Monday, August 4, 2014

The Best Restaurant In The Galaxy: Philly's Vedge

Grilled Seitan with Swiss Chard,  Whipped Tahnini, Pickled Turnips and Za'atar
Words Won't Do This Dish Justice.
    Wow. I know you're thinking I'm being hyperbolic, but I'm not. Okay, you twisted my arm. I confess. While I haven't been to any other galaxies or universes, I've been to some of the finest vegan places across the U.S. Fair enough? Not to mention, I just came back from a vegan european vacation, sampling some of Europe's finest cuisine (Berlin's Kopps, La Mano Verde and Lucky Leek. The food was awesome, world class even but still not on the same level as Philly's Vedge. Want more proof? We left the east coast mecca of vegan dining, New York City, and took a two hour train ride to the City of Brotherly love just to eat at Vedge. Okay, we did get to visit a haunted house inside a former prison as well. I wanted to see how Vedge stood up to Europe's cuisine as well as the best places we could experience in New York. I didn't get to everywhere in New York City that I wanted (sorry Dirt Candy and Pure Food and Wine), but Vedge still holds the distinction as THE best vegan restaurant in the world. There happy now? But I dare say that if I even get a chance to experience another galaxy, Vedge will still be impressive. Just look at the pictures and dishes that follow.

Portabello Carpaccio:  kolhrabi slaw, caper bagna cauda and truffle mustard
Did Someone Say Truffle Mustard?
    I've been a fan of Rich's cooking going back to horizons. The grilled seitan, from the hot kitchen, is the quintessential dish that would win any meateater over and is one of the few items left over from horizons. The smokey, meaty seitan is a dream come true. I haven't had anything that's quite as good. Vedge wanted to rethink vegetables and the seitan dish almost got the axe from the menu, but it's one of the few dishes that made the cut. The Portabello carpaccio, from the vedge bar, is the perfect example of what vedge is about. The Portabello is given the star treatment with ti's meaty and earthy flavor complemented with the truffle mustard and capers. I'll be honest portobellos like hummus are a vegan's worst enemy since everyone thinks it's all we eat. Vedge  shows how it's supposed to be. Decades of remorseful portobellos linger in my past.        The way that Vedge works is that it's a small plates. This means the portions are smaller, but you get to try a few different dishes sampling the cold dishes (vedge bar,  hot kitchen and the freshness of the dirt list). We've covered the first two, so let's move over to the freshness of the dirt list.

Fingerling Fries With Worcestershire Sauce
Move Over French Fries!
    Just like the grilled seitan, the fingerling fries represent the ever impressive dirt list, a rotating list of fresh produce from local farms. Again, the spotlight is on the vegetables and, boy, are the potatoes banging! If you think you had decent french fries, you're wrong. Hands down this is the best potato dish I've had. It's okay you can stop drooling and get cooking since the recipe is in Vedge's cookbook. One of these days I'll cook through the whole thing. I wouldn't be upset if you stop reading and book a trip to philly or settle for the cookbook and post the results.

Cheesecake Quince Gel, Butternut Pecan Ice Cream And Port Glaze Honey Smacks
Cheesecake and Ice Cream
     Not only is Vedge the premier place for food, the desserts are world class, too. While Rich is the master of the kitchen Kate, Rich's wife, is the pastry wizard behind the equally impressive dessert list. The hardest part is making a decision. What I will recommend is get the cheesecake. Kate makes a cheesecake like I've never had before. I'm not sure if she sold her first born to Rumpelstiltskin for the recipe, but it's out of this galaxy, or at least this world. This is how perfection tastes.

Hearts of Palm, Buckwheat Crepe, Tandoor Tomatoes and Curry Creamed Cauliflower
You Have My Palm Heart, Baby.
      Now that you have the a taste for what vedge offers you can't accuse me of hyberbolic, right? Those were just a sampling of what Vedge has to offer. More proof like the hearts of palm above from the hot kitchen, a perfect melding of exquisite and exotic flavors that complement each other.  

