A vegan experiment

97 catering businesses participated in Masters of Taste, resulting in an immensely diversified offer. All tastes were catered for, vegetarians and vegans alike. Especially this last group has difficulty finding good restaurants, but Rosenobel came up with a solution to this problem.

Because I eat practically anything, I barely have any difficulty finding something on a menu that I like. Vegetarians, however, need to look a little further, but these days, almost every restaurant offers a vegetarian alternative. Yet what do you do when you’re vegan? While vegetarians don’t eat meat, vegans don’t consume animal products (neither meat nor milk for example). In the US, this lifestyle has gained a firm foothold, but in Belgium, veganism is still taking baby steps.

Yet this has been changing as well. Supermarkets, for example, are offering more and more vegan products to take advantage of this new and hip lifestyle, which is also finding more acceptance in Belgium. The owner of Rosenobel has also noticed that vegetarian and vegan products are more easily available in stores these days.

Her restaurant, situated beside the Cathedral of Our Lady, is one of the few to meet the needs of vegetarians and vegans. Inside, you can sit at tables (which are more spacious than at De Rooden Hoed) with wicker chairs and look at enlarged pictures of vegetables and branches on the walls and ceiling. There’s a cupboard with Asian artifacts, but the interior mostly relies on red and white accents: white walls, red carpet, white table-cloth, and red napkins.

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In the back of the place, there’s a buffet with cold salads, warm (Asian) stews, and oven dishes, which are kept at a constant temperature by a large electric chafing stove. This electric chafing stove responds to the tiniest crumb that drops onto the buttons, so staff has to constantly wipe the stove clean and readjust the temperature.

At the buffet, you can grab a plate and choose which hot, cold, or Asian dishes you want to try, and scoop up as much as you want. After you’ve scooped up, your plate gets weighed and for every 100gr you pay €3.30 ($3.77). This may seem like a little, but after one serving, I already had a plate of almost 600gr (bread included).

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There were so many dishes at the buffet that I can’t tell anymore which dish had been vegetarian or vegan, so you better ask for yourself when you drop by at Rosenobel. Overall, I can say that all the food had quite a mushy structure. In the first picture, you can see, starting at the piece of bread: lasagna, gnocchi in a tomato cream sauce, falafel in tikka masala, moussaka, and in the center minced seitan with walnuts. In the second picture, you can see basmati rice with coconut, a satay, and red curry with potato.

The gnocchi were soft, but still firm and were soaked in a delicious sauce with mushrooms. The tikka masala was nice and hot, but the falafel felt quite dry and grainy. The moussaka contained potato and had a delicious, spicy aftertaste. The seitan looked like minced meat and had the same texture, but it had a mildly unpleasant taste that I couldn’t quite make out, making it obvious that this was a meat substitute. The satay had the same texture as meat and a sweet-and-sour flavor, but tasted a little bland. The basmati rice felt a bit hard, but the red curry was nice and hot.

I will judge the lasagna a little more harshly because this is my favorite dish. The lasagna was chockful of vegetables and as a vegetarian (or a vegan) you have no other choice than to substitute all that meat (or the pasta) by tons of vegetables, but where does the vegetable dish end and does the lasagna begin? If there hadn’t been any cards on the electric chafing stove, I barely would have noticed the difference between the moussaka and the lasagna.

With this, I want to point out that vegetarian or vegan alternatives are fantastic, but you still need to respect the dish’s intrinsic properties. A lasagna is constructed from layers of tomato meat sauce, pasta, and cheese or béchamel sauce. For the last two elements, you can easily find substitutes without harming the dish’s characteristics traits, but here, the trouble was the tomato sauce.

In a lasagna, the meat of the tomato sauce is minced, as it’s also supposed to be in a Bolognese sauce. This lasagna had large pieces of vegetables and that took away from the lasagna feeling. If the vegetables had been finely chopped, this lasagna wouldn’t have bothered me as much. Still, I tasted delicious, Italian flavors and the texture of the creamy cheese was on point.

Besides a cold and hot buffet, Rosenobel also has a buffet with vegan cakes. Here, people with a sweet tooth have a very wide range of options, but you pay €5.50 ($6.28) a slice and the slices aren’t that big. So, choose wisely! I should have done that too, because my cake with caramel and cashew nuts was a bit of a disappointment.

Vegan cake with caramel and cashew nuts

Firstly, this slice of cake felt too heavy because of the thick layer of chocolate. Secondly, it had an unpleasant, grainy structure. These two things palled on me the most because cakes should be light with a spongy structure. Lastly, I tasted too little of the caramel because that flavor only came through in the broadest part of the cake. The flavor improved towards the end, but the texture kept bothering me.

After dinner, I had a conversation with the owner. She was very friendly and spoke to me about her business extensively. In the beginning, she offered her dishes from a menu, but after having gotten new ideas from other vegan restaurants, she chose the buffet formula. This leads to less food wastage because customers can choose what and how much they want and they can have a taste of everything. Because of Rosenobel’s concept, a lot of customers with allergies are regular visitors, but the owner goes over the entire buffet with them. Eventually, everyone will find something to suit their taste and every customers can dine with a full plate of food.

Rosenobel doesn’t quite have the most gastronomical concept, but thanks to the buffet, there’s a low threshold for people wanting to try vegetarian or vegan cuisine. Customers choose what they want and how much they want. Whoever doesn’t need a dessert can scoop up with a will and for once, people with a sweet tooth have a wide range of options. Rosenobel receives the following rating:

  • Food: 3
  • Atmosphere and hospitality: 5
  • Eat – repeat: As a low-pressure introduction to vegetarian or vegan food, this is ideal.

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