I love my friend Giorgia. I’ve said it time and time again, but aside from being one of my closest pals, there are also some pretty sweet perks that come with our friendship, namely when it comes to dining experiences. Essentially plant-based, she’s introduced me to many veg-focused restaurants and cool spots all over Torino, the latest being Soul Kitchen, a vegan experience for—you guessed it—the soul.
Nestled in zona Vanchiglia, Soul Kitchen gives patrons a unique gastronomic experience that’s totally, utterly and completely vegan. One of the first vegan spots in Torino, the restaurant first opened in 2013 and has been thriving and evolving ever since. Formerly a shabby-chic eatery with a rustic vibe, the restaurant has now adopted a more sleek and timeless look that adds to the elevated vibe of the cuisine.
One thing that I found especially cool is that Soul Kitchen also works with local artists through a project called Taste of Art, which links together chefs and artists. All of the restaurant’s décor is created by local artists, which changes on a regular basis, and is actually even available for purchase!
A vegetable-forward, gourmet and creative exploration into food, chef and owner Luca Andrè is the mastermind behind all the incredible fare that emerges from behind the kitchen’s doors. A delicate balance between tradition and innovation, many dishes are very much what you would think to find on a menu in Italy (cheese, pasta, gelato, etc.), yet they boast a decidedly different approach when it comes to the ingredients that are used (nuts, seeds, tofu, etc.).
Interestingly, while the cuisine is entirely vegan, a good portion of the dishes are even raw—yes, I know it’s crazy to believe that raw veganism is actually a thing in Italy, but it seems to be working. For me as a North American, it’s always exciting to see plant-based cuisine given that so much of Italian food culture relies on animals or animal derivatives like Prosciutto di Parma or Parmigiano Reggiano. Yet, there are individuals who are making a case for other iconic Italian ingredients like the amazingly fresh produce and even the abundance of nuts produced nationally.
Anyways, the best way to get the full Soul Kitchen experience is through a tasting menu. Selecting to follow the Experience 8 with wine pairings, you can get the best idea of Chef Andrè’s culinary philosophy and creative genius. Here’s how it went…
Aperitivo, paired with Prosecco
This first welcome course was a series of small bites including a version of mozzarella in carrozza (fried mozzarella sandwich), chickpea waffle topped with edible flowers, olives topped with a dollop of cream, pea and basil mousse topped with a semi-sundried tomato, raw tomato and paprika mousse, and seed crackers with an almond whipped cheese. And the best for last, a squash wafer topped with truffle cream that was incredibly fragrant and so luxuriously silky. But that’s not all, there was also a very interesting hunk of cheese on our aperitivo starter board. Made entirely from chickpeas and topped with a pineapple mustard cream, this cheese smelled funky and pungent like actual cheese, plus it also had the flakey and granulated texture that’s iconic of a Parmigiano—one of my favourite bites of the night!
Irreale, paired with Riesling
Next came a course with miso-marinated watermelon. While it was tasty, I can’t help but wonder if a warm chunk of watermelon might have given some more depth to the dish. However, it was still quite lovely, topped with a grilled king oyster mushroom (which is my latest mushroom obsession!), semi-sundried tomato, chive, arugula and a dash of nut-based cream. A dry Riesling is always a winner and this one worked well to tone down any sweetness from the watermelon.
Bruschetta, paired with Rosé
Just when I thought that bruschetta couldn’t get any better! Crackers made entirely of nuts were topped with tomatoes three ways: fresh, sun-dried, and dehydrated. The texture and unique flavours (acidic, sweet and almost bitter) were so interesting to note between tomato varieties. What I really enjoyed were the olive oil pearls that topped the crostini offering a soothing and vegetal flavour with every crunch—very cool!
Solanum, paired Chardonnay
This was a risotto dish made with carnaroli rice, mixed with a pepper and eggplant cream, and dotted with a tangy white onion purée. Warm, comforting and tasty, this dish was quite lovely. Add a glass of chardonnay and there is no better way to enjoy a creamy, buttery risotto.
Tradizione Estiva, paired with Barbera d’Asti
Honouring Piemontese tradition, of course, agnolotti del plin are a must on any menu in the region—vegan or otherwise. Stuffed with sage and greens, the delicate pasta bundles were served in a light cashew cream sauce and topped with a mountain of freshly shaved black truffles. It’s easily a winning dish for any truffle-lover, especially paired with a floral, herby red.
La Stagione dell’Amore, paired with Nebbiolo
Another one of my favourite bites of the night was the grain-coated, marinated tofu that was served alongside baby bok choy and a tasty leek foam. Quite meaty, the tofu was loaded with umami flavour that the protein so often lacks, making it a great companion for a bold red wine.
Before ordering dessert, we were served a refreshing glass of water with Thai basil to cleanse the palate a bit and get us ready for our pre-dolce, which consisted of an almond sorbetto-meets-gelato. So rich and velvety, yet with a bit of graininess, it felt almost like mascarpone. Equally as interesting were the dollop of tangy Prosecco jelly and side of crispy cornflake crumble. Overall, a great harmony of flavours and textures, making it another stand-out dish for me.
Dolce, paired with Amaro
A take on a black forest cake, Soul Kitchen’s version is far more whimsical than anything I’ve ever eaten from a bakery. Served in a chocolate waffle cone, layers of syrupy cherries, chocolate brownie chunks, and silky almond cream fill the interior. This is then topped with a cloud of cherry-flavoured cotton candy that’s been topped with edible silver flakes—absolutely stunning, absolutely delicious, absolutely everything I’ve ever wanted in a dessert! Oh and the final swig of amaro was also quite lovely—think: nutty, salted caramel vibes…
Overall, I really enjoyed the dining experience at Soul Kitchen. Vegan or carnivore, any gastronome can appreciate the talent, time and creativity that goes into crafting each one of these dishes. It’s super inspiring to see all the unique ways that ingredients are transformed to create plant-based alternatives to classic foods like Parmigiano or gelato.
The staff was super passionate and accommodating and the price point, while it may be a tad more expensive for a tasting menu (€90 plus €40 pairings), that’s to be expected with the number of courses. The restaurant does also offer à la carte for more modest dining, and luckily many of the dishes can still be found on their lunch and dinner menus.
Carnivore or herbivore, Soul Kitchen is an unmissable gastronomic experience in Torino!