You’re not trippin’.
Mushrooms are taking over the US dining scene, filling grocery stores and cropping up in foods from Chaga coffee to chocolate bars.
Just in time for the blooming fungus fad, vegan restaurant juggernaut Overthrow Hospitality has opened its first restaurant in NYC to offer a “100% mushroom-focused menu.”
Third Kingdom, which opened Thursday in the East Village, specializes in beech mushroom mac and cheese, oyster mushroom enchiladas and other mouthwatering mycelium creations that would make the Goomba mushrooms of Super Mario fame drool.
The specialty restaurant aims to prove that mushrooms’ value in vegan circles extends far beyond mushy mock-meat substitutes — and even its creator seemed to take some convincing.
“I used to think mushrooms were awful, gross, slimy, snail-like substances,” Ravi DeRossi, a 2024 James Beard semifinalist and founder of Overthrow Hospitality, told The Post. “I think that’s because they were never prepared right; if cooked by a skilled chef, they can be the most amazing things ever.”
Think of Third Kingdom, located at 21 E. 7th St., as a vegan restaurant for even non-vegans.
For the uninitiated, Overthrow Hospitality is perhaps best known for Ladybird, Cadence and other “modern vegan” concepts that traffic in flavors as much as ideology.
Helming this latest ‘shroom-centric restaurant — which began as a humble beer and mushroom pop-up in May 2023 — is chef and fellow fungi lover Juan Pajarito of Avant Garden fame, who calls his new menu “some of the most exciting and unique cuisines I have been lucky enough to help create.”
DeRossi describes him as “a genius with all vegetables but especially so with mushrooms.”
The mushroom bonanza couldn’t have come at a better time.
Over the past few years, ’shrooms have become the new It food, with US grocery store sales of fresh fungi increasing 20% over the past decade as boutique mushroom sales doubled during the same time, according to consumer consultancy Circana.
Much like quinoa, pomegranate and other formerly trendy ingredients, mushrooms are also catching on with health-conscious Westerners who enjoy the array of medicinal benefits, such as reduced sodium levels and immunity support.
However, some experts have pointed out that the US is just playing catch-up with other cultures, including the globe’s top mushroom producer, China, which has prized cordyceps and other fungus attributes long before they were discovered here.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that mycelium has mushroomed out into popular culture as well, even appearing — albeit in a less-than-delectable, sinister way — in Max’s apocalyptic hit show “The Last of Us.”
“It’s no secret that mushrooms have skyrocketed in popularity,” said DeRossi, who is aiming to “take mushroom-centric dining to the next level.”
“Third Kingdom is a restaurant that makes mushrooms the star of every dish on the menu,” DeRossi told The Post. “Every dish is focused on a different type.”
The versatility and scope of Third Kingdom’s mushroom dishes are truly kaleidoscopic, employing an arboretum’s worth of species from shaggy lion’s mane to button-like enoki.
A sumptuous dish of vegan beech mushroom mac and cheese with nori butter is a dead ringer for the real thing, bolstered by a cauliflower cream sauce that binds the ingredients together. A splash of Calabrian chili oil, meanwhile, lends the sauce its cheddar-like color, with herb breadcrumbs offering a tasty crunch.
Another testament to fungus’ shapeshifting capabilities is a ramen dish with housemade noodles and golden fried enoki mushrooms, which crackle in the mouth like tempura. While perhaps missing the brawniness of the dish’s traditional meat stock, it was still a worthy tribute to a classic dish — and enokis are far more elevated than, say, a shriveled portobello pinch-hitting for a beef patty at the family barbecue.
The mushroom dishes run a gamut of cuisines, ranging from a lion’s mane dumpling with daikon sauce and micro cilantro — basically a mycological take on Japanese Gyoza pot stickers — to a Mexican-style black pearl oyster enchilada in a moat of tar-black mole. The latter’s sumptuous smokiness lingers for long after the last bite, like a peaty Scotch whisky.
The fungus’ earthy essence is best epitomized by another minimalist dish that features comb tooth mushrooms and pickled Hon shimeji with celery root puree and coleslaw.
Meanwhile, eaters can also play “mushroom roulette” with Third Kingdom’s “foraging corner,” a rotating weekly selection featuring the likes of yellowfoot chanterelle and hedgehog mushrooms.
Diners can wash down their meals with a rotating roster of beers or a tipple from their selection of wines compiled by Overthrow Hospitality partner Drew Brady.
Dessert even boasts a fungi focus: a lava cake accompanied by rosemary and porcini ice cream and candied shiitake mushrooms.
While Third Kingdom is still in its “spore” stage, restaurant honcho DeRossi ultimately hopes that the concept will appeal to all people — vegan or not.
“Our intention with this and all of our concepts is to offer elevated plant-based cuisine in an inclusive environment that appeals to everyone, whether they are vegan or not,” gushed DeRossi.