My mum and her partner Rob joined us for a weekend all the way down here in Melbourne and we took it upon ourselves to show them some of our favourite places. Our first focus was dinner on Friday night. When we've entertained other rellies, we've generally taken them to places that offer a good selection of non-vego food as well as stuff that we like. Our last guests complained and insisted that we should take people out for vego delights in the future. Mum and Rob were the lucky first recipients of this new policy, and it was hard to think of a better place to take them than Shakahari - probably Melbourne's best vegetarian restaurant.
I think the menu was a little intimidating - tofu, quinoa, seitan, soy grits: these are not things that crop up on too many non-specialty menus. Cindy and I recommended the avocado rolls to start things off - they'd impressed us mightily on a previous visit and didn't disappoint this time.
They really are fantastic. Mum and Rob opted for entree-sized mains after we promised them a post-dinner dessert trip to Brunetti, but Cindy and I couldn't resist the main-sized options. Despite the relatively small menu (about 7-8 mains), Shakahari retains its appeal by switching things around with the seasons. Every time we've visited there've been new options to choose from.
Cindy went for Croquette Madam Fang ($17.50), patties made up of a combination of yam, spuds, soy grits, macadamia nuts, schezuan turnip, green beans and coriander (it's hard to believe that there were that many ingredients in these little discs), served up with a tangy cumquat chilli sauce, some bean curd bits, broccoli and kim chi. Cindy raved about the sauce, and her enthusiasm was backed up by her performance: finishing her entire plate before I'd got through my main - something that's probably happened three times since we started this blog. It looked outstanding, but I was too slow to taste it for myself.
I ordered a pasta - something I rarely do. Usually the vego pastas that places are offer are fairly uninspiring and seem like dishes that Cindy and I could knock up ourselves at least as well. I knew I could rely on Shakahari to deliver something a bit more interesting with their rustichella linguini ($18.50). This came with basil almond pesto, grilled mushrooms of at least three varieties and reduced oregano tomatoes. And it was divine. The pesto was the key and it was amongst the most pesto-riffic I've tasted. Even the tomatoes which, given my tomato issues, were a risky inclusion, came through with the goods - reduced to such a mush that my texture-based problems were minimised and the herby flavour could shine through.
Shakahari continues to excel - it remains the only 'fine-dining' style vego place in Melbourne, but it doesn't just rest on its laurels, the food is always fresh and interesting and the service is always outstanding. I can't recommend it enough. Although it is better on a weeknight when it's not quite so full: the noise really bounces around off the brick walls.