Thursday, September 30, 2010

September 18, 2010: Vegans Choice Grocery

Right across the street from Naked Espresso is Vegans Choice Grocery.  Though it does sell some specialty vegan groceries, this shop's most eye-catching goods are the desserts!  We couldn't get enough of them, visiting on both Saturday and Sunday and even buying some more for the trip home.  K, the guru of all things vegan and sugar-based, has written a run-down here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September 18, 2010: Naked Espresso

Edit 12/02/2013: Naked Espresso is no longer in business here, but Basil Pizza still is. Naked Espresso's chef is now offering vegan breakfasts around the corner at Apt.

Our first morning in Sydney started off at Naked Espresso, famed for its impressive array of vegan breakfasts. Even better, we were scheduled to meet up with a posse of Sydney vegans, led by Mandee from Cupcake Kitteh.

We started with coffees - delicious soy flat whites that come highly recommended. They were just the thing to wake me up enough to face the massive array of brekkie options on the menu. It's a mostly savoury range, with just buckwheat pancakes providing a sweet alternative. Of course, this suited me fine, and after some deliberation I settled on the 'morning after' giant fry-up (two Redwood sausages, three hash-browns, grilled tomato, sauteed mushrooms, wilted baby spinach, roasted pumpkin, home-cooked baked beans and toast, $14.90).

This was a massively hearty treat: some of the tastiest vegie sausages I've had, a saucy bean mix and an array of delicious vegetables. Throw in some wonderful bread and three crispy little hash-browns and you've got one of the best vegan breakfasts around (just wait a couple more posts for another contender)

Cindy also went for a savoury treat, the B.L.A.T. (Redwood bacon rashers, lettuce, avocado and tomato served on two slices of sourdough with vegan mayo and dijon mustard on the side, $11.90).
This got the most order-envy of anyone's meal, a stunning sandwich of fresh and flavoursome salad and Redwood's tasty bacon rashers on some more excellent bread. It tasted as good as it looks - Cindy rated it the best BLT she's had since she went vego.

Everybody else was positive about their meals - Naked Espresso didn't put a foot wrong. We couldn't have kicked our Saturday off any better. We even got to quickly meet cookbook author and Naked Espresso co-owner, Leigh Drew. As well as the wonderful meal, it was great to meet up with a bunch of friendly peeps - Mandee and her buddies gave us lots of eating tips for the weekend ahead and took us on a vegan-sweet eating, op-shop browsing, coffee-drinking tour of Newtown and surrounds. Thanks gang!

Read other reviews of Naked Espresso at Vegan About Town, ZuckerBaby, Cupcake Kitteh (and again!), Kittens Gone Lentil, Lisa Dempster, Munchies and Musings and Tropical Vegan.

Address: 126 King Street, Newtown
Ph: 9519 4880
Price: $6.90-$14.90

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September 17, 2010: Yulli's

Yulli's has been raved about by many a vegetarian and/or blogger (check out the list of links at the bottom of this post) and K snagged us a reservation for a late Friday night dinner, our first meal in Sydney.  It wasn't precisely what we needed that night, for a few reasons:
  1. Having just travelled interstate and sorted out our accommodation, we were very very hungry.  It's a popular restaurant and consequently there were long waits for food; we got a little impatient.
  2. When Michael poured out our first bottle of water, we received a special bonus.  Can you see it in the photo above?  Yep, that's a cigarette butt.  Using longnecks for water bottles just got real.  Staff were extremely apologetic and replaced water and glasses.  This suppressed our appetites for perhaps a couple of minutes each.
  3. We were seated outside in the very dark courtyard.  This made it tough for us antsy food bloggers to take photos.  I hope the ones here don't cause you too much pain; check out the links below for some better pics.
  4. In order to maximise our tastings, we ordered heavily from the 'To Share' side of the menu.  Divided amongst five, this meant that we often got little more than one or two bites of each dish.  Ravenous as we were, it was a little frenzied and we all tried our best not to selfishly gorge.  We agreed that one usually needs at least three decent bites before feeling like they've had a decent 'taste' of something. 
None of these whinges should put you off visiting Yulli's!  If you're not tremendously hungry or greedy or trying to blog as much of the menu as you can late on a Friday night, then there's every chance you'll have a fabulous meal.  We had a pretty darn great meal in spite of it all.  Let me show you what we ate...

