Tuesday, February 19, 2008

February 15, 2008: Shakahari III

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.

Read about our other visits to Shakahari here and here.


  1. Always good to read your posts Michael & Cindy. Shakahari is definitely a place that I will consider when I feel like a good meat-free meal.

    Happy eating,

  2. Oh that food looks so good I want to go there - and I was interested to hear they have used soy grits in a burger - I made an impulse purchase of soy grits and am now wondering how to use them!

  3. Hi Jon! Good to have you back after a bit of a break. :-)

    Johanna, I just noticed soy grits at a shop nearby for the first time this week. I held off buying them but will read your experiments with interest!

  4. Thank you so much for writing such a wonderful blog! I found it quite by accident a couple of weeks ago. I quickly read through all your archives and have been eagerly waiting for each next installment. Lucky for me you are so prolific and I never have to wait too long.

    I have been a vegetarian since I was seven years old and have seen a lot of positive changes in the Melbourne food scene but it is great to find so many new gems on your site.

    Anywho the reason I am posting in this particular entry is because I am heading over to Shakahari for my birthday lunch next week. Thanks for posting about those avocado rolls. I definitely know what I I'll be ordering for an entree.

  5. Welcome, Sarah! Thanks for your encouragement, it really cheers us to know there are a few people like you enjoying what we write. :-)

    You've obviously been vegetarian a lot longer than we have (I'm assuming you're now older than 11!), and we'd love to try your favourite recipes or restaurants if you have any to recommend.

    I hope you have a lovely birthday next week, and that Shakahari serves you a meal worthy of the occasion!

  6. Thanks for the welcome Cindy. Yep I have been veggie for quite a while now. I am 25 (almost) so it has been about 18 years. My partner is also vegetarian but it has only been a couple of years for him. It works out really well, as I'm sure you guys understand, as we are both on the same page and can hunt out all the best vegetarian stuff together.

    I'll certainly let you know if I have any must try recipes or restaurants. My last discovery has been Fry's Schnitzels. http://www.aduki.net.au/aduki-online/eat/drink/frys-golden-crumbed-schnitzels.html
    I am a bit of a sucker for junk food and fake meat products and this really hits the spot.

    Oh and I haven't tried this place out yet but I stumbled across a really interesting looking place online. It is a Balinese restaurant in West Melbourne called Warung Agus.
    Not strictly a vegetarian place but with lots of really yummy sounding vegie options:
    Tuung Mebasa Santen Lalah Manis
    Sliced eggplant and tofu braised in
    coconut milk, sweet soy and spicy gravy.
    Sounds pretty fantastic. I haven't tried it out yet because sadly I am on a diet but I will let you know how it is when I finally get there.

    Though if you beat me to it I would certainly enjoy living vicariously through your review.
    Anyway, this post is turning into a novel so I'll cut it short here. Chat soon

  7. Sarah, that Balinese restaurant looks really interesting! I know very little about the range of cuisines across Asia but I'm enjoying learning, bite by bite.

    Since you're on a diet, I apologise for yesterday's blondie/brownie post. Hope it wasn't too painful. :-)

    We love the occasional meal of fake meat too, I might keep an eye out for those schnitzels.

  8. Yeah I can't say I've tried many Indonesian dishes before (aside from the odd plate of gado gado.) I have visited a few countries in Asia and some are more veggie friendly than others. It seems like Indonesian food is pretty accesible though. They use a lot of Tofu and Tempeh and of course lots of fresh veggies too. Yum.

    And yeah, that Brownie pic hurt a little. I hope they were as delcious as they look. Spare a thought for me, and my long future of salad and rice cakes, as you eat them. :)

  9. I had my birthday lunch today at Shakahari. It was great! There were 4 of us and we shared two entrees, the advocado tempura rolls (which I knew I must have ever since I saw them on your site in all their crispity crunchity fried glory) and the agnolotti dumplings. They were both great but I though the dumplings were particulalry expectional. They were filled with soy cheese and pine nuts and other yummy things, fried and doused with balsamic. So good. I really could have eaten everything on the menu but for a main I decided on the Laksa. It can be hard to find veggie friendly laksas that aren't full of fish so this was a treat. It was really fragrant and lemongrassy and stuffed full of green soba noodles, tofu, tempeh and seitan. It had quite the kick to it too.

  10. Sounds wonderful, Sarah! Thanks for this account of your meal. I'm so pleased that it fit the birthday bill. :-)