Quirky restaurant in Niles caters a party for vegan dinner

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By: Rama Ganesan

Rama Ganesan

Veg Michiana recently gathered for a private, fully vegan dinner at the Olfactory Hue in Niles, Mich. 

This bistro has an offbeat and eclectic vibe. The walls are lined with display cabinets – remnants from a previous life as a jewelry store – and a selection of artwork from Niles artists.

As the restaurant is normally only open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the dinner was arranged especially for our group. The restaurant caters dinner parties for private group at a minimum charge of about $400.

The regular menu shows many vegetarian and some vegan options (as I wrote this, their online menu hadn’t been updated), but the meal prepared for us was unique to this dinner.

The theme was “World Vegan Cuisine,” a multi-course meal consisting of Indian curry butternut squash soup; French ratatouille tartines; Greek hummus pizza with tomatoes, zucchini, onion, mushroom and Kalamata olives; and Korean barbecue tofu with sticky rice.

Service was delightful all the way through the dinner, and it was a pleasure to be served the first four courses. The desserts, made by Veg Michiana member Deborah Stevens, were displayed for the diners to help themselves.

I found the varied courses to be agreeably interesting, but thought the meal was a bit lacking in flavor and portion size.

The soup especially had the potential to be a flavor high point, but the curry was missing some spice notes. The barbecue tofu with sticky rice could have benefited from more complex flavors as well, perhaps imparted by additional veggie ingredients or sides. 

Taken together, all four dishes of the main meal felt more like tapas than a full meal. But since this was a private dinner, we were limited to what we were served and could not order more as we would at a tapas restaurant.

When we came to the desserts, we entered slightly different territory. The organizer for this particular Veg Michiana meetup, Deborah Stevens, made the desserts herself.

There were four different dainty items: fresh strawberries dipped in vegan chocolate, coconut macaroons, toasted pecan wafers with maple icing and raw brownies with cacao. Each of these was delicious, and all four together made a satisfying dessert plate.

If I had to choose a favorite, it would be the raw brownie. It proved that people who try to follow a “raw vegan” diet do not have to miss out on rich desserts by any means. This brownie was made from quality ingredients, including walnuts, Medjool dates, raw cacao and coconut oil in the frosting.

It was easy for me to tell that Deborah was a chef in her own right, and when I asked, she shared that she is about to start a personal chef business in our area focusing on vegan, raw vegan, vegetarian and other special diets.

If these desserts were any indication, I have no doubt of Deborah’s culinary skills. Deborah can be reached at debcst@yahoo.com.

So to sum up the Olfactory Hue experience, the restaurant ambiance was unique and quirky, and the service friendly. The vegan meal made by the restaurant’s chef had room for improvement, but the desserts made by personal chef Deborah were delectable.

For more tips and tales of dining vegan in Michiana from Rama Ganesan and her fellow meatless maven Crystal Hallwood, subscribe to the Vegan at the Bend email newsletter.
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