A mixed chip plate! ($13.50)  These starchy veges and dipping sauces were a fun change from (but no long-term substitute for) my beloved spuds'n'tomato sauce.

These corn fritters were one of their specials, and one of the most popular around the table.

The steamed leek and ginger dumplings ($12.50) vanished almost instantly.  The spring rolls ($9.50) tasted great but their portioning was almost comical; six teeny open inch-long tubes, perhaps the equivalent of two conventional mini spring rolls.  The salt and pepper tofu ($15.50) was my savoury highlight, as much for the sour green papaya salad on the side as for the light and crunchy-batter tofu chunks.

Well, we were still hungry.  So we ordered another round...

The veganised baby burrito plate ($15.50) really hit the spot!  After all those dainty tastes, the beans felt more substantial and we did our best to share the condiments around fairly.

The massaman curry pie ($15.50) was very difficult to divide, but well worth it for the taste.  The vege chunks are coated in a thick sweet-spiced gravy, then topped with a puff pastry square and scoop of mashed potato.

We also found room for dessert - the one vegan option is a mango tapioca pudding with coconut icecream ($10.50).  Unusually, the tapioca is served as a solid mould and topped a mango sauce.  Its texture was terrific, not gluey or too dry, especially when teamed with the icecream; and one of the best vegan icecreams I've ever eaten, at that.  Even the allegedly-dessert-indifferent amongst us (Toby, Michael) could not get enough of it.

So by all means, do go to Yulli's for the food!  A separate menu listing vegan and gluten-free options is available on request.  It simply repeats the suitable dishes that are already listed on the standard menu, so I can't help thinking that a couple of footnotes on the main page would be more effective.  Similarly, we found the service eager-to-please but not altogether efficient.  It wouldn't put us off returning if we find ourselves back in Sydney.  I reckon that dessert could just about lure us back from Melbourne on its own.

Address: 417 Crown St, Surry Hills NSW
Ph: 9319 6609
Fully licensed
Price: veg sharing plates $9.50-$15.50, mains $15.50-$17.50

Monday, September 27, 2010

Devouring vegan Sydney

We recently spent a weekend in Sydney with the sole purpose of eating.  Of course the best eating usually happens with good company and we had that too, sharing our tables with a revolving cast of Melbourne- and Sydney-based vegans.  K and Toby were with us all the way and between us we've blogged the heck out of it.  Here's a run-down of where we ate:

  • We shared plates, frustrations and an elegant dessert at Yulli's


  • We stumbled and grumbled our way to Bondi for a Funky Pie brunch
  • Vegans Choice tempted us back for more sweets
  • We ordered more than we thought we'd ever need at Bodhi in the Park.  But yum cha often has that effect, right?

An Aussie Veg Guide in Aussie Veg Week

While every day is a vegetarian day here on where's the beef?, today marks the beginning of National Vegetarian Week!  And one way to take advantage of Australia's great veg eating is to get your hands on a copy of...

image from aduki website

Yes, it's here!  Following up from the enormously successful Melbourne Veg Food Guide, editor Lisa Dempster and publisher Aduki have expanded their scope and gone national with the Australian Veg Food Guide 2011.  Inside you'll find 200 reviews and listings of Australia's best vegan, vegetarian and veg-friendly restaurants.  The guide will be in stores on October 25 but you can pre-order it right now.

We've already purchased two copies and we want to give one of them away to you.  We also have another fab Aduki publication, a copy of Leigh Drew's Vegan Indulgence, to give away.

image from aduki website

To enter the draw for the Aussie Veg Food Guide, tell us in a comment below about the best dessert you've eaten out in an Aussie restaurant.

To enter the draw for Vegan Indulgence, tell us in a comment below about the best dessert you've made at home.  I will double your chance of winning if it's vegan and triple your chance if it's both vegan and soy-free.  (I can do this because I AM THE MASTER OF MY RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR and I have this thing about soy-based dairy substitutes.)

We are willing to post these prizes to any address world-wide (... that's recognised by Australia Post).

If there is not an email address clearly attached to your commenting profile, please drop us a note as you enter to identify yourself.  We want to make sure that the actual winner claims the prize.  We will not share your details with anyone and will delete them after the competition is concluded.

This competition closes at midnight on Saturday October 2.  Oh, wait!  Do we have two midnights on Saturday October 2, owing to daylight savings?  Hmmm.  I'll give you until 10am daylight savings time on Sunday October 3 and announce winners as soon as I've sorted my random number thingy out.

