Flora has been on my radar for a while now so when my wife suggested she make reservations for my birthday dinner I was pretty stoked! We had reservations for Saturday night at 5:15 PM for a table of 5. My parents, along with my mother-in-law, were joining us. They are not vegan but keep an open mind about trying some new meals and they seemed excited to give Flora a try as well.
Located in Jenkintown, just outside of Philly, it was a quick and easy ride to get there and parking was just around the corner of the restaurant. At 75 cents for 2.5 hours of parking it was a nice surprise! I am use to having to shell out the price of an average restaurant entree to park in Philly. The place is small, just 16 seats, and eclectically decorated. I loved the metal ceiling, brought me right back home – almost the same exact ceiling we have in my parents’ house! The staff is friendly and very attentive. Relaxing music played at an enjoyable level (in a small place things can get loud fast), but it was very laid back, relaxing and easy to hold dinner conversations here the entire meal. My dad even commented on enjoying the music!
The menu is broken into courses; you have the option of ordering a three course meal for $35.00 or a four course meal for $40.00. It is BYOB but this evening we opted to stick with water. Since there were five of us we were able to order a wide variety of the menu items. I didn’t try each dish ordered, but did manage to sample most of them! I will give you my opinion on what I tasted; as for the rest, I guess it is a good excuse to go back and order what I missed! Before the courses arrived, we were served warm crusty bread with a vegan butter that was so spot on, I got worried for a minute! It was sweet and salty and creamy like butter and had a slight hint of lemon and I could have easily made a meal out of a big loaf of that bread and butter!
Tomato & Spiced Eggplant Tart: with smoked corn, pesto, white balsamic, arugula & mint. This is what I started with and pretty much set the tone for the rest of the meal. The crust was a light flaky dough that held a rich deep tomato flavored filling with a hearty bite from the eggplant that wasn’t spiced with the fairly common smoked paprika. No, these guys went with a legit hickory smoke flavor-not overdone, just the perfect level of rich smokiness.
Chilled Cucumber Soup: with pea, mint & avocado wasabi crema. My wife ordered the soup and was nice enough to share! It was cold and crisp. The cucumber provided a refreshing flavor along with a fresh punch from the pea and mint. The crema lent a smooth mouth feel with a slight poke from the wasabi.
Bettered Green Beans with a creamy Worcestershire sauce. There were two orders of the green beans at our table. This turned out to be a good thing as they quickly became the most popular player at the table. They had a light tempura coating, fried crisp, yet the beans remained soft and succulent. They were served with a fantastic sauce on top that provided a great creaminess and just the right amount of salt. These would make great happy hour bar food! I wish I had taken some beer with me, it wold have gone perfectly.
Soba Noodles: My second course, the chilled noodles, were served with a spicy peanut sauce, toasted sesame seeds, Thai basil, pickled shiitake, pickled chili & charred scallion. All these ingredients meshed together perfectly to deliver a nice one two punch of umami and heat-one of my favorite flavor combinations. The fact that the dish was served cold seemed to help enhance the flavors and experience.
Charred Brussels Sprouts: Again this was a ‘twofer’ at the table and again it was a wise choice to get two. Served with a miso-mustard caramel & lemon zest, the Brussels were charred to perfection and the sauce, well these guys should bottle this stuff STAT! I want to put this sauce on just about everything now, it was just that good. I never liked Brussels sprouts all that much in years past, but tonight this was my favorite dish!
Lentil Chili: This was my third course and it was served with diced tomato, shredded lettuce, vegan sour cream and fired tortilla strips. This reminded me very much of the flavors of the tacos my grandmother used to make. It offered a nice kick of cumin and a level of heat that reminded you that you were eating chili but didn’t blow out your palate.
It wouldn’t be a birthday dinner if we didn’t end with some sweets. However this is where I think Flora hit a bit of a minor bump in the road for me. I tried two desserts. My wife ordered the Zeppoles with a coffee drizzle. They were light and airy with a hint of lemon flavor and ate very well with the drizzle, overall they were good. My fourth course was the Polenta Sponge Cake with burnt citrus & mint ice cream and berry coulis.
This for me was the speed bump. I was expecting a light spongy cake but was served, in essence, cornbread. It was a bit dry, dense and slightly crusty around the edges. Now mind you, if I was served this with the chili I would have been very happy, as it would have been perfect to crumble on top. As a ‘sponge cake’ it just didn’t work for me. The ice cream, however, was complex and very good; not too sweet but well-balanced with the coulis.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed not only my meal but the entire dining experience and would happily return. After all I have several dishes that I didn’t get a chance to try and with summer fast approaching, there will be an entirely new menu to take for a ride! If you haven’t been here yet, it certainly is worth the trip.