Thursday, October 31, 2013

Iku Yakitori

Update 31/12/2014: Iku had a bit of a makeover this year and has been rebranded as Shinwa Izakaya

October 25, 2013

Iku's been quietly doing its thing on Sydney Rd for as long as we've been visiting Brunswick. We stopped by for some dumplings while moving house, noticed their Yasai (vegetarian) Banquet ($30pp) and liked those dumplings enough for a revisit.

Other special dietary requirements aren't clearly catered to, but we'd guess that most of this meal was vegan (okonimyaki mayo and ice cream excepted) and that coeliacs might fall afoul of all the soy sauce.

Iku starts everyone off with complimentary edamame - sadly these ones were over-boiled.

I was much more impressed with the miso soup, rich and savoury with spring onion, a little seaweed and a few tofu cubes. I find seaweed salads tough to handle, so I picked at the fresh salad leaves and left the jelly-ish threads to Michael.

Pan-fried tofu arrived in a puddle of soy sauce and chilli powder, garnished with some very intense pickled ginger.

The okonomiyaki was thick and just barely cooked through, almost like mashed potato in the middle, but still sturdy enough for mopping up stray mayonnaise and okonomi sauce.

Teriyaki tofu was submerged in a watery pool of sweet sauce, and accompanied by more salad greens and pickled ginger.

The dumplings had a mystery green mush for filling, but it'd take a lot more than that to ruin potstickers.

The vegetarian sushi would have been plain standing alone, but were a refreshing follow-up to the dumplings. I really liked the sweet-skinned inari stuffed with vinegary rice.

The mushroom and eggplant yakitori skewers were also winners, nicely basted with smoky grill marks.

The meal finished with supermarket-standard icecream.

Our Iku experience was enjoyable but flawed. The staff were very friendly but missed a few marks (no water glasses, not enough chopsticks). Most of the food was great, particularly the yakitori, but it seemed to lack the care and attention to detail that I've encountered at many other Japanese restaurants. Melbourne has some awesome mid-price banquets, and I'm not convinced that this one quite measures up. Nevertheless, I'm happy to have Iku in my neighbourhood, and would pick out my favourites of these dishes for a more modest meal.


Iku's vegan options have been enjoyed for the most part by In The Mood For Noodles and easy as vegan pie.

Elsewhere online, Iku has been positively reviewed on Dinner Date Melbourne and things i see, think & eat, and with some ambivalence on My Pharmacophore, Foolish For Food and Nurikko Visits.


Iku Yakitori
139 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
9380 4027
veg banquet $30pp

Accessibility: Iku has a ramp, a wide entry and clear corridor through the middle. There's a few standard-height tables at the front but most are low to the ground, with cushions for kneeling and extra leg space below (see top photo). We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Good Freakin Food

October 16, 23 & 29, 2013

My work buddies and I have been in mourning for Hello Aubergine since she packed up and moved out of Melbourne. Despite all the treats available on Gertrude Street, there was something lovely about having a steady stream of varied, healthy and delicious lunches delivered to the office each week. We’ve been missing it.

Thankfully, we’re finally moving on. Good Freakin Food have taken up where Hello Aubergine left off (minus the bike-based delivery system). They provide a vegan and gluten-free lunch each week, delivered anywhere in inner-city Melbourne. We get our deliveries on Tuesdays (Fitzroy, Abbotsford, Collingwood, Carlton, North Melbourne, West Melbourne and Brunswick) and there’s a follow-up round on Wednesdays (Richmond, South Melbourne, Port Melbourne, CBD, East Melbourne). You need at least three orders to get them to swing by and I would really, really encourage you to start recruiting your office mates. This is some fantastic food.

Lunches are basically salad-based, with three components - a veggie-based mix, something grainy and some sort of treat on top. The first week we scored a Middle Eastern rice and quinoa salad with currants, almonds and herbs, topped with a salad of spinach leaves, grated carrot and beetroot, pepitas and capped off with quinoa crumbed eggplant chips and a homemade pesto dressing. Seriously amazing.

The second week (pictured top) was based around a broccoli and pumpkin fritter, with a zucchini and sweet potato salad and a rice, carrot, currant and herb base, plus three delightfully fresh asparagus spears draped across the top. It didn’t quite hit the heights of the eggplant, but it was another burst of freshness to help kickstart the working afternoon.