Happy National Vegetarian Week, y'all!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 17, 2010: Mankoushe

The Internet is a wonderful thing - even before one of Melbourne's 2 million food bloggers were on the case, the denizens of Mess and Noise were bigging up East Brunswick's newest source of amazing food: Mankoushe. When Three Thousand followed up with a rave review, we were quickly on the case.

Mankoushe churns out Lebanese treats in the style of A1 and Tabets, but with a wider range and made fresh while you watch. There are plenty of vego options on the menu (many, but not all of them cheesy), from simple zatar pizzas ($1.50) to haloumi pies ($3.50).

Once you've made up your mind, you place your order and sit back to watch - the two guys who run the place are incredibly friendly and their enthusiasm for the food they're making is infectious. They also work the machines like seasoned pros - mixing and rolling dough, slathering on toppings and paddling them in and out of the giant wood-fired oven.

We walked in just after a massive takeaway order had been placed, so we got to watch them work their magic while we waited for our dishes to arrive. Cindy ordered the spiced feta mankoush (feta, fresh tomato, capsicum, onion and a dash of lemon and chilli, $4.90), which came out well before my falafel plate.

By the time it turned up we were both starving and I had to exercise all kinds of self-restraint to limit myself to a couple of slices (even with the copious tomato inside!). The fillings were mushed into a cheesy paste, and the fresh, warm bread was faintly sweet and beautifully cooked. I could have eaten three or four of these whole.

My falafel plate (mama's falafel, fresh tomato, lettuce, pickled turnip, hummus and a tarator sauce, $7.50) took a fair while to arrive, with everything freshly prepared.

Again the bread was fresh from the oven - stuffed with chunks of the glorious falafel balls, pickle, and salad (yes, even the tomato!) and smeared with some of the hummus, this quickly moved towards the top of my list of Melbourne falafel experiences.

We couldn't leave without sampling the sweets - a piece of pistachio sprinkled pastry for just $2. Cindy somehow managed to leave me a bite of its flaky, sugary goodness.

Mankoushe was a revelation - seriously one of the best new places we've been to in ages. The food is freshly prepared, cheap and simply wonderful, the staff seem to love what they're doing and all the customers we saw on our visit walked away as satisfied as we were. It's right on our tram line and we'll undoubtedly be going back again and again. Stay tuned...

Address: 325 Lygon Street, East Brunswick
Ph: 9078 9223
Price: $1.50 - $7.50

Saturday, September 25, 2010

September 13, 2010: Edinburgh Castle

After rediscovering our pub-club mojo at The Fox, we managed to muster up a good sized group of pub enthusiasts for a trip to The Edinburgh Castle in the far reaches of Brunswick. It's a nice big pub, and has a bustling but not annoyingly full vibe on a Monday evening, meaning we had no problems finding table space for our substantial posse.

The menu is well served with veg options, vegan-adaptable items, and gluten-free possibilities (including a g-f bread that impressed our coeliac companion). I considered the sweet potato pot pie, but was eventually lured in by the Sydney Road burger, which sounded mind-blowingly good - falafel patties on Turkish bread with rocket, haloumi, tomato, pickles, hummus and minted yoghurt, with chips on the side ($15).

It didn't disappoint - the falafel patties were scrumptious, the haloumi and pickles providing salt and bite, while the rest added some much-needed moisture. If anything I'd up the sauce quotient a bit and maybe add something with a touch of spiciness to the mix, but these are minor quibbles in the face of a truly delicious burger.

Having had a pretty good shot at my chips, Cindy settled for an entree sized meal: salt and pepper tofu ($8.50). This didn't quite live up to expectations, with no sign of the puffy batter or silken centre we've enjoyed elsewhere.  It was closer to her our own recipe for tofu cubes. Still, a pub offering salt and pepper tofu at all is a small victory - hopefully they can figure out a way to make it work a bit better.

The Edinburgh Castle was a mixed performer - a crackingly good burger and a slightly disappointing tofu dish. The vego options on the menu are so substantial though, that we'll be sure to return in future to test their performance on some other dishes.

