First off I would like to mention that the Carnivore in me is very proud to say I am glad I went into our recent visit to the Philadelphia Center City vegan restaurant Vedge with an open mind.
A few years ago, I would have blown off the opportunity as not part of my personality. We have advanced a bit since then and newer restaurants have progressed significantly to meet diners like myself half way.
At new venues the atmosphere is more casual while remaining smart. The service is increasingly knowledgeable and most importantly one time "exotic" foods have become more approachable. This is happening across the dining scene, and has allowed places like Vedge to flourish.
Vedge has a small plates concept and serves vegan only fare. The menu and atmosphere is similar to the Turney restaurants that we have enjoyed so much on 13th street (Barbuzzo, Jamonera). Like the others, Vedge has a comfortable bar area and chef's table. One immediately noticeable difference is the physical space, which is much larger as Vedge fills many rooms in a historic building on Locust street.
Our meal consisted of 3 plates and 2 items off of the Vedge "Dirt Menu" which is largely composed of fresh vegetables sourced locally. Our two dirt menu options were a Grilled Carrots and the Fancy Radishes. Both options were good, but the Radish dish at $9 was a bit small. As for the Carrots, it lacked enough of the sauce that would have made it exceptional.
For me the star of the dinner was the impressive Sweet Potato Pate (Top). Many of the dishes at Vedge take full advantage of grilling or smoking techniques. The results are a quite stunning. Presented as a round and accompanied by bread triangles, the sweet potato pate had a hearty bacon-like flavor while remaining delicate in texture. For this dish in particular, Vedge keeps its eye on the details by pairing the pate with an excellent grain mustard.
Our 2 other main plates were also very good. I really enjoyed the Stuffed White Bell Pepper which was a very nice rendition of the traditional variety. Smoked seitan and tomato served as the meat-like stuffing portion of the dish.
Currently, when visiting a new restaurant, we try whatever beet dish they have on the menu. The Vedge rendition, which included Avocado, Capers and Tofu, is a fine dish. It was solid--although I would not rank it on top of the many excellent renditions we have had recently.
In addition to our 5 plates, we had not 1 but 2 desserts. The Vanilla-Bourbon Peaches with Ice Cream was tasty - the Peaches were a bit tart, but the accompanying ice cream was sweet and decadent. Our second dessert was the Blueberry Fritters (below). The Fritters were a bit heavy for a set ender during the week and probably would have been more enjoyable on a much cooler evening. The accompaniments for the Fritters were very refreshing Blueberry Lemon Sorbet and Mango Crudo.
Vedge Scorecard - Visit Date 2012 08 14
Food: Home run - loved most of our dishes and Vedge introduced us to several new culinary ideas.
Drinks: Double - We went with a single glass of red wine each. Vedge has an extensive bottle list for wines, with an adequate list of by the glass selections. The craft beer selection is presentable. Vedge also offers a specialty cocktail menu.
Atmosphere: Double - Comfortable Warm. minor quibble we were seated near the washrooms and you can here the damn exelerator hand dryers. A place of Vedge's stature probably would be better off going the paper towel dispenser route.
Service: Double - a few oddities the plate clearing was just a touch slow for tapas-style, and for whatever reason Vedge cancelled our Open Table rez 30 minutes after we were seated. This wasn't a problem, but seemed a bit odd. An excellent bread and oil course was served pre-meal and replenished promptly - nice touch by Vedge.
Value: Double - 5 tapas, 2 desserts and 2 drinks for $86+Tip provided an enjoyable event dinner for two.
Overall: Home Run - Highly recommended for anyone that wants to check out original vegan dishes.
February 2012 Craig LaBan review of Vedge here .