Vegetarianism. Veganism. Some things I swear I can't get behind (sorry, life's too short!). But if forced to, there's one place I would be - Vedge. Since opening in Fall 2011, Chef Rich Landau & Kate Jacoby have been winning acclaim from across the nation for their creative and bold approach to cooking vegetables.
There's plenty of seating at this Midtown village hotspot. Replete with a busy bar scene during Happy Hour, all the seats were filled during a pre-theater dinner service earlier this year. A testament to the number of non-carnivorous Philadelphians or just the quality of the dishes at Vedge, I was excited to see if it were the latter.
Planet Caravan [$12]
D'usse, Elijah Craig 12, Luxardo maraschino, grenadine, lemon
This was smooth drinking, with some understated sweetness from the cognac. It lent itself nicely to the backbone of my favorite every-day bourbon. Nice.
Pickpocket Soda [$6]
Thai basil beet shrub, lemon
The GF went with this creative soda-based tipple. It was so delicious, I'm pretty sure I pried it from her sweet fingers. It was nicely earthy, with some sweet undertones from the beet and herbaceousness from the Thai basil. Some bright acidity from the lemon helped to create some balance. I couldn't get enough.
The soft house-baked bread was nicely yeasty and was accompanied by some olive oil and pumpernickel seeds, which offered some nice rye notes.
Rutabaga Fondue [$12]
Soft pretzel, rutabaga salad, charred onion, pistachio
One of our favorite dishes was the incredible rutabaga fondue. If this is on the menu, I dare you not to get this dish. This was unbelievable cheesy. Not in a "for a vegan-vegetarian restaurant" kind of way. In an all things cheese kind of way. The fondue was slightly sweet and savory with charred onion on top. The buttery and salty pretzel roll was beautifully baked and offered the perfect vessel to drown into the dip. The rutabaga salad was studded with pistachio and was well-dressed. A must-order.
Stuffed Avocado [$10]
Pickled cauliflower, romesco, "fried rice", black salt
The stuffed avocado was a fresh take on some classic flavors. The nutty romesco and pickled cauliflower brought some brightness to the richness of the fresh avocado. The fried rice cracker offered some texture.
Smoked Carrots [$11]
Kimchee "reuben", white bean puree, pumpernickel
Kimchee is the new pork belly. Oft-used in a variety of preparations extending beyond traditional Korean cookery, it added some fermented pungency to the slaw, which featured a single beautifully pickled carrot atop. The white bean puree was studded with roasted, sweet-and-savory carrots. The "dirt" of pumpernickel crumble helped to add texture and impart the essence of rye to each bite.
Roasted Maitake Mushroom [$16]
Celery root fritter, smoked leek remoulade, pea leaf puree
The roasted hen of the woods were appropriately meaty and I appreciated that it wasn't overly seasoned, allowing the pure umami flavors to shine. The crisp celery root fritter was freshly fried, with a smoked leek remoulade imparting some additional seasoning to each bite.
Smoked & roasted eggplant, Italian salsa verde, cured olive puree
A gorgeous plate showcased technique to great effect here. A braciole of smoked and roasted eggplant lay atop salsa verde, which imparted additional flavor and seasoning.
Fingerling Fries [$8]
The fingerling fries were well-roasted and had a slight crisp on the exterior. But really, the best part was the creamy sauce, through which the acidity of the worcestershire really shined.
Crispy & Creamy Sunchokes [$9]
Truffle, "trail mix"
Another must order was the sunchoke dish. Featured two ways - the crisp and sweet chips had a great crunch, with the "trail mix" of creamy roasted sunchokes were interspersed with the sweetness of raisins and the slight hint of truffle. Sweet, savory, and salty - each flavor really played well together.
Sweet Potato Arancini [$9]
Lime sorbet, halva, pho spice-orange supremes
The dessert wasn't overly saccharine in nature. The halva was understated in its sweetness, with classic Middle Eastern-Asian flavors coming through, along with the essence of sesame. The sweet potato arancini were gluttonous within with a slightly crisp texture on the outside. The tartness of the lime sorbet was really needed with the somewhat savory essence of the sweet potato arancini.
Service was exceptional as well, with all of the servers being extremely knowledgeable about each dish. Our main server Alicia was especially great. And while the front of the house is up to snuff, Vedge's success truly lies in its kitchen. Philly's vegetarian and vegan scene is definitely more than just seitan. The cooking is top notch and it's no surprise that Chef Landau was recently nominated for a James Beard Award. While Philly as a whole didn't ultimately pan out this year, I wouldn't be surprised if Chef Landau and Vedge brought home an award in the near future.