Moth Spaghetti. Joelle Reiniger
The Moth Café
9449 Jasper Avenue
It was a miserably cold January night. So cold we decided it was worthwhile to bundle our children in the car and drive, not walk, a mere two blocks from our garage to the Moth Café for dinner.
At this time of year, entering the trendy coffee spot has sort of a reverse-Narnia effect. You push past a windowless wooden door, leaving the gloom of winter to enter a brightly lit land that flows with kombucha and lattes. The décor is crisp but whimsical – think modern furniture boutique meets Midsummer Night’s Dream.
This aesthetic is a fitting prelude to the vegan café’s imaginative food and drink menu. We sampled the root beer kombucha for novelty and the Mellow Yellow turmeric spiced latté for warmth, priced at $4 and $6.50 respectively.
To beat the winter chill, I ordered the Lemongrass Minty Vermicelli Bowl ($15), a colourful, moderately spicy dish with bean curd, melt-in-your-mouth mushrooms, and all the fixings. Writing for a mostly non-vegan audience, I’m aware of the requisite “how-close-is-it-to-real-meat” analysis. I’m going to skip it because the meat alternatives in my noodle bowl were so good in their own right, it didn’t matter what ingredients they replaced.
My husband, whose plant-based tastes are more conservative than mine, ordered Moth Spaghetti ($15), a plate of satisfying comfort food featuring crispy mushroom and tofu balls that he looks forward to indulging in again and again. Our daughters, aged one and three, also sampled the tasty “meatballs,” giving this dish – plus the raw, gluten-free Bagel with Avocado and Young Coconut Bacon ($10) that our three-year-old chose – the thumbs up.
The Moth Café is so new to Edmonton’s the culinary scene that, at the time this story was filed, it was still awaiting its liquor licence, but vegan and vegetarian dining is old hat for owners Khuyen Kuong, Thanh Lu, and Jillian Kuong. The mother-daughter-daughter trio is part of the family that owns the popular Café Mosaics on Whyte Avenue. Khuyen has a background in architecture and, years ago, interned with a Calgary firm that worked on the Quarters district.
“I felt like it was an area that was calling for a space such as a coffee shop,” she said, referring to the dearth of amenities in the Moth’s vicinity. Boyle Street’s many historic buildings and broad demographic mix drew Khuyen to the neighbourhood.
The café is located at 9449 Jasper Ave., directly across from our infamous hole in the ground, the abandoned high-rise excavation that lay fallow for four years until Calgary’s Cidex Group bought the site. At the intersection of two major commuter arteries, the corner has high vehicle traffic but little pedestrian activity, especially after dark. Khuyen is hoping The Moth will help to change that.
So far, so good. Despite the -24c plus wind chill weather on the evening of our visit, the café was packed by 6 p.m. To borrow from the title of a popular vegan food blog: Oh, it glows.