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Something about my brain chemistry in my few decades on this earth has never been compatible with the idea of vegetarianism. I’m told some of my first words were “medium rare” and upon moving to Baltimore I would say yes to just about anyone that offered to take me on a date to Fogo de Chao in the inner harbor. As of late though, my taste buds have had a sudden change of heart. Maybe it’s the overarching ecological footprint we’ve all become so aware of in the past few years, or perhaps it’s the recent outburst of media highlighting the unethical and unhealthy practices of the meat industry. Whatever the cause, the transition to more green, ecologically friendly foods is happening, and with the soul food offerings of the recently opened café The Land of Kush, you don’t have to beg me to go veg anymore.
The Land of Kush sets a bright and eclectic mood when you walk in. A twilight-lit tribal scene murals the wall, stained glass light fixtures illuminate the fresh food, and enticing scents uncharacteristic of the 100% vegan dishes permeate the air. With cuisine advertised as vegetarian soul food, I thought it was only fitting that I taste the BBQ ribs, which I gathered was the restaurant’s signature dish. My friend and I both ordered combos that came with an entrée and two sides, costing us each $9.99. Our meals were served in standard plastic to-go containers, no fancy presentation or decorative silverware. After my first bite of the KUSH BBQ Ribs, I soon realized that head chef Gregory Brown didn’t need to use any fancy presentation tactics to spice up his food; the flavor in the sauce did more than compensate for the simplicity of the presentation. The sweet and tangy barbeque sauce tasted homemade and was dynamic on my palette, its taste seemed to perfectly compliment each element in the jambalaya of sautéed onions, sweet green peppers, or the biggest surprise of the meal—the “pork.” It was (obviously) off the rib, and was as close to the real thing as imitation meat can get. Though I’ve tried slathering and dousing it in sauces and seasonings, I’ve never been able to grow accustomed to the texture of tofu. This could be the result of my sometimes-disastrous experimental cooking techniques, but I like to chalk it up to the tofu. This vegetarian meat-substitute though had no resemblance to tofu, in shape, consistency, firmness or texture, much to my dismay and delight. My ribs were accompanied by a tomato cucumber salad (hard to mess this one up, and they certainly did not!) and a sesame spinach salad, which I wouldn’t have naturally paired with the ribs, but the sesame oil had a “smoked” feeling to them that I thought went well with the ribs. Though I went with the spinach over the kale salad, I was convinced after my meal that the chefs were no amateurs when it comes to seasoning greens and I’ll definitely be back to try it.
My friend got the Mac ‘N Cheese and Curried Chick-un. The curry sauce tasted authentically Indian and yielded no complaints, and though the chick-un wasn’t typically characteristic of tofu, I didn’t think it was as accurate an imitation as the KUSH Ribs were. We were interested to see how vegan cheese would go over (neither of us had ever tried such a thing) and we disagreed about the results of our taste-experiment. I personally enjoyed the kind of mousse-y and fluffed texture of the cheese, and being the type to always see sodium as a solution, particularly enjoyed their salty taste. My friend said she wasn’t really into how salty it was, but adds “to be honest, I don’t really even like mac ‘n cheese,” so I’d take that opinion with a grain of salt.
We got the red velvet cake for desert, and couldn’t believe frosting could taste this good without butter. I loved the way it melted in my mouth, the little grains of sugar discernible on my tongue. The cake itself was firm enough to keep its form without crumbling all over the place, but extremely moist and soft enough that it seemed freshly made.
Overall, I had a great experience at The Land of Kush. The food was surprisingly delicious, the portions were extremely fair for the price, and there was lots of free parking around. From the second my friend and I walked in, we felt welcome and comfortable in the presence of owner Gregory Brown. He had no clue I was writing this review, but I felt like I was being treated as a special guest. I soon found out though that this is just the charming and charismatic way the team at The Land of Kush naturally treats all of their customers, many of whom seemed to be happy regulars and friends in the community. If you’re interested in a health-conscious meal without sacrificing any of the taste, give The Land of Kush a try this spring!
The Land of Kush – Vegetarian Cuisine
Open Monday – Saturday 11 AM – 8PM
Closed on Sundays
840 North Eutaw St., Baltimore
(410) 225 – KUSH