Address: 661 Sydney Road (cnr Albion), Brunswick
Ph: 9386 7580
Licensed (duh, it's a pub)
Price: Vegie food: $7 - $16 ($21 for a tasting plate)

Friday, September 24, 2010

September 12-13, 2010: Salted butter caramel icecream

Us ex-Queenslanders have been aching for a sign of spring for weeks now. Even the thought of it got me hankering for ice cream. After a few days of moaning I cleared space in the freezer for my churner and began shopping for a recipe. I figured this would be a good opportunity to pick a rich and creamy recipe before the mercury rises and all I want is something refreshing and fruit-based. David Lebovitz's salted butter caramel ice cream won the day; it's been blogged and raved about dozens of times and I'd read about it on Jumbo Empanadas, Butter Sugar Flour, Greedy Gourmand and It Pleases Us. Not only did it fit the above bill but it gave me an excuse to buy some fancy fleur de sel from Gerwurzhaus.

In the end, this recipe won the day by defeating me. It was DL's typical deal of myriad saucepans and strainers and ice baths and candy thermometers I don't have and grumble grumble curse [patient help from Michael] still cursing grumbling [all stuffed in the fridge and forgotten for a day]. I was not optimistic that I would love this quite so much as my fellow food bloggers. I suspected that I had burned my caramel (and really burnt caramel is really, really awful) and after churning and freezing as directed, it did not look as luscious as my other Lebovitz icecreams, with toffee pooling in the bottom of the dish.

My first scoop struck a convenient balance - nice enough to keep eating and not be too angry about all that kitchen cranky-making, yet sufficiently unexciting that I would never be inclined to repeat said cranky-making. Alas, as the week wore on and we ate a little more, I may have felt a wee thrill. Shit, this icecream was good. We were almost bereft when it was finished.

This means I am going to have to make this icecream again. Boo. There must be some procedural corners I can cut. I'll keep you posted if I ever figure out a low-stress (but still high-fat) version. For now, brave David Lebovitz's torturously good recipe for salted butter caramel icecream if you dare.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

September 12, 2010: Caramelised lotus root

I have eaten some tasty lotus root dishes this year but I didn't consider preparing it at home until I saw a recipe on Soupurban, with a note that the root can be found frozen in many Asian supermarkets.  A month or so later I did come across it and resolved to give that recipe a go.

I made some alterations to suit my pantry and preferences and these worked fine.  My only blunder was to get hungry and cooking before the lotus root had completely thawed - this meant prodding at the root pieces with my spatula, trying to wrench the frozen chunks apart, and then having a lot of extra water to cook off.  I hope that if I show some patience next time the lotus roots might look a little more crunchy and brown like Gem's.  Actually if I do show some patience next time, there's a good chance that Michael will take charge of the wok; he was a huge fan even of this first attempt.

Caramelised lotus root
(adapted from Soupurban, where it's credited to Kylie Kwong)

2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 large cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 generous tablespoon minced ginger
454g packet frozen sliced lotus root, thawed
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons tamari
1 large red chilli, finely sliced

Let the lotus root thaw.  Let the lotus root thaw.  Only then should you heat the oil in a wok, adding the garlic and ginger.  Stir-fry them for a minute or so, add the lotus root and stir-fry for a few more minutes.  Stir through the sugar, vinegar and tamari.  When the root pieces have a nice thick caramel coating, add the chilli and stir-fry for a final minute before serving.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 11, 2010: Veggie Kitchen

Update 31/12/2014: Rather sadly, Veggie Kitchen had a falling out with their landlords and were forced to close. We remain hopeful that they'll pop up somewhere else, but it's not looking promising.

Veggie Kitchen is a Taiwanese restaurant that opened in Northcote little more than a month ago. It established a presence on Facebook before opening and this has probably played some part in its early success - they've been reportedly turning people away on many a busy evening. To ensure ourselves a table, we made a reservation with K and Toby early on a Saturday night.  (You can read their account of this meal here.)

Veggie Kitchen is run by two sisters who are strong advocates of the healing properties of healthful vegetarian foods, with many of their dishes inspired by the principles of Chinese medicine.  They go right down to the basics, even making their own tofu, spring roll wrappers and soy milk. The menu marks items containing wheat, dairy or egg clearly and we found that the majority of dishes were free from all three.  Our host encouraged us to try the banquet (at $28 per person) and we were happy to oblige. 

The banquet begins with the lettuce delight and a sprout apple soymilk. The lettuce filling of  tofu and crispy-fried enoki mushrooms did delight us as promised and the thick, slightly sweet smoothie was pleasantly surprised this soy milk sceptic.

