It’s important to start by telling you about my eating habits: I’m vegan adjacent. That means I enjoy vegetables, but I’d rather wrap my entire being around a beautifully cooked steak with visible sizzling herbs and a pink Crayola couldn’t create. It means I believe a whole red snapper will cure whatever ails me, anything with real butter will undoubtedly taste like the blood of god, and I will overlook the lard they mention in my favorite box of cornbread mix while also serving some artisan bread on the side. Yes, vegan adjacent. Now hold that thought for a second.
Picture it: Early May in Amsterdam, I’m slightly hungry after a week of traveling and a long day of walking along the canals, frolicking through passage ways, and train hopping to parts of the city outsiders rarely visit, and since I’ve moved on from the not-so-seasoned Dutch food this beautiful country has to offer, finding a delicious meal that I haven’t yet had is difficult. A voice comes to me in the form of a Facebook message, jokingly saying “I know you dislike vegan restaurants and hate vegans, but you must try Mooshka.” To be clear, I don’t hate vegans, I just hate their missionary-like approach to converting others. I do strongly dislike those with newfound gluten allergies, however. So what did I do? Called a friend and we jumped on the train at Amsterdam Centraal Station and we made our way downtown, riding fast, faces passed, we were Mooshka bound.
My stomach jumped from the train before I could, and we were on Van Woustraat, made the left on Ceintuubaan, and another left on Hemonystaat and there, at #66 (Location Has Changed Since This Interview. New Location Below), was the cool spot with a cow painted on the window. Another thing I should note: Whenever I intentionally set my Plan A meal to vegan, I look for the cheap Plan B meal, in case I’m not full when the overly-priced Plan A is done.
Before I get to the food, there is one truth you should know: I eat vegan-ly often. I just rarely share this out of shame and fear of being judged. Granted, it’s sometimes by mistake and without my knowledge until the end of the meal or until someone has pointed it out. But hey! Sometimes it’s very intentional, and the truth is I do feel better about myself afterward.
Now for the meal: I ordered the Injera with spicy stew of red lentils, a spicy stew of ground chick peas, spinach, a mix of veggies in a masala sauce, and eggplant stew. My friend, Jacqueline ordered the Fried rice and vegetables with a Portobello and a fried banana. And because it felt more like a “Treat Yourself” kind of day, I topped it off with the Caribbean Burger made with quinoa, and topped with delicious dopeness.
Have you sat and had food so good that you:
A. Called the chef to the table so you could slap them and their mama?
B. Asked for another menu because you obviously didn’t read the special ingredients that went into making the magic?
C. Forget to speak to your tablemate?
D. Get upset because you’re just finding out about the goodness currently dripping from your lip?
If You Are Are Me: All of the above. Then I leaned over the balcony from my seat on the second level, and requested time with the self-proclaimed chef, dreamer, cleaner, hostess, and owner, Sarah Reymond, to find out exactly how this amazing food came to be. Lucky for me, the kitchen was closing and she said yes. Listen, when you appreciate good food as much as I do, it’s important that you let the creator know it.
Darnell: Listen, I don’t know what kind of vegan witchcraft you have going on here, but this food was…well, amazing. Maybe it was just these dishes we chose though and the others are disgusting, as most vegan food is.
We laugh, knowing damn well that’s a joke.
Sarah: No, no, no. Everything we make here is amazing. You want to try something else?
Darnell: God no! I’m so full.
How fun this is going to be, I thought. Good food and a conversation with a funny woman. So we get to the good questions.
Darnell: How long has Mooshka been around, keeping these folks healthy and happy?
Sarah: Almost two years. I opened December 18, 2016. I was 4 months pregnant and celebrated a birthday the day before. What a time it was. What a great time it’s been so far. And yeah, the people who come around this corner are healthier and happier.
A plate of bitterballen and dip are special delivered to the table and I laugh because I’m full, but I’m also a pig, so of course we eat them without missing a beat. Sarah sits across from me with the “mmhmm, I know they’re good” face. Good? An understatement.
Darnell: So one day, you sat back, ate a carrot and said, “I’m gonna open a shop?”
Sarah: No, crazy man. I was in university studying international business and management and a fan of organic foods. I figured I’d graduate, buy a small place, and sell organic meals. Then one day, after my studies, I watched a documentary called Vegucated. After that film, I knew the vegan life was the life for me, but quickly found how difficult it was to grab a quick bite while I was on the go. That’s when I started working on the business plan.
Darnell: And what a dope business it turned out to be. When I walked in, it was like I felt the work the went into creating this. Is that normal? What do you want customers to feel?
Sarah: When customers walk in, I want them to feel welcomed and cared for. I put a lot of love into the food and service, and I want them to taste and experience that.
Darnell: Yes! Yes, that’s exactly what that feeling was. Even the customers who sat across from us interrupted my chewing to ask, “Isn’t is good? I love this place so much.” I guess they saw the first-timer look in my eyes.
Sarah: I have some pretty wonderful customers. I love them all.
Darnell: And what’s next for Mooshka? This animal-free food business is taking off globally, and you are certainly all up in the mix. What are your goals?
Sarah: I would love to expand into more areas throughout the Netherlands. More restaurants, but without that “chain” feel. And even internationally.
Darnell: Hell yeah, internationally. Now that you’ve truly sold me on the perfect, delicious, and cheap vegan meal, how am I supposed to go back to the States and survive? When I sit down to eat a burger because it’s cheaper than a mushroom, I’ll curse you for not being in Los Angeles or New York or wherever I am. So make it quick.
Sarah: I’m coming! Just wait!
Darnell: Okay. Final question. You have one special invite you can send to your dream guest. Who are you inviting to Mooshka and what are you cooking for them?
Sarah: Easy! Gordon Ramsey. I love how blunt he is and he’d be an amazing person to talk and laugh with over the Injera, Caribbean Burger and Chocolat Chip Bananacake I’d make him. I’m pretty sure I can go toe-to-tie with him in a conversation and I already have a list of questions I’d ask him about the restaurant business and cooking.
Sarah, Jacqueline, and I laughed a bit longer while I rubbed my belly and peeped around the corner to see if more food was going to magically appear on the table. It didn’t, unfortunately. The cleaning had begun, the chairs were being put up, and the cases where the food was stored were empty. It was time to disappear back into the Amsterdam streets.
One last truth: Mooshka is by far the greatest vegan joint in Amsterdam (and soon, the world) and if you’re ever there and want great food cooked with love and seasoning, go! Talk with owners, Sarah and Andre, and make yourself at home, because that’s what it feels like!
Oh F***! I forgot to order dessert!
Van Woustraat 110H
1073 LS Amsterdam, Netherlands