Update: no longer open.
Imagine going to a restaurant and being able to eat everything on the menu. That doesn't happen often when you're a vegetarian, and hell might as well freeze over first if you're a vegan. Well, hell just froze over in Philly. Horizons, a vegan haute cuisine restaurant, has cast it's seed from the suburbs and sprouted a more refined establishment in the city.
I'll preface this review by saying that I had about 5 glasses of wine when I stepped into Horizons for dinner, so images and clear memories are a bit blurry. I did have four other people with me who were not as blurry eyed as myself.
Horizons recently opened south of South St. and is not completely finished. Their upstairs is open, but the downstairs is still under construction. I had hesitated going, hoping to go when everything was finished, but I just couldn't wait any longer. I'm glad I went.
The decor is reminiscent of a dining experience you might have while on vacation at a tropical resort, at least that's how I felt. The walls are painted a warm coral, tropical plants are tucked along the stairwell and room, and dark wooden fans twirl atop the vaulted ceiling. The upstairs is one open room with a long bar one walks past before entering the dining area.
I've read that Horizons offers a selection of liquor and vegan beer and wines - apparently some ingredients used in producing wine are animal based. Who knew? Having already indulged in wine, I chose the Playa - a mixed drink of rum and tamarind juice. The first sip surprised me even though I'm familiar with tamarind, but those who are not may not like tart distinctive flavor of tamarind. The rest went down quite smoothly.
The food menu is the most exciting part, because again, nothing is off limits. We started with two appetizers - edamame hummus and the exotic olive tasting. The edamame hummus was a beautiful green color and had a lighter texture and flavor than traditional chickpea hummus. The hummus was served with kimchi and rice crackers. The exotic olive tasting was presented beautifully. Asian soup spoons, each filled with a different kind of olive, were lined along a rectangular platter. The consensus of the group was that the olives were bland. They could have offered a more flavorful variety of olives.
I had the tamarind rum glazed tempeh served with ginger whipped boniato and calabaza stew ($17). Oh. My. God. My dish was out of this world. The large steaks of tempeh had a tangy, sweet sauce. The ginger whipped boniato had an intriguing flavor, almost reminiscent of curry, and kept me shoveling it in my mouth and saying,"These are the best mashed potatoes I've ever had." All of this was surrounded by a stew of sweet calabaza squash and tomatoes. My mouth watered with every bite and I kept shoveling it in faster than I should have. I'm sure if I could have seen myself, I would be have been embarrassed.
I had a bite of every one else's entree, and they were all good. Mine was the best, though. In close second, with explosive flavor, was the smoked tofu with wild mushroom enchiladas, cilantro mint chimmichurri, black beans and jicima salad ($16).
The Caribbean udon ($14) swimming in a creamy Jamaican curry was spectacular. I would have stolen more off of my friends plate, but her seating position made the passing of slippery udon a bit difficult.
Also tasted was the pacific rim grilled tofu with kochujang glaze, ginger lime butter edamame mashed potatoes, and seared yuchoy tips ($17), and the pan seared peppercorn tofu with basil fregola, creamy porcini broth, grilled asparagus and charred tomato salad ($17).
The prices are not cheap, but are comparable to any other fine dining in the city, and that's what Horizons is trying to be - not a bland health food deli, but a restaurant that really shows that vegan cuisine can be just as flavorful, filling, and as exciting as any cuisine. The ingredients, presentation, and flavors are exceptional. It puts anything I do in my kitchen to shame, and that's what I want when I'm dining out.
I was hoping for a lunch menu with cheaper prices, but they are only open in the evening. I will have to settle for evening dining, but their food is definitely worth it. I'm sure vegans and vegetarians in the city who enjoy good food are jumping for joy. A restaurant just for me!
Good luck to Horizons and their new location in the city. My friends, literally, were exclaiming how good the food was every ten minutes the next day. I'm hoping to go back very soon. Perhaps, I'll be a little more cognizant.
611 South 7th St., Philadelphia, PA 19147
Tues. - Thurs., 6-10 p.m.; Fri. - Sat., 6-11 p.m.