I used to think a vegan or vegetarian diet was incredibly restrictive, but it's hardly a life sentence. Located near the beginning of Whyte Ave, Cafe Mosaics is one of the handful of restaurants in Edmonton serving strictly vegetarian and vegan fare. Rather than subsisting on nuts and seeds all day long, customers can find comfort in homestyle foods fit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
On one of my days off, I decided to meet up with MH for lunch and a catch-up. I hadn't realized it had been almost three months since our last hang! Since MH is still following a dairy-free, pescatarian diet (loosely she says), we decided to try out Cafe Mosaics where she could have free range of the entire menu. We previously tried Noorish together (also of the vegetarian/vegan variety), so I was excited to be able to compare the two restaurants, considering their relative proximity to each other.
Since acquiring the neighbouring space a year and a half ago, Cafe Mosaics underwent a major renovation, making it nice, bright, and airy. There's no signage on the exterior, so just look out for their (punny) sandwich board. They're also just a couple doors down from Boston Pizza and directly left from Friends and Neighbours Cafe.
The restaurant is loud and unapologetic, with music blasting and the buzz of conversation filling the room. Its casual atmosphere blends into the service, since you're pretty much free to seat yourself and pay at the counter once you're done. The restaurant was almost full at noon on a Friday, but we managed to score a seat by the window. For parties entering afterwards, it was a short and reasonable wait.
At Cafe Mosaics, most menu items are priced at $15, with appetizers ringing in at $10. It's quite reasonable considering their dedication to using fresh, responsibly-sourced ingredients.
MH chose the curry dinner ($15.00), a super colorful medley of eggplant, tofu, bell pepper, onion, broccoli, zucchini, potato, and cauliflower sauteed with a yellow coconut curry. It was served with a side of brown rice/quinoa mix, vegan naan, and chutney. MH had to add on another side of rice ($3.00) later just to match the sheer number of vegetables on the plate. The vegan naan tasted more like toast, but she enjoyed the dish a lot and earned a spot in the clean plate club.
Along with the food, there's also an interesting drink menu filled with tea, juices, smoothies, tinctures, cocktails, etc. The blender was constantly whirring in the background so I thought it was a smart idea to try one of their ice blends. Served in the most hipster receptacle imaginable (ie. the mason jar), the tsunami wave ($6.50) is a blend of pineapple, oranges, agave, lemon, hemp hearts, chia seeds, cinnamon, coconut water, and tumeric. It tasted like pineapple mostly, but it wasn't that sweet. It had a strange earthy flavour to it that wasn't necessarily bad, just not what I was expecting.
A+ for presentation. Taste-wise though, I thought the dish was just okay. The hashbrowns had nice flavour and sweetness, but I do wish they had cooked it longer to develop a crust, or more crispy edges at least. The shredded potatoes were just a bit too pale and soft for my liking. The tofu crumble resembled scrambled eggs in the looks department, but it was slightly dry and lacking seasoning. I did enjoy the side of grilled asparagus though, as they were tender with nice char. The grilling also extracted more juices from the grapefruit but I think it would be infinitely better (and less bitter) if it was bruléed instead.
Overall, ordering at Cafe Mosaics can be a hit or miss. I can't really judge based on my one dish, but I thought it could've been better especially considering their good reviews and loyal fans. Based on first impressions, I think Noorish wins this one. However, I am genuinely curious about their vegan pho, so I'm not ready to dismiss Cafe Mosaics just yet. I think they're deserving of a second chance.