There are few high-quality vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Philadelphia, but luckily, Richard Landeau and Kate Jacoby’s recent venture is attempting to provide natives with a new vegan alternative.
Their restaurant is called Vedge, and it sits at the corners of Camac Street and Locust in an old mansion previously used by a Princeton Boys Club.
Walking into the restaurant, an open room with a light wooden floor serves as a bar area and a creamy-white glow from overhead lighting beautifully complements the modern stools and minimalist decor.
But despite the restaurant’s size and setting, it feels more like you’re walking into a good friend’s kitchen than a brand new restaurant.
I should note that the menu can be overwhelming due to its lack of background information on the complex dishes. But server and bartender, Jill Ailes, eased me into it, providing valuable information on the introductory dishes she served.
First came a ramen noodle bowl in a pho broth with menma and shitake. Jill explained that the dish was inspired by the chefs’ trip to Japan, where they experienced a foreign world of food rich with vegan offerings.
Next up was the less daunting Romaine dish. “It focuses on more familiar flavors”, Ailes commented. A chopped salad, the dish’s leafy-green romaine is sprinkled with roasted olives that bring out the salty and fruity flavors. Shaved flakes of cauliflower mimic the look of cheese and taste fresh with crispy crunch.
But the dressing is really what helps to make this salad so amazing. Ailes quoted the chef as saying “It’s one of those lost arts from the 60s or 70s, definitely a West Coast dressing.” It’s made of mixture of chervil, tarragon, parsley herbs, capers, occasional anchovies, freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, and a tinge of mustard and mayo.
The third dish is one that could convince even the most enthusiastic meat-lovers to become vegan. It’s called the Honshemeji and it was originally offered duo’s now closed restaurant, Horizons. In Japan, Honshemeji is a popular meal consisting of beach or clamshell mushrooms. The accompanying cooked brown vegetables are small and dainty but prove bold with the flavors of tomato, vegetarian broth, saffron, potatoes, and hints of white wine and garlic.
Ailes said, “the soup has that aroma of the beach in it”, and it does seem to reflect many beach cultures, including the bouillabaisse in France and other Brazilian dishes.
“There are vegetarian and vegan restaurants who don’t really know how to cater to those with the specific diet, but we’re trying to bring more flavor and gourmet dishes to an audience that will want to find inventive and cross cultural dimensions to their vegetables,” said Ailes confidently with a look of sincerity in her blue eyes.
While more vegan restaurants are opening due to the movement’s increasing popularity, Vedge is definitely on the cutting-edge, bringing a classy atmosphere and top-notch ingredients that takes the phrase, “vedging out,” a whole new level.
Photos courtesy of Living on the Vedge and Philly.com