Nick & I went last year and it was one of the best foodie nights out we've ever had so as soon as I heard it was happening again I booked a table for us and our friends Kip, The Messy Vegetarian Cook, and Paul. You can read Kip's write up of the evening right here, I haven't read it yet, I'm saving it to read over lunch if I ever finish blogging!
The contestants this year were Yumtum Sushi, CanTina Supper Club, Sabai Thai, Cashew Catering, VBites, Titbits, Indian Summer and of course Moshi Moshi themselves who had two chefs competing. It was nice to see returning competitors from last year as well as some new chefs ready to try their hand at vegan Japanese cuisine. I've eaten food by YumTum Sushi, VBites, Titbits and Moshi Moshi on numerous occasions and Cashew Catering competed last year (and were my favourite entry) so I was excited to see them appear again. Whilst I had heard of Indian Summer, Sabai Thai, and CanTina Supper club due to their localness their food was entirely new to me.
Last year the scoring was based on rating the dishes from 1 to 8 in order of preference but this year there was a fancy new system in place which was much better. This time around we were able to rate the dishes out of 10 on Presentation, Taste and Innovation meaning that the scores were more well thought out. Last year I ended up giving lower scores to beautifully presented & innovative dishes just because there were others I preferred taste wise, this seemed like a much fairer system.
The first dish out of the kitchen was this stunning Broken Hearted Maki by Donna one of Moshi Moshi's chefs.
This beautiful maki roll contains oshinko pickle, kampyo, red chilli, coriander and shiitake mushroom and was wrapped in cooked slivered beetroot. This was served with a green tabasco, sweet chilli and korean chilli paste sauce. What a delicious start to the competition! Personally I would have left the chilli out of the roll itself, I'm not the hugest chilli fan so I deferred to my dining partners opinions on this one and they (almost) all agreed that it was a little too hot. It did make two beetroot haters like beetroot though and I was amazed at how delicate and subtly earthy it was. Overall in the competition this dish came 3rd.
Second out of the kitchen, and what turned out to be my favourite savoury dish of the night, was a Shiitake Mushroom Maki. This was served with a hijiki rice cracker and a cucumber, ginger and radish salad in a green tea dressing.
This dish, made by CanTina, was really pretty. The puffed rice, sesame & nori cracker was balanced on top of the simple but flavorful shiitake mushroom maki roll. The green tea dressing on the mini radish, cucumber, ginger and black sesame salad was light and delicately flavoured, I loved it. This was absolutely my favourite savory dish of the night and I’m really looking forward to trying the CanTina Supper Club one day. It’s not a veggie supper club by any stretch of the imagination but the lovely CanTina herself is happy to cook vegan food if you let her know about it in advance.
After this dish Moshi Moshi sent out some of the vegan dishes from their menu for people to try. Last year they had their vegan dishes going around on the belt for most of the night, I think they decided to do it a little differently this time because the lure of the food on the belt probably made people too full to enjoy the last of the competition entries last year! We had fried vegetable dumplings and aubergine dengaku, two of my favourite dishes.
The third dish that arrived at our table was this traditional looking but not-so-traditional tasting maki roll made by local restaurant Indian Summer. The roll contained pilau rice and cashew and pistachio nuts roasted with Indian spices.
Whilst I found this too spicy for my delicate palate I rated it highly for innovation. I really liked how it was essentially a little nut roast all wrapped up like sushi, I thought that it was an inspired fusion of Japanese and Indian cuisine. It was one of my dining companions favourite savoury dish of the night.
The next plate that headed towards us on the belt was this beautiful Chestnut Tarragon Roll made by Yumtum Sushi.