Wood Roasted Rutabaga Salad with Grilled Trumpet Mushrooms, Charred Onions and Pistachios
One of the best salads I've ever had.

      If you follow along, I'm not big into ordering salads, though Terry Romero's Salad Samuri might up my salad making game. Vedge is so good, I'm forced to challenge my assumptions. The results were impressive. Bite after bite, I was left savoring while trying to discover what made this dish so special. I'm pretty sure it's the smoked mushroom and charred onion that made this dish sing. It's as if you cooked a salad out on the campfire with the pistachios adding a nice texture. If every salad was as good as Vedge's, I could order a salad as a meal. Just don't tell anyone, I said that.

    Peel N' Eat Lupini Beans in Piri Piri and Fried Garlic, Pickled Curry Cauliflower, Mixed Green Olives with Fennel and Preserved Lemon
Lupini Beans Start The Meal!
     One of the changes from my last visit to Vedge was the for the table menu. I've never had a lupini bean, so I couldn't resist, especially with the punch of the spicy piri piri sauce. These were so delightful that they could displace edamame as an appetizer. Similar style with the husk on the outside coated in a savory spicy sauce with a tasty morsel inside. They stole the show, but I must confess that the olives were the unlikely hero. I'm not an olive person. I generally find them to salty and not much more beyond salty, kinda like eating a soft salt lick. However, the green olives at Vedge had complex flavors. Not to salty and enough of the fennel and lemon to perk up the flavor. The pickled cauliflower rounded out the meal with curry crunchy. Cauliflower seems like tofu letting the curry flavor to come through.

Carrots Cooked Shawarma, Black Lentils, Roma Beans, Tomato Olive Stew and Green Harissa
     I've never thought I would have a vegan shawarma. I would have loved to see carrots roasting on a spit outside of the window like the greek place on South Street. Well, I didn't get to see it, but these carrots were perfectly tender and beautifully charred (sensing a trend?). The beans and the kick of the harissa made this dish pop. 

Brussels Sprouts, Shaved & Grilled With Smoked Mustard
Baby Cabbages All Grown'd Up! 
    The first time the special one and I went to Vedge we were under strict orders from my mom to order the Brussels sprouts. On the second trip, I couldn't turn them down. Grilled and shaved, in case you're a foe of the sprouts you could pretend it's a salad. Either way, this dish would convert the brussels sprouts averse into believers. The smoked mustard just makes compliments the smokiness of the sprouts. Bonus: the recipe is in the Vedge cookbook, but didn't turn out as good as it did in the restaurant.

Ice Cream & Sorbet Du Jour
You Scream, I Scream.
    Since the rotating cast of ice cream and sorbet flavors change, they weren't listed on the menu so I can't recall what the flavors were. What I do remember is that Vedge makes some of the most inventive flavors I've come across like eggnog, tequila chocolate and gingerbread. It's hard to pick just three.

Apple Cider Donut with Cranberry Jelly, Horseradish Cream and Apple Cider Shooter
Did Someone Say Donut?
     See? I'm not making this up! Kate makes not only world class cheesecake, but is willing to take chances. I mean horseradish cream?! This felt like a challenge from the kitchen, I dare you to make horseradish into a dessert as everyone snickered. Kate threw down this delightful dessert that surprisingly worked. They almost reminded me of the apple cider donuts we used to get down at  farm in Jersey.

Saffron Corn Salad, Indigo Rose Tomato, Fennel Pollen and Quinoa
Did Someone Say Saffron?
       I know what you're thinking another salad. To be honest, I was trying to try new things on the menu. Despite being lured to the sweet potato or the salt roasted golden beets, we decided to try something new. Not to mention the allure of having something with saffron, one of the most expensive spices in the world. The dish didn't disappoint, but I kept thinking about the wood roasted rutagaba salad. Good, we made it. Now what are you waiting for? Book a flight or plan a layover and sample some of the best cuisine your mouth has ever tasted. There's a reason Vedge is ranked as one of the top restaurant's in the city. Now head over to open table and book your reservation you won't be disappointed! 

Vedge Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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