I didn’t acquire a taste for Indian food until in my late 30s. It wasn’t on my radar while growing up in the Philly suburbs. There may have been an Indian restaurant or two in Center City back in those days, but my family generally opted for Chinatown when eating downtown.
When I started working at the main – Center City – office of the newspaper that employed me for 26 years, the people in my department regularly ordered delivery from an inexpensive, but good dive of an Indian restaurant called Minar Palace. In fact, a number of the departments in the newsroom were frequent customers of this place. Their delivery man seemed to show up at our office nearly every day.
Eventually, I was enticed enough by the aromas emanating from Minar’s food as it was wolfed down by my colleagues to try it. The rest is, as they say, history. Minar Palace closed at some point, then reopened in nicer digs a few blocks east of the old spot. That location lasted a few years before also going out of business. But I liked Indian food enough after those early experiences to seek it out from other restaurants up through the present.
To that end, I met Kamala and Helene – a couple friends and former colleagues who have been featured in two past restaurant posts – for lunch today in Center City at Veda, which bills itself as a modern Indian bistro. There isn’t much old-school about this place. It’s got a fancy entrance and arguably a fancier interior.
I don’t believe Veda has been around very long. If it opened prior to the arrival of Covid, it couldn’t have been by very long.
Their lunch menu is somewhat limited compared to what’s offered at dinner, but it had the interesting feature of being a sort of prix-fixe in the form of thali platters, which are traditionally a round dish with an array of South Asian foods. The number of dishes that came with this thali was smaller than typical, but the presentation and quality more than made up for that.
There were also a few appetizers available and Helene opted for a pair of those rather than going the thali route.
She went with the colorful Spring Salad and a beautiful cauliflower dish called Lassoni Gobi.
Kamala asked our server how many samosas come in an order. While there are normally two, he kindly offered to bring us three, so we could each have one. They were vegetarian and very good.
The first thali to arrive at the table was Kam’s. It included Chicken Vindaloo, Pindi Channa Masala, Navrattan Korma, Saffron Basmati Rice, and Kheer (Indian rice pudding), and was presented in spectacular style.
Mine followed. It was identical to Kamala’s, except for the presence of Shrimp Makhani instead of Chicken Vindaloo. We were also presented with a basket of fantastic Garlic Naan to share.
Everything tasted wonderful, and it was enough food to satisfy my hunger without leaving me feeling stuffed.
There has actually been a decent Indian food scene in Philadelphia for a while now. Veda is a little less traditional than many of the others in some ways, but less so when it comes to their food. That suits me fine. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them, at least for a thali lunch.