As soon as I saw this I knew that it was Yumtum's creation. I often grab a sushi box from the market on a Wednesday and it looked a little like their Red maki roll but taken to a whole new level! The chestnut tarragon inside out roll was topped with fennel, sweet white wine caviar and fennel flowers and was served with a garlic teriyaki sauce and a cashew nut lattice. I have to say that this wasn't one of my favourites, I felt like there was a little too much going on but I did like a lot of the individual parts. The roll itself was supremely tasty and the cashew lattice was fantastic. I really enjoyed the sweet white wine caviar and thought that it was an exciting and innovative technique, next year I'd like to see them scale it down a bit so that there aren't so many flavours competing with each other.
This next dish looked so mind blowingly awesome that the Ooh's and Aah's of fellow diners preceded it's arrival at our table. This is VBites stunning Green Tea & Pandan Ice Cream creation.
The ice cream was encased in a brilliantly engineered chocolate tear drop, topped with a spinach & chocolate swirl AND a chocolate truffle and then all of this was served alongside a delicious raspberry & ginger coulis. The green tea & pandan ice cream was flavoured with lemon & lime zest & honestly it would have been rather impressive on its own! The chocolate tear drop, designed to break into pieces with every mouthful, added a certain level of sophistication to the dish and the chocolate truffle tasted like a chocolate & almond cake ball, definitely something I would happily pop into my mouth again and again! This dish really did taste as good as it looked and after speaking to the chef who created it we were even more amazed at the skill that went into it, both the tear drop & chocolate swirl involved techniques I'd never even considered possible & if VBites made food like this in their cafe I would happily make the trip out there regularly.
Dish number six was made by my favourite entrant from last year, Cashew Catering. This Tempeh Stuffed Aubergine Maki was rolled with chilli bean puree and served with both horseradish & ginger paste and raspberry & ume sauce
I loved that they were really stretching the definition of the word maki with their entry and my only complaint about it is that it was huge, far too big to be eaten with chopsticks! I loved that they used tempeh, it's not something I see often on British restaurant menus which is a shame because it's so flavourful. I'm also a huge aubergine fan so that was another very welcome addition to the evening. I'm not the hugest horseradish lover so I would have liked less of that and more raspberry & ume sauce but this would have upset the lovely Messy Vegetarian Cook as she loves horseradish & may have actually licked the plate at the end! Classy! Overall this dish came a very well deserved second.
As we were coming towards the end of the evening I was happy to see another small dish heading towards us on the conveyor belt. This beautiful Flower Maki was created by another of Moshi Moshi's own chefs, Darek, and was referred to by most of our table as Trivial Pursuit sushi! If you've never seen the Trivial Pursuit logo it looks like this!
This roll contained two of my favourite things, kampyo & mizuna alongside carrot, oshinko pickle, red onion & pepper. The sauce was a spicy sour sauce made with Korean chili paste & lime. It was almost too pretty to eat but I'm glad I did because of course it was delicious.
The sheer size of this next dish was frankly a little terrifying after seven courses but we also felt that Sabai Thai's Tofu Sabai Wrap wasn't particularly Japan-inspired.
This Vietnamese style summer roll was filled with the classic summer roll ingredients; carrot, celery, cucumber, coriander, mint & tofu and was topped with peanut sauce, sesame seeds & an incredibly spicy sweet chilli sauce. If I'm totally honest not a lot of our plates got eaten and we wished we'd only grabbed two to share rather than attempting to tackle one each.
Last but by no means least Titbits hot plate of deep fried goodness came out of the kitchen.
Their Banana & Peanut Butter Dessert Gyoza was an inspired idea and the accompanying chocolate sauce and plum wine syrup complimented the dumplings perfectly. I have to hold my hands up & say that I'm not the hugest fan of banana so I probably would have upped the peanut butter content in these a little. The pastry was amazingly crisp and the dusting of powdered sugar added more than just decoration to the dish. This was a great end to a fantastic evening & I'm excited that Titbits will be at the Hove Lawns market this weekend, may the food festival fun continue!
This was yet another fantastic evening at Moshi Moshi, it's no secret that this is my favourite restaurant in Brighton and it's special events like this as well as their commitment to offering great vegan food that makes me love them so much. Roll on next year...