The entree featured a spring roll and seaweed hand roll. Alfalfa sprouts made a light, fresh substitute for sushi rice in the hand roll and the salty vegetarian ham was unexpectedly complementary. Our host also pointed out the most unusual element of the dish - a konjac jelly flavoured with soy sauce (thanks to Toby for IDing this one!).

It was then that things got serious. Out came the five elements vege pots, with far more than five ingredients apiece. The veges' flavour had plenty of space to come through the thick mild broth and a scattering of goji berry added an interesting sweetness. I loved the faux fish on top, very tender and just a little crisp on the outside.

The forbidden rice (a recipe that was initially exclusively for the Emperor) arrived soon after, topped with  faux chicken strips. Subtly sweet and not at all gluey, I would have happily scoffed the lot were it not for the next plate turning up...

This plate held (clockwise from the front) braised tofu, a crumbed faux-prawn cutlet, baked pumpkin garnished with soy sauce and a Tawainese stuffed capsicum.  The variety was almost overwhelming, with hearty baking contrasted against showy frying and light garnishes.

At last dessert rolled around and we elected to share the two options. The standard dessert is a mild tofu pudding covered in thick sweet red bean syrup.

Cake of the day was a small fruit konjac jelly square.

I've not encountered any other restaurant in Melbourne that serves food quite like the Veggie Kitchen.  Every dish had a delicacy and thoughtfulness about it - contrasts in textures and temperatures hit the right spot again and again.  There were one or two minor elements that did not appeal to me but that was entirely down to personal taste and not the quality of the meal.  The banquet price is very reasonable and the staff were utterly welcoming - I can only hope that these qualities continue to attract customers to Veggie Kitchen in the months to come.

Address: 159 St Georges Rd, Northcote
Ph: 9489 2120
Price: veg banquet $28 per person

Monday, September 20, 2010

September 10-11, 2010: Leftover makeover - chocolate & pomegranate cake and brownies

K made an awful lot of pink pomegranate icing for the Penguini Celebration Cake.  I popped the leftovers in the fridge for the best part of a week and pondered using them up.  Then Mike and Jo invited us round for dinner on Friday night and I hatched a plan - I'd bake a torta Sacher and change round the decorations, slapping pomegranate molasses in the middle, pink icing on top and a few razzcherries for decoration.  And this is indeed what we ended up with, though the process was a little harried.  I arrived home from work an hour late, Michael and I whipped together the batter in 5 minutes flat, and then we packed all the ingredients onto our bikes for baking and decorating in our hosts' home.  We were all highly satisfied with the results - a medium-light chocolate cake with sweet'n'sour pink accoutrements.

The only problem was, there was still more pink icing left over.  So on Saturday afternoon I pulled out a brownie recipe that I'd seen on In The Mood For Noodles and made a half-batch studded with the remaining razzcherries and iced with the last of the pink pomegranate fluff.

This vegan brownie recipe is an interesting one, with the egg-like binding coming from a flour-and-water glue that's stirred into the usual oil, sugar and cocoa.  Sadly the cooked brownie remains a little gluggy and, dare I say it, bland.  But it's definitely salvageable - my icing and razzcherries provided more than enough distraction and I reckon any combination of extra cocoa, choc chips, nuts and dried fruit you like would too.  It's worth a go, 'cause it's a simple and pantry-friendly recipe to file away for an overloaded-with-icing day.  You have those too, right?

Basic vegan brownies
(adapted from Pamela Cooks!, as seen on In The Mood For Noodles)

1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/8 cup cocoa
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup mix-ins (choc chips, dried fruit, nuts, etc)
1 cup buttercream-style icing (optional)

Place 1/4 cup of the flour and all of the water in a saucepan over low heat. Stir the mixture as it heats, until it becomes a smooth paste. Remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sugars, salt, vanilla, cocoa and oil. Stir in the flour-water mixture until well combined. Add the remaining flour and the baking powder, mixing thoroughly. Fold through the mix-ins.

Line a small loaf tray with greased baking paper and pour in the brownie batter, smoothing it out where possible (it will probably be thick and difficult to handle). Bake for 25-30 minutes, until it just passes the skewer test.

