— by Hannah Lee
My family celebrated the New Year of the Dragon by having dinner at the new upscale vegan restaurant, Vedge, because I have a questionably unreasonable aversion to eating at a Chinese place on the New Year’s when I think of the workers having to serve me.
I’d been waiting impatiently since Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby closed their popular five-year-old Horizons in July and took over a historic mansion that had housed the Deux Cheminees. Vacant for five years, the new building needed extensive work to turn it into the elegant place that now includes a 12-seat bar, a cozy lounge with a fireplace, two dining areas, and an open cold-kitchen bar with 16 high stools for walk-in customers.
More after the jump.
The new small-bites model adds up fast in cost but it does free the diner to sample from their delicious and inventive dishes. The set menu of small bites ($4-$5) and plates ($8-$16) are supplemented by a daily “dirt table” of featured vegetables from organic farms in nearby Lancaster County ($6-$9). We were absolutely wowed by the three vegetables we selected: grilled royal trumpet mushrooms with smoke paprika aioli (you need their steak knives for this); shaved and grilled brussels sprouts with smoked mustard dressing; and fingerling fries with creamy Worcestershire dipping sauce. They were all so tasty that I’d wished we’d sampled from the rest of the dirt table.
Our plates selection was slightly less thrilling. My onion soup with pho broth and pickled shitake got its heat from the sambal toast. The others’ honshimeji was listed as “beach style” and it certainly tasted of the sea with a saffron broth. Their roasted rutabaga salad with charred onions, farro, and pistachio could make a convert to that humble root vegetable. The portabella carpaccio with salsa rustica and arugula crema was a cold dish served with the mushroom slices fanned out. The braciole was delicate with smoked eggplant wrapped around cauliflower, fresh garbanzos (the best I’ve ever had!) and salsa verde. My family loved my dish best: steak-spice seared tofu with chanterelles, kabocha, and walnut picada but I found the cracked pepper too strong.
Limiting ourselves to just two desserts ($6-$9), we enjoyed the fabulous apple cake fritters with waldorf salad (better than any I’ve ever had, with shaved apples) and cider caramel and the cheesecake (made with soy and coconut milks) with meyer lemon marmalade, clementine juice, and blood orange supremes. We loved the marmalade, which would also be tasty on breakfast toast. We did not sample from the extensive wine and after-dinner drinks, but the maître-d’ was very proud of their large wine cooler.
Our initial visit to Vedge was a delight and I’m eager to return to sample from the rest of the menu. However, we protest the name, because Vedge brings to mind the mindless vegging on a couch and a corruption of the nickname for vegetables. However, I wish Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby much success with their new venture, because Philly benefits from their talent. Now, we have a gourmet vegan restaurant to rival Blossom in Manhattan. It’s a place that you would not be embarrassed to bring your omnivore relatives or your foodie friends.
Vedge is located at 1221 Locust Street; it’s open Monday-Thursday, 5-10 pm and Friday & Saturdays, 5-11 pm. Reservations can be made after 3 pm by calling 215-320-7500 or anytime through the Open Table Website.