Every year as part of the Brighton Food Festival one of my favourite local restaurants Moshimo, formerly known as Moshi Moshi, turn their entire restaurant vegan for a night so that local chefs can compete in The Great Vegan Maki Challenge. This year the contestants competing to create the best Japan inspired dishes with a twist were La Choza, Cantina Supper Club, Sam's of Brighton, Sabai Thai, VBites w/ Boho Gelato and Terre à Terre.
The first dish outa the kitchen last night was created by the chefs at local Mexican spot, La Choza. This little tostada topped with chocolate black beans, radish slaw and wasabi guac with a side of vinegared radish and spring onion salad made my tastebuds pop and was actually my favourite dish of the evening. I didn't have the best experience when I visited their restaurant earlier in the year but our whole table was wowed by this Mexican twist on sushi and I shall certainly be re-visiting the restaurant as soon as possible.
Second out of the kitchen and placing second on my scorecard as well as third overall was this sesame seeded sweet potato topped with a ginger & soya bean puree and deep fried lotus root. This was exquisite and probably the only dish that has ever made me like sweet potato! This was made by Cantina and it made me realise that I need to make more of an effort to stop by her stall at various foodie festivals around town.
Thirdly Moshimo's first entry came out of the kitchen, described as Forbidden Maki this black and white rice maki roll was filled with oyster mushrooms, asparagus & carrot, topped with avocado and decorated with pomegranite beads and a sweet chilli dressing. I scored this higher for presentation than I did for taste, we all felt that the chilli overpowered the flavour of the vegetabes and the pomegranate beads didn't necessarily compliment the rest of the dish.
Next up, Sam's of Brighton, and you could tell that chef Sam Metcalfe was out of his meat reliant comfort zone with this one. Whilst the slaw was flavourful the aubergine was bland, undercooked and his sauce overpowered the delicate flavour of the vegetable. There were also very mixed feeling about the soup from around our table, people either loved it or hated it!
Neither these dishes nor Sam's vociferous comments about having duck confit simmering on the stove at home made me want to visit his Hove based restaurant and I would strongly suggest he learns to have a little more tact when he's in a room full of vegans.
Next up was a thai inspired dish which could only have been from Sabai Thai. The chef decided to use VBites vegan chicken to create their chicken salad which was flavoured with mint, coriander, red onion, lime, chilli and soy sauce. The overall feeling around our table was that this dish was inconsistent in both flavour and presentation. Two were super spicy, one was incredibly bland and the rest were nicely spiced. Two came in perfect crisp lettuce cups and the rest were presented on rather limp, not to mention completely impossible to pick up, leaves. I'm afraid this one was a miss.
A dessert course from last years winners, VBites, came next. Titled Cosplayer's Dream this Japanese lotus root candy with almond and cherry blossom crumble and Boho Gelato jasmine ice cream won high marks across the board and took first place in the competition. The ice cream was beautifully flavoured, the crumble went with it perfectly and made me think that Boho themselves should start offering some fancy toppings for their ice creams and the lotus root candy kinda blew my mind. It was spectacular but I wouldn't expect anything less from the chef who created last years truffle topped green tea and pandan ice cream - I think everyone would like to see more of this at VBites. I'm also happy to tell you that if you missed the ice cream here Boho are making more and it'll be in store this week.
Moshimo's second entry came next and this tropical maki was stuffed with strawberry, mango, cucumber, passionfruit sauce and a tofu sesame paste. This ranked pretty highly among my favourites and I went so far as to steal one off of a fellow diner who was too full to continue. I thought the flavours really complimented each other, I adored the tofu sesame paste, and thought that this was an amazing twist on Moshimo's classic Japanese fare.
Last but by no means least another dish that my entire table ranked highly was this beautiful, but terribly photographed, plate by Terre à Terre. Described as a coconut pistachio wafer with raspberry dusted coconut ice, a pistachio smudge, rosemary and rosewater puree and toasted coconut flakes this dish couldn't have come from anyone else. All of the classic Terre à Terre touches were there and we loved the ice cream and subtly sweet wafer. It was no surprise that this dish ranked in the top three.
I've now been to this night and blogged about it three years in a row so I've noticed some interesting changes along the way. This year the service was spot on, the dishes came out of the kitchen far quicker than in previous years, and we loved that there was a more whole foods focus in the dishes themselves rather than like back in year one where all of the contestants had to use a VBites product in their dish.
Sadly as well as noticing the good I noticed the not-so-good and I have to say that overall I thought that the quality of the dishes themselves went down this year when compared to the last two, don't get me wrong there were still some standout dishes but I'm still thinking about the two beautiful dishes Moshimo created for last years competition and I wished that there was a savoury dish as spectacular as Cashew Catering's crispy mock duck, mushroom and cheese dumpling with a wasabi foam from the first challenge I went to.
Another change that I'm not sure was for the better was that aside from some edamame there were none of Moshimo's own dishes to nibble on before, during or after the competition. In year one they had all of their vegan dishes going around the belt which I think was probably too far in the other direction but I think they had it spot on last year when they sent out a selection of dishes for people to sample whilst the score cards were being tallied; I hope that this approach makes a return next time as I spoke to a few people who'd been before who noticed that there was much less to be had for the same ticket price this time around.
Overall this was another fantastic event from Moshimo and we had a wonderful time, I can't wait for next year. This'll be my last Brighton related post for a little while as I'm jetting off to San Francisco bright and early tomorrow morning, I'm still going to be MoFoing every day though so keep an eye on the blog to see what this vegan eats on the road.