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JUNE 30, 2007 10:13 AM

Exalted Vegan Cuisine Just Down the Block

It is notoriously difficult to find passable vegan cuisine in a restaurant that caters largely to omnivores. It is even more difficult to get satisfaction when the bar by which you measure passable vegan cuisine has been set by the finest vegan chefs in the world, whose gustatory revelations are still emblazoned on your palate from the Vegetarian Awakening conference back in April.

Culinary Genius in the Bloom of Youth

That's why we were absolutely blown away when Chad Miller, 24-year-old co-owner and executive chef of Restaurant Bloom right here on Cherry Street in Grand Rapids (he's the headless-but-not-breadless torso in the above photo), dished up one of the most innovative, aesthetically pleasing, and downright delectable vegan dining experiences we've ever had the pleasure of enjoying. To get a sense of how much we loved Chad's cuisine, take into account that we've also had the pleasure here, here, here, and here, among other places.

Pea + Rhubard Reduction + Coconut = A Really Good Start

I suppose we shouldn't have been too surprised, since Chad received his training at GRCC, home of Chef Kevin Dunn, the vegan culinary pioneer who brought Vegetarian Awakening to Grand Rapids. In any case, we gave Chef Miller 4 days notice (he recommends a minimum of 2), and he prepared a tour de force of six inspired vegan dishes--three courses each for the ladies and the gentlemen. My antique 2.0 megapixel camera, Bloom's ambient lighting, and my remedial photographic sense have conspired against my intent to provide pictures that do justice to Chef Miller's breathtaking platings. Nevertheless, the following photos will give you at least an inkling of his considerable talents.

First Courses

Carrot in Variations, Sunflower Seed

Toasted Almond Gazpacho, Pickled Cucumber, Grape, Powdered Vanilla
Second Courses

Smoked Tofu, Sugar Snaps, Baby Potatoes, Pea Puree

Chanterelle Mushrooms, Baby Zucchini, Lentils, Ligurian Olive Oil
Third Courses

Roast Banana, Chocolate Sorbet, Cashew, Smoked Salt

Fresh Strawberry, Fresh Blueberry, Vanilla Bean Tapioca, Pistachio, Basil

Alas, Alack...
Bloom is not an exclusively vegan restaurant. And they are as yet in the process of acquiring a liquour license, so dinner was still a glass or two of Sancerre from perfect. But the food was so ingeniously and meticulously conceived, expertly executed, and beautifully plated that those thoughts didn't occur to me until dinner was over. Go to Bloom and put this guy through the VEGAN paces! He's got the chops, and then some.