If you're using icing, allow the brownie to cool completely before spreading it over.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

September 11, 2010: Tofu scramble with potato spinach squares

Having briefly become the hero of the house with my Vegan Brunch shenanigans on the previous weekend, I was ready to go back for a second shot to accrue still more favour. Rather than revisit the vegan omelettes for a third time, we decided to try out a tofu scramble with pesto. Of course a potato-based side dish was mandatory, but we decided not to fry this time, instead opting for potato spinach squares.

This was just as much work as the week before, but probably ended up being a little less successful. The scramble was great, but I think if we'd chosen a drier tofu it would have taken less energy and been a bit more impressive. Still, the flavour and oiliness from the pesto added to the nicely spiced scramble to make something quite delicious. The potato spinach squares were good but not as amazing as they sound in the book - it could be that I undercooked things slightly, but the herby lemon flavours didn't really shine through the potato and spinach, and Cindy and I were both nostalgic for the crispy fried goodness of the diner home fries I'd made the week before.

Still, this got the weekend off to a cracking start - with a bit of pre-planning and some better organisation, I can see brunches becoming a regular feature at our place.

Tofu scramble (based very loosely on the recipe in Vegan Brunch)

600g silken tofu (note: use something drier than this, the silken tofu retains too much moisture which takes ages to fry off), drained as best you can
1 onion, chopped finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 heaped tablespoons pesto (we broached the vegan-ness of this brunch by using store-bought pesto with cheese in it here, but you can use anything)
black pepper

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons water

Mix together the cumin, thyme, turmeric, salt and water in a small cup. This is your spice mix to give some flavour to the scramble.

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil until the onion starts to soften, about five minutes.

Smush up the tofu and add to the pan, stirring often - the goal here is to fry off any of the remaining water in the tofu and brown it up slightly. This will take more or less time depending on how much water is in the tofu to begin with - it took us ages, but still worked out okay in the end.

Add the spice blend and the pesto and mix it through before adding in the nooch and the black pepper. Cook for another few minutes until you accompaniments are ready and serve warm.

Potato spinach squares

1.2kg kipler potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
500 grams of frozen spinach, thawed
3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
1-2 teaspoons of salt
1 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Paprika and black pepper to taste

Bring the potatoes to the boil in a large pot and then simmer for 20 minutes until they've softened to a good mashing consistency.

Pre-heat the oven to about 200 degrees.

Drain and pop them in a mixing bowl. Mash them up, adding the nooch and oil and mushing everything until it's smooth.

Drain the water out of the thawed spinach in a sieve or colander and then combine it with the mashed spuds.

Add the oregano, lemon juice and zest, salt and a generous dash of black pepper, along with 1 cup of the breadcrumbs. Mix everything thoroughly.

Lightly grease a 20 x 30 cm baking tray. Spread the potato mix in evenly and sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs and a few pinches of paprika. Spray the top with oil to help the breadcrumbs brown up deliciously.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the potato is pulling away from the side of the tray. Check that the middle is reasonably set. Cool for 10 minutes or more before serving.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September 10, 2010: Sinbad's

06/04/2013: Sinbad's has given way to Krunchy Roll. We don't know whether it's changed management or just had a makeover; it looks like there are still kebabs on offer, and other rolls too.

Cindy and I have noticed the promising-looking Sinbad's many times as we've gone past on the tram and Fitzroyalty's write-up made it clear that it was worth a trip, so when I was near the uni at lunch time we decided we should meet up and try it out.

The menu provides heaps of vegetarian options, including five different vegie combination plates for $9.50 each. These seemed the easiest ordering option, so Cindy and I picked one each (plus bread for $0.50 extra) and settled in for our food.

The first thing to note is the size - these make for a big lunch! Pictured below is my plate (Plate E: Pastizi, beans, falafel, cauliflower, eggplant and vine leaves).

This was a heaping helping of deliciousness, from the deliciously oily but strangely light bean combo to the charred cauliflower, crunchy falafel and cute little pastry, everything on the plate was a winner. If anything, the dips and falafel suffered a tiny bit in comparison to the mind-blowing offerings at Tiba's, but the cheesy pastry was comprehensively better (and this was cheaper, if smaller than the Tiba's version).

Cindy ordered plate A (5 falafel, tahini dip, pickles, lettuce, parsley and tomato).

She enjoyed the freshly cooked falafel balls and got to feel a bit healthier than me by virtue of all the salad on her plate.

