Sunday, April 21, 2024

Luke's Bakery

March 23, 2024


Luke's Bakery has an excellent reputation amongst our vegan friends for its banh mi, so at last this year we timed a Reservoir visit so that we could pick up lunch from Luke's on our way home. It's a large but typical no-frills-or-furniture bakery set-up so we were in and out and back to the car quite quickly. (If you're a Luke's regular, we'd welcome any tips on where you like to eat your banh mi when the weather's good.)

There's real meat as well, but the five vegan banh mi options are very clearly marked and very appetising: crackling pork, BBQ pork, chicken (five spice or lemongrass), Peking duck and tofu (caramelised or lemongrass) at $9-9.50 each. We received clear advice that the Peking duck and five-spice chicken were our friends' faves, so we split them and loved the experience. As you can see from the photos above, the featured protein is portioned generously and garnished with peanuts. Though I'd surely be satisfied with one of these recommended fillings every visit, I'm interested to try the others too just to be sure.

We were also stoked to see Vietnamese iced coffee on offer ($6) with both dairy-based and vegan-friendly coconut-based options!

Luke's Bakery
14 Edwardes St, Reservoir
9462 4114

Accessibility: Luke's Bakery has a wide, flat entry with little to no furniture inside for customers. We ordered and paid at a low counter, and picked up at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Super Norma

March 21, 2024


I've been keen to try Super Norma since they first started popping up doing special event catering at Fenton. They crank out fresh pasta dishes right in front of you, with no formalities at all - it's all very friendly and very casual. The menu is scrawled on a couple of scrolls - there are nine pasta dishes and a handful of sides, about half is vego (with one or two vegan options usually) and they'll do GF pasta for a few bucks extra. 

We took a friend on a Thursday night and grabbed a speedy dinner. Cindy had the pesto Siciliano ($24), with fresh ricotta, datterini tomatoes, parmigiano, basil, almonds and cashews. It was really lovely - creamy and rich without being heavy, with the fresh basil really shining through. I tried the puttanesca (cherry tomatoes, black olives, capers, chilli, $18), which was exactly the kind of salty, spicy delight that you want from a puttanesca. 

The whole experience is incredibly low key - food comes out in little cardboard cartons, there's no liquor licence (or toilet!) and it all gets cooked right in front of you and dished up in a matter of minutes. It's probably not a place you'd go to linger over a meal, but it's damn near perfect for something quick and comforting and high quality. I can't wait to go back. 


Super Norma
140 Rathdowne St, Carlton
0488 568 777

Accessibility: Super Norma has a flat entry and a pretty densely packed interior - just a handful of low tables and a medium counter to order and pay at. There are no toilets.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Charred cauliflower & crispy tofu
with sweet peanut sauce

March 10, 2024


One of my colleagues brought in a delicious-looking gado gado lunch a few weeks ago and I was reminded how excellent a plate of anything covered with peanut sauce can be. We went digging around in our books for inspiration and hit upon this version in Hetty McKinnon's Tenderheart. It's a lot less work than the Ottolenghi recipe we've made in the past, and the results are just as satisfying - the charred cauliflower is sweet and smokey, the crispy tofu triangles add a bit of texture, and the peanut sauce is so, so easy. 

You can mess around with this however you like - add some nuts or different crispy veggies, trade the eggs for some tempeh, really whatever you've got to hand. Let's face it, everything tastes delicious doused in sweet/spicy peanut butter.

Charred cauliflower & crispy tofu with sweet peanut sauce

olive oil
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
salt and pepper
1 cup chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
500g tofu, sliced into 5mm thick rectangles
2 Lebanese cucumbers, roughly chopped
4 jammy eggs
bean sprouts
crispy shallots
1 lime

1/2 cup of peanut butter
3/4 cup water
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes
2 tablespoons kecap manis

Heat the oil in a large pan on high heat and fry the cauliflower florets in batches, for about 8 minutes each. Just turn them occasionally, you want them to char up a bit. Set them aside and season with salt and pepper.

Spread the chickpea flour out on a plate, combined with the garlic powder and a bit of salt and pepper. Dredge the tofu slices through the flour mix to coat and then fry in a hot pan with some more olive oil. A couple of minutes on each side should get the tofu nice and golden. Set the tofu aside and, once it has cooled, slice into triangles.

To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until smooth. Add more water if it's too thick - it will get thicker as it cools down. 

Layer up your plates with cauliflower, tofu, cucumber, egg and sprouts and then drizzle with sauce, squeeze a quarter of the lime over everything and top with crispy shallots. 

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Ima Asa Yoru

March 10, 2024


I've been following Ima's social media accounts since they were located in Carlton, but it's only very recently that Michael had the bright idea to stop in for lunch when we were in their newer Brunswick neighbourhood running errands. Ima Asa Yoru is located within Nightingale Village and with the temperature in the high 30s we were really putting their eco-friendly non-air-conditioned set-up to the test: it was pleasant but still warm.


Iced drinks were very much in order: my house-made yuzu lemonade was ringed with salt ($8.50), while Michael perked up with an iced filter coffee ($6.50).


The brunch menu had clearly marked, plentiful veg*n and gluten-free options, all of them varied and highly appetising. Michael was thrilled with the agedashi tofu teishoku ($30) with a bonus onsen egg ($3.50). Beyond the delicate tofu and soft egg, there was rice, miso soup and four little side dishes!


Meanwhile, I tried the onigiri teishoku ($28). These rice balls were served on crisp open nori and concealed the most delightful tangy, creamy umeboshi filling. I also received a complex miso soup and two side dishes of pickles.

This was such a luxurious meal, with both variety and attention to detail. Though Ima was reasonably busy, we weren't rushed through in any way. We will absolutely be back for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner.

Ima Asa Yoru
1 Duckett St, Brunswick
9989 2309

Accessibility: Entry to Ima Asa Yoru includes shallow, wide ramps. Furniture is densely packed, made up of low tables with backed chairs and high benches with backed and backless stools (I found it difficult to comfortably use the footrest). We ordered at our table and paid at a low open counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

The Yarra Hotel III

March 5, 2024


The Yarra Hotel had such a long hiatus after the pandemic commenced that in January 2022 I declared it closed in our archives. Happily they re-opened mid-2023, we eventually caught up on the news, and in March we arranged a visit with our book club. 

The Yarra has a pub menu with at least one vegan and one gluten-free option in each section (dessert excepted, unfortunately for the vegans): cauliflower bites and corn ribs are listed ahead of the chicken ribs, and with a smoky tofu sando, quinoa salad, eggplant parma and green Thai curry for mains most predilections are covered.

We both wanted to test out that smoky tofu sando ($24). It's served on Turkish bread (which I heartily approve of) with slaw, chipotle aioli, and caramelised onion. It was the sweet-savoury onion that dominated the flavour, and I liked that! Chips were plentiful and a worthy support.

While the Yarra Hotel is very roomy, with indoor seating, a huge covered area with a fireplace, and a smaller third area for smokers, it's also very loud... with music, even when it's not packed with patrons. We're not sure that it's the right spot for ongoing book club meet-ups but their decent veg burger is something we can all rely on.


You can read about one, two of our previous visits to the Yarra Hotel.

The Yarra Hotel
295 Johnston St, Abbotsford
9417 0005

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry and another down to the beer garden. Tables are quite generously spaced. We ordered and paid at a high bar.