Last Saturday, I met JL of JL Goes Vegan for a girls' night out nosh. She came down to Philly for work and was dying to try Vedge. Of course, she didn't exactly have to wring my arm to join her; I had been to Vedge's press opening in November and was anxious to return for a full-on meal. Unlike most vegetarian restaurants, vegetables take center stage at Vedge [hence its name], with proteins playing a minor, supporting role.
Uber-chef Rich Landau is known for juxtaposing surprising, often unusual ingredients to create a party on your palate. Forget the Food Network and Bon Appetit: I keep on on new food trends thanks only to Rich. Case in point: Crispy Cauliflower with Kimchee Crema and Black Vinegar. Rich can tease out qualities in vegetables that you never knew existed; this almost didn't taste like cauliflower, but rather something earthier and more decadent and chewier. Who knew this was possible?
I do love my protein, so I could not resist ordering the Steak-Spice Seared Tofu with Chanterelles, Kabocha, Madeira and Walnut Picada. Talk about yin and yang. The crispy, masculine tofu crust contrasted nicely with the lighter, sweeter chanterelles and kobacha squash.
JL wisely ordered the Spice-Cured Little Carrots with White Bean Sauerkraut Puree and Rye Toast Points. The presentation on the wooden board was so attractive that we didn't want to disturb it – for about 2 seconds. This dish had a distinct Alsatian feel, with the carrots' inherent sweetness playing off the slightly sour bean dip and hearty rye bread. Although it looks small, it was surprisingly filling.
Rich was disappointed that JL and I had not ordered one of his favorite dishes, the Roasted Maitake with Creamy Celery Root with Seared Turnip, Truffle and Red Wine, so he kindly brought out a plate gratis. Thank goodness he did: not trying this would have been an egregious error! This plate is a meat-n-potato lover's dream: a meaty Maitake mushroom perched upon a caramelized turnip, surrounded by a lovely, complex red-wine reduction sauce. The celery root puree was a nice alternative to mashed potatoes.
As usual, I was craving some carbs, and the Fresh Hearts of Palm Garbanzo Crepe with Curried Golden Lentils and Green Harissa did the job – in a healthy way. This straightforward, fun take on a dosa was quite filling.
We both ordered a side from the Dirt List, Vedge's ever-changing list of sides prepared from local, seasonal produce. JL chose the Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Smoky Mustard Sauce. The shaved preparation combined with the sauce made this pungent winter veggie surprisingly light.
Amazingly, after all those courses, we managed to save some room for dessert. I am a huge fan of Kate Jacoby's cheesecakes, so I could not wait to try her Cheesecake with Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Clementine Juice and Blood Orange Suprèmes. It was decadent yet light, complex yet simple. I particularly love the taste of citrus in the winter; it reminds me that spring is coming and that it's sunny and warm somewhere.
JL went for the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla-Bourbon Ice Cream. It was as luscious as it looked. Earthy and very British.
JL and I lingered over our dinner for several hours, talking, laughing and sharing. Vedge is that kind of place. I love the fact that, with the small plates menu, you can spend a lot or a little, depending on your appetite and your budget. Since poor JL did not have access to a 'fridge, I won the prize and got to take home the rather substantial doggy bag.
|Crispy Cauliflower with Kimchee Crema and Black Vinegar|
|Steak-Spice Seared Tofu with Chanterelles, Kabocha, Madeira and Walnut Picada|
|Spice-Cured Little Carrots with White Bean Sauerkraut Puree and Rye Toast Points|
|Roasted Maitake with Creamy Celery Root with Seared Turnip, Truffle and Red Wine|
|Fresh Hearts of Palm Garbanzo Crepe with Curried Golden Lentils and Green Harissa|
|Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Smoky Mustard Sauce|
|Sunchokes with Harissa Dip|
I opted for the Sunchokes with Harissa Dip. Think French Fries and Ketchup, but way more sophisticated and complex.
|Grilled Seitan with Black Lentils and Mushrooms, Creamy Horseradish and Kohlrabi|
JL and I both adore seitan. She ordered the Grilled Seitan with Black Lentils and Mushrooms, Creamy Horseradish and Kohlrabi. This is the most expensive item on the menu, and it is worth every penny. It was my favorite dish of the bunch--slightly smoky, perfect texture and moisture, hearty--yet not.
|Cheesecake with Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Clementine Juice and Blood Orange Suprèmes|
|Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla-Bourbon Ice Cream|
|JL and me|