Saturday, November 1, 2008
Veganization: Tempeh Reuben at Rosetta's Kitchen, Asheville
As I stated earlier, when B. and I visited Asheville last month, I had my sights set on the Laughing Seed reuben. My online poking-around led me to learn about Rosetta's Kitchen, and though they certainly looked like a candidate for tempeh reuben offerings, I was unable to find a menu online (or even confirmation they were still open), so I assumed we wouldn't be paying them a visit. However, in our wanderings around town we actually passed them (the back of the restaurant, in fact) and I caught sight of the menu above.
It sounded too good to pass up and I was in a quandary. I was already planning to try Laughing Seed for dinner, and we weren't planning to return to Asheville the next day. Then B. had the brilliant notion that we could split the sandwich at Rosetta's Kitchen and then head to Laughing Seed afterwards. So we walked around the block, found Rosetta's entrance and clambered up the stairs full of anticipation. We noted on our way up that they are open quite late, so seems like a great spot post show. They also have some good beers on tap, for a pretty reasonable price ($3.75 a pint).
Rosetta's has a very nice atmosphere, so much so that for the first time on this blog, I felt compelled to take a picture of the interior of the eating establishment. It seems like it would be great in the summer, as the main eating area is a sort of balcony, open to the elements.
The place reminded me sort of the Red and Black in Portland, but I hate to say it, kinda better. Now that I think about it, it also reminded me of the Naam in Vancouver, BC. But cheaper and better. I'm not sure what it is, but Portland doesn't seem to have nailed the comfy hippie eatery quite yet--places like Eugene seem to do it better, and Asheville reminded us of Eugene a great deal.
When I told the cashier we wanted to veganize the reuben, he suggested avocado or 'queso,' a house vegan nacho cheese. Since I like to sub vegan cheese when available, I went for the queso, though I had fears it might overwhelm the walnut sauce that was probably fairly rich already. Avocado would also be good on this sandwich, but no regrets. This sandwich was damn good, probably one of the best we've had. The queso was plentiful, and made a nice dip for the corn chips on the side. B. wanted me to note that the corn chips were so good, there's no need to pay more for fries, though I would guess their fries are good, too -- I saw many patrons snacking on what appeared to be the sweet potato variety.
This reuben is not only extremely tasty, but wins points for originality also. That's rye foccacia there, which gave the sandwich a great, almost crispy texture, and the nature of the bread was that it could absorb juiciness without passing it along to your hands. The texture also benefited from the tempeh, which had a nice, chewy exterior also. I'm not sure how they prepared it, whether they grilled or baked it (the menu says marinated, I would guess maybe they baked it), but the outside was quite dark and the overall effect was meatiness. Biting into it was very nice, especially offset by the unctuous queso and good, consistent warm temperature.
As for the flavors, Rosetta's is another one of those joints that, like the Red and Black in Portland, boasts 'raw kraut.' What I've taken this to mean is that raw cabbage is allowed to pickle in its own juices, maybe for not very long, as opposed to employing vinegar or other fermentation aids. I think this results sometimes in a milder kraut. One of the few drawbacks of this sandwich is one we've experienced with others as well, that the kraut is sort of hidden away and doesn't contribute too much to the sandwich experience. Usually this would just be solved by more kraut. Rosetta's Kitchen was also selling house chow chow, a regional specialty that seems like a spicy version of sauerkraut. Not a traditional reuben condiment, but could make a nice, more flavorful substitution. Speaking of non-traditional flavors, the queso was impressive -- 'noochy' but not overpowering, with a nice consistency, and nicely spicy.
Over all, if you can't tell, we were extremely satisfied with our meal. The only drawback really, if there could be said to be any, was we were too full after splitting the sandwich to hit Laughing Seed (so we returned the next day, instead) and I didn't have room for any of Rosetta's fabulous looking vegan desserts.
Even though we weren't in Portland for this one, we think Rosetta's Kitchen deserves a 4 for a tasty, affordable, filling sandwich, and hands down the best service we had in Asheville during our stay.
111 Broadway, Asheville, NC
The natural light made for some better than normal pictures, also!