Just to make sure I didn't mislead our readers, I snuck in a third lunch. The non-salad centrepiece this time was a pea and carrot arancini block, with a brilliantly crispy coating. The first salad was a simple mix of greens and cabbage with pumpkin seeds, raisins and goji berries. It mixed nicely with the second: a cold noodle salad with beetroot, carrot, zucchini, chickpeas, sunflower seeds and a sesame dressing. A few colleagues wanted a bit more punch in the dressing, but I liked the mild, fresh flavours (nothing has quite matched the basil dressing though).

The salad boxes are $12 and are more than enough food to get you through until dinner, but you can supplement your order with organic coconut and cacao sweet treats ($3) or a fresh cold pressed mixed juice ($7). If you want the full set you can order the lunchbox at a slightly discounted price of $20.

We’ve managed to grow our weekly lunch gang from 4 to 9 in just three weeks as people peer across desk dividers or overhear our rave reviews in the lunchroom – and it’s been satisfying vegos and non-vegos alike in my office. So like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter or keep an eye on their webpage – orders go in on Monday and then you just sit back and wait for the deliciousness to arrive. Enjoy!

Good Freakin Food
delivering to the inner city
orders to
veg lunches $12
facebook page

Accessibility: delivered to your door!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chipotle mac'n'cheese
with roasted Brussels sprouts

October 22, 2013

The one good thing about Melbourne's perpetual winter has been the chance to dip into a last few hearty recipes while the weather suits. Cindy's been stockpiling vegan mac 'n' cheese recipes for a while now, so we took advantage of a particularly dreary 'spring' day and took one of Isa Chandra's for a test drive.

It combines some unbeatable flavours: the creaminess of a good cashew/nooch sauce, the smoky bite of chipotle and adobo sauce, and the slight bitterness of roasted sprouts. If you're not keen on chilli you might want to go with two or three chipotles rather than four (even seeded), but otherwise I wouldn't change a thing about this. And the best part? The whole process takes barely half an hour - perfect for when you just want to stuff your face with delicious carbs and flop on the couch catching up on Parks and Rec.

Chipotle mac'n'cheese with roasted Brussels sprouts
(based on a recipe from Post Punk Kitchen)

500g Brussels sprouts, quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

250g macaroni

1 cup raw cashews
4 chipotles, seeded, plus a teaspoon of the adobo sauce they come in
1 cup Massel chicken-style stock
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons white miso

Soak the cashews in water for a couple of hours to soften them up.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and put a big pot of water on to boil.

Lay the sprouts out on a baking dish, drizzle with the oil and sprinkle over the salt and pepper. Pop them in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: drain the cashews and blend them up as fine as you can. Add in the garlic, chipotles and adobo sauce, nutritional yeast, miso and stock, and blend some more - you should wind up with a nice smooth sauce.

Pop the pasta on to cook as per the instructions - ours took about 10 minutes. You should be able to time it so that the pasta is finished at the same time as the sprouts.

Drain the pasta and put it back in the big pot. Pour over the sauce, dump in the sprouts and stir everything together over a medium heat. Give the sauce a few minutes to thicken up a bit and serve.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Maple miso tofu with beetroot & avocado salad

October 20, 2013

We made this meal on one of the few nights this Spring that it was too hot to use the oven (...remember those one or two nights, a distant, drizzly week ago?). I decided it was time to commence salad season, planned future sushi dinners on our new balcony, and looked up outdoor cinema programs. This meal felt like an auspicious start.

We used a maple miso tofu recipe that I'd seen on Oh My Veggies; there it's credited to The Hot Plate. Slathered in a sweet and salty sauce and finished with sesame, it has the look of baked tofu but gets sufficient searing from just the grill.

The tofu was really just support for a whopping salad. This one was a typical Ottolenghi number, with lots of ingredients and a bit of commitment required. The most effort goes into double-podding broad beans with a blanch in between, and more blanching for beetroots. They make a filling foundation for avocado, herbs, sprouts and a hot-and-sour dressing.

We've noticed that avocados are just brilliant around here at the moment, and if you can pick the right one I reckon you'd get away with omitting the (lovely, but so briefly available) broad beans altogether.

While the weather's not exactly playing along, this dinner stoked my enthusiasm for salads. We've been eating avocados every other day, and I'm trying to think a bit beyond my typical handful-of-spinach-and-half-a-carrot side.

