica also creates your meal using the specific ingredients that she shopped for that day – much of it sourced locally from her 30th Avenue neighbors like Sorriso Italian Pork Store and Gian Piero Bakery. So aside from a few signature dishes, including her famous Turkey Chili (which had already sold out for the day) and cheese-stuffed pancakes, every single meal that Monica makes you will be different.
Monica creates healthy, homemade-style meals. She keeps dishes simple, often using no more than five or so ingredients in a recipe, so visiting Your Healthy Kitchen feels a lot like dropping by the home of a friend who happens to be a talented, creative, resourceful home chef. The first dish Monica made for us, Sweet Potato and Potato Patties, prepared with only some salt, olive oil and parsley, were fresh, simple, healthy and delicious. For our entree, Monica made us a gluten-free corn penne pasta with chicken, spinach, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, fresh peppers and chunks of Sorriso’s delicious homemade mozzarella cheese, sauteed simply with garlic and olive oil. It was a simple, beautiful creation that could transport you back to the memory a favorite family recipe.
Your Healthy Kitchen is also gaining an audience for their juices and smoothies, and Monica gave us a sample of an outstanding Pineapple-Coconut-Spinach juice. Like the daily recipes, juices and smoothies are made with whatever ingredients are on hand that day, mostly fruit, vegetables and herbs, so don’t expect to get the same thing twice. But you can rest assured that what you do get will be very tasty.
As I mentioned, Your Healthy Kitchen just celebrated their first anniversary, and from the start it has been a one-woman show. Monica worked on the construction, decorating, and concept during the first year, and her creation is just on the brink of finding its audience and hitting its stride. The ambiance that Monica has created is eclectic and utterly charming. There are about 8 seats at one communal table, so space is limited, but it also guarantees that you will not part ways a stranger with anyone sharing the restaurant with you that night. A bright, suspended chandelier gives the cozy space some of the grandeur that a great concept like Monica’s deserves.
Your Healthy Kitchen jettisons the traditional restaurant concept, challenging you to try something new each time, while still catering to your personal taste, health, and allergy requirements (Monica thoughtfully and responsibly asked us right away about any dietary restrictions). Meals are highly customizable, so you can have breakfast for dinner or vice versa, vegetarian or non-vegetarian fare, or a gluten free meal. And Monica will happily prepare entrees, sandwiches, or small plates based on what you are in the mood to eat. Your Healthy Kitchen is also BYOB, and Monica encourages guests to bring in wine and beer to accompany her cooking.
If you want to have the full experience, I would strongly suggest you call ahead to see when would be a good time to come by. Then go ahead and clear a few hours in your hectic New York schedule, grab a bottle of wine or some beers, and head to Your Healthy Kitchen with an open mind and an empty stomach. And before very much time has passed, Monica’s Kitchen will become your own.
Hours: 11am to about 10pm, Tuesday through Sunday
Location: 44-09 30th Avenue, Astoria NY