Best vegan restaurant in the world?
Can we talk? I don’t want to sound nasty, but Philadelphia hasn’t been a model city when it comes to healthy or cruelty-free eating. From cheese steaks to hoagies, the city of brotherly love just loves to pile dead animals up in buns. The food for which Philly is famous for isn’t necessarily creative, either.
But hold on to you faux-suede fedora readers because there is a new sheriff in town. Vedge restaurant is not simply ringing the Liberty Bell for all creatures great and small, they might just turn out to be the finest vegan restaurant on the face of the planet.
The owners of Vedge had nothing to prove in my FGV eyes. They had already run the wildly successful vegan Horizons where the quality of food was of an unusually lofty standard. It’s South Philly location was always packed during my visits and I never left the premises without feeling like I had just enjoyed one of the best meals of my life.
Well, flash forward to a few months past the closing of Horizons and we find owners Kate and Rich have taken vegan fine dining to even more unbelievable levels of greatness.
The recently opened Vedge sits unassumingly behind a brick facade in Philadelphia’s Center City area. As Josh and I entered via the brief stone steps off Locust Street, we were faced with a gorgeous interior and seductive lighting. Some of the friendliest hospitality people I have ever encountered made sure we were comfortable and refreshed in the sumptuous cocktail lounge as we waited for our table to become available. My thirst was satisfied with a cold glass of lager as Josh opted for a scotch on the rocks. We were only on drinks in the bar and Vedge was already stratospheres above its competition.
Once seated we wasted no time in getting down to 5 star dining. A whole lot of world-class, vegan food was consumed by the pair of us and there is no easy way of getting it all down on screen. I’m just going to have to trundle through it, so sit back and experience the culinary delights of Vedge through the following photos.
(N.B. The subdued, atmospheric lighting of Vedge is perfect for a dining experience but not so for a point and shoot camera with limited capabilities. Apologies for pictures being a tad underwhelming)
One of our starters was ordered from the Dirt menu. The cute title refers to a rotating selection of dishes made from seasonal vegetables. Our Brussels sprouts were deliciously shaved, grilled and flavoured with smoked mustard. We also delighted in the fingerling fries. These crunchy, rustic potatoes were perfectly seasoned with porcini salt and truffle.
Once we cleared the starter plates of every irresistible morsel, we set our sights on moving on down the menu. First to make its way to our table was the gold beets with smoked tofu and avocado. The plate was dressed with a cucumber/dill sauce and garnished with a thin wedge of pumpernickel bread. This masterpiece was quickly followed by the braciole created by combining smoked eggplant with cauliflower, garbanzo and olives set upon a slathering of salsa verde.
The dishes above were extraordinary works of art and the flavours on show were exquisite. Every mouthwatering bite was treasured and adored by us. So incredible were the flavours, our cooing and exclaiming verged on embarrassing.
Like the dedicated vegan food crusaders we are, we carried on as we explored and traversed the Vedge menu.
Next to arrive at our table were fresh hearts of palm in a garbanzo crepe with curried, gold lentils and green harissa. The soft crepe was perfectly presented while the lentils reminded us of a creamy dhal. The crepe jostled for our attention next to grilled seitan served with black lentils, mushrooms, creamy horseradish and kohlrabi. This might sound a tad ridiculous and decadent but next to seeing loved ones, this seitan dish was the highlight of my US vacation. Simply one of the best savoury dishes in existence.
These delights would be near impossible to top but our dessert selections gave it their all.
The Meyer lemon marmalade cheesecake impressed us greatly with its succulent texture and clementine juice. This cheesecake can not be compared with any other vegan cheesecake I have eaten. I was able to suppress my squeals of delight just long enough to devour my share of sticky toffee pudding. Salted caramel and pumpkin ice cream sent this sweet treat into overdrive as a cute piece of cinnamon bark proudly towered over proceedings.
It was nearing the end of our mammoth meal when both Rich and Kate joined us briefly at our table to say hello and ensure we were enjoying our evening. My mouth couldn’t move fast enough with compliments for the restaurant and the food.
As Kate and Rich wished us well and thanked us for dining at Vedge, we found two more desserts on our table. The chocolate pot de crème was a bowl of warm creamy chocolate dressed with coffee salt and served with two macadamia nut biscotti. This dessert was ridiculously indulgent and absolutely satisfying.
If the chocolate had us at our limits, the ice cream selection took us deliriously over the edge. A slate platter bearing servings of root beer, egg nog and spiced apple (I think) ice cream was fawned over despite our burgeoning waistlines. Each of the three flavours were as equally delicious as the next.
And that brings us to the end of maybe the finest vegan dining experiences available on the planet today. If you consider yourself to be a fan of fine dining, you owe it to yourself to make a reservation at Vedge at your earliest convenience.I would love to hear what you all think.
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