We were both very satisfied with our lunches - tasty, fresh food, super friendly staff and reasonable prices make this a winning lunch option right near the campus. Compared to many of the cheap places in the neighbourhood, Sinbad's particularly excels in the vegetarian department, with oodles of delicious choices on offer.

Address: 740 Swanston Street, Carlton
Ph: 0405 619 615
Price: $5 - $9.50

Friday, September 17, 2010

September 9, 2010: Naked for Satan

Naked For Satan has unsurprisingly attracted quite a bit of attention via blogs and tweets in the few weeks it's been open - that's what shiny new bars in trendy ol' Fitzroy do.  Though reviews have been very complimentary I must admit that I wasn't yearning to go myself; I'm not much of a drinker, nor one for sophisticated frocks or late nights out.  But our friend L invited us to join a group there on a Thursday night and I was happy to check it out in their company.

On entering I deduced that this bar is on the former premises of Filter cafe, though it's been dramatically renovated and offers much more space for patrons.  Yes, it's hip and a little pretentious, but seemingly not at the expense of comfort or intimacy - there are split levels and nooks, padded couches, generous round tables and high bar stools in various locations, as well as a bit of space to move and breathe (... at least at 8pm on a Thursday night.  There seems every chance that this could turn into standing room late on a Saturday).

While I don't imbibe regularly I am partial to the occasional cocktail and, with Naked for Satan touting a range of infused vodkas, the cocktail menu was right up my alley.  This mojito-inspired drink contained violet-infused vodka rather than white rum, lending a nice twist without being too floral or soapy.  I happily nursed this all evening but if you're of a stronger constitution than I, you might even try the vodkas straight.  I hear that the chocolate one is rather special.

Of course, a bar's not going to win my love unless its snacks are any good; and boy, NFS's snacks are good!  I'd read the premise - you can serve yourself pintxos from the bar at $2 a pop, saving the toothpick inserted in each one and settling the bill as you leave.  Claire even mentioned that there were some vegetarian options.  Actually, there are a lot of vegetarian options - roughly half the menu on the night we visited was helpfully labelled with a little V.  (Do check for the Vs, though, as there are some veg-looking things with fish or pate or the like going on.)

I can't vouch for their vegan-friendliness; most of the pintxos begin with a thick spread and many (though not quite all) of them would be cheese-based.  Then they're crowned with all sorts of goodies.  My favourites on our first plate were the Spanish tortilla and the sweet crumbed eggplant, on the second plate I was particularly impressed with the pea dip under the tomato and roasted pine nuts, and was always going to love the blue cheese, quince paste and walnut option.

There are even a couple of dessert pintxos, though these didn't charm me quite so much as the savouries - a chocolate custard-filled cannoli and an armagnac-soaked prune.

Naked for Satan held far more appeal than I had anticipated.  Though you're still unlikely to see me whooping it up there on a Saturday night, I'll happily return at a less party-like hour for more for their unique and affordable snacks.  And, if I'm feeling really crazy, maybe another vodka.

You can read other accounts of Naked for Satan on ihavebonywrists, Melbourne Gastronome, Tummy Crumble and Food Fable.

Address: 285 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Ph: 9416 2238
Fully licensed
Price: veg pintxos $2 apiece

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 7, 2010: Yong Green Food IV

Yong has been on K's hit list as a place to visit while she temporarily returns to eating gluten, so we shared an early dinner there before heading to the Fox Hotel for Cherchez la Femme

K was keen to try the mung bean pancake ($10.50).  Though it's a little plain-looking it's not boring to eat, very much like the kimchi pancake Michael ordered here previously.

I was most curious to try the tofu pocket platter ($7.50) and it's now probably my favourite Yong dish!  The tofu-skin pocket is stuffed with rice and topped with a generous mound of 'tuna' dressed in mayonnaise.  It's moist and salty with just the right amount of chew; even the raw red onion in the tuna salad didn't bother me. 

K and I also shared the Korean BBQ ($13.50, pictured up top), although we didn't have the appetite to get far through it.  The sliced 'beef' was very tender, the sauce had a chilli kick, and the brown rice and green leaves on the side prevent it all from feeling too junky.

Every visit to Yong has been a pleasure.  The staff are lovely and the menu is surprisingly varied.  I'm enjoying working my way through their dishes - not all of them suit my tastes, but there's far more good than bad.

You can also read about our previous visits to Yong Green food: one, two and three.