New vegan establisment’s plant-based menu impresses its avid visitors
Vegan brunch might sound as alluring to a certain segment of the population as “winter beach party” or “dealcoholized vodka”—devoid of essential ingredients, for example—but there’s definitely an audience for it in Edmonton.
At 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning, would-be brunchers sat outside The Moth Café in their idling cars waiting for a seat, as Edmonton’s newest “plant-based” dining experience does not take reservations on weekends. My three co-diners and I alit just ahead of the rush.
The folks behind Café Mosaics have transformed a formerly grotty Vietnamese noodle house on Jasper Avenue and 95 Street into a rarified, sunlit space with lovely graphic touches (moth mural, gold-etched wallpaper), exposed ceilings hung with plants and driftwood, and a waiting area on a dais overlooking the rest of the room with a huge macramé chair on a chain and a low couch. Their Christmas tree still stands by the door garlanded in white lights.
Before you can find out what’s on The Moth’s brunch menu, you’re confronted with a thick sheaf of drinking options (coffees, teas, kombuchas, a bewildering number of gin preparations) and “elixirs”—small doses of herbal distillates and powders you could adulterate your food or beverage with to promote a far-ranging slate of health effects for a nominal fee. None of us said as much, but I think we understood amongst ourselves that it was unlikely a teaspoon of even the most efficacious herbs would fix what was wrong with us.
We tried to spread out and take in a fair swath of the menu without diverging too widely from the theme of brunch. Otherwise I might have tried their banh mi to see how the kitchen counterfeited the glorious Vietnamese sub, or perhaps sampled the pulled jackfruit burrito.
Instead, I ordered the Moth breakfast bowl ($15) and a gluten-free, raw bagel with avocado and young coconut bacon ($10). Co-diner opted for the Tuscan tofu scramble ($15). Our guest co-diners went for the chai pancakes ($15) and mochado smoothie bowl ($12) respectively, the latter tagging on an order of tomato-mushroom pizzetta ($6). Coconut-milk lattes ($5.50) were also indulged in.
The food took as long to arrive as you’d expect given how lovely it looked and how suddenly full the place was. The “bagel” was a Vitamixed wheel of almonds and cashews piled thickly with mashed avocado and capped with pink-tinged rinds of young coconut, tomato slices, baby spinach and microgreens. It was piled so high I wasn’t sure at first how to eat it. No one would have mistaken the compacted nut granules for a bagel, but the flavour was nice, and it was more convincing than the soft, sweet coconut, which bore no resemblance at all to bacon.
My breakfast bowl and co-diner’s Tuscan tofu scramble turned out to not look so different: turmeric-tinted tofu crumbled with sautéed/roasted vegetables (sweet peppers, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, eggplant), chunks of veggie sausage and roasted potatoes were the main heft, though mine was served over brown rice with tangy cashew sauce and spears of asparagus stacked on top, while co-diners came with toast and a bit of fruit. Tofu is, obviously, not eggs, but the variety and toothsomeness of all those veggie nuggets cooked in onion and garlic, along with the sausage, kept my palate amused (and a side of sriracha did not hurt).
One co-diner—let’s call him Jerry—seemed underwhelmed by his pancakes, which he thought bore an excessive freight of cinnamon, or perhaps it was the side of whole bananas that appeared to have been dredged in the stuff. In any case, his enthusiasm waned quickly.
The other co-diner seemed more pleased with her choice, which appeared to be a mocha-avocado smoothie in a bowl. There were some strawberry slices, gelatinous chia seeds and, I’m told, cashew and coconut blended into what looked like chocolate mousse. Its sweetness was pleasantly mild, however, and its procurer seemed pleased with her choice, though she said she probably wouldn’t choose it again. She also received three discs of flatbread—hence, pizzetta— smeared with tomato sauce, topped with coarsely chopped sautéed mushrooms and onions. The menu promised cashew mozzarella, but I didn’t really notice it on the small sample I nabbed.
I love that The Moth exists. I admire its inventive approach to vegan food that doesn’t dwell entirely on mock meats. I love its tasteful modern décor and urbane ambiance, and I appreciate that some people want not just brunch, but an installment of a carefully curated lifestyle. If that sounds like you, there’s definitely no other place in town quite like Edmonton’s newest plant-based café.
The Moth Café
9449 Jasper Ave.