Maple miso tofu
(slightly adapted from The Hot Plate,
found via Oh My Veggies)

375g block firm tofu
1/4 cup white miso
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup tamari
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
generous squirt sriracha
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat the grill section of an oven and line a baking tray with paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the miso, maple syrup, tamari, rice wine vinegar and sriracha. (I went for all of them at one, which turned out a bit lumpy, so I might just start with miso and maple syrup and work up from there next time.)

Slice the tofu into 1cm-thick slabs and arrange them on the baking tray. Spoon over a thick layer of the marinade and grill the tofu until the sauce is thick and bubbly, about 8 minutes. Turn the tofu over and repeat, then a third time. Transfer the tofu to a serving plate, drizzle over the sesame oil and sprinkle over the sesame seeds.

Beetroot & avocado salad
(slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi)

900g broad beans in pods
4 medium beetroots
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon castor sugar
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 medium avocados, peeled and sliced
10g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
10g mint leaves, roughly chopped
20g snow pea sprouts, roughly chopped

Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Remove the broad beans from their pods. Blanche the broad beans in the boiling pot of water for 4 minutes, then drain them and refresh with cold water. When they're cool enough to handle, remove their skins. Set the broad beans aside in a bowl.

Set the pot of water back onto the stove to boil. Peel the beetroots and slice them into 2mm-thick rounds. Add them to the boiling water and simmer them for 3-5 minutes, until cooked but still crunchy. Drain the beetroot slices and place them in a large bowl.

Add the vinegar, olive oil, sugar, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper to the beetroot and toss everything together. Allow them to sit and soak for 10-15 minutes (this is when I made the tofu).

When the beetroot is ready, arrange the salad on a platter. Begin with half the beetroot, then layer up half the avocado, half the coriander and mint plus half the sprouts. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Green Refectory II

October 20, 2013

Since we've moved into Brunswick we've been talking big about hitting up its many cafes. Sure, we've made trips to Code Black and Maddox, but far more often we've found ourselves lured back into Wide Open Road for another go 'round. This weekend Cindy put a stop to things, making me pick somewhere else for our pre-shopping lunch. I decided (partly out of laziness) that we should finally revisit Green Refectory. It's been a Brunswick stalwart for about a decade, serving up some of the cheapest brekkies in town. Our last blogged visit was way back in 2008 but things haven't really changed much - it's still busy, cheap and hip with a cabinet loaded with an impressive array of sweets, salads and muffins.

It also still has incredibly frustrating counter service - there's no menus to hand out, so everyone mills around the counter trying to peer at the blackboards and decide what they want. It's right by the front door so there's a perpetual bottleneck of people leaving, entering, browsing, ordering and paying. I'm kind of surprised they haven't come up with a better system in ten years. Still, it keeps the prices low - we're talking $7 for baked beans on toast with a side of mushrooms, $8 French toast, and $10 baked eggs.

Their muffins are justifiably famous - massive, cheap and hugely varied. Cindy ordered a pumpkin, feta and pine-nut muffin ($3, hilariously, the same thing she ordered five years ago and somehow 50 cents cheaper!), figuring it would be a good lunch and would leave enough room for a potential dessert order.

It was rich with eggs and cheese, almost a floury frittata. If you turn up late in the day you can get one of these bad boys for $2 (presuming there's any left) - possibly the best value-for-money snack in town.

I ordered the vegan special, scrambled tofu with mountain bread and pickled veggies ($10).

The scrambled tofu was exceptional - even better than the version I enjoyed recently at Cafe Azul. The tofu was shredded and fried up with caramelised onion, shallots and a great spice mix, featuring at least turmeric and cumin. I wasn't entirely sure about the accompaniments - I'd have been just as happy with a couple of slices of toast. Still, the olives and pickled cabbage bits provided a bit of contrast.

Cindy's plan paid off - she had enough room to sample something from the cake cabinet. Look at all those options!

She chose a slice of the Mars Bar cheesecake ($4.95).

The picture doesn't quite capture the sheer magnitude of this piece of cake. It was actually kind of ridiculous. Still, the two of us pushed on and somehow forced our way through - a heroic effort I'm sure you'll agree. 

Green Refectory is like a little time capsule of Brunswick in 2006 - no cold drip, single origin coffees, no complicated $20 brunch dishes and no chia seeds or quinoa - just simple, cheap food served up by slightly distracted hipsters in a crowded environment. It's not somewhere you'd linger over a long lunch, but in value for money terms, it's hard to beat it.


Since our earlier blog post only Nouveau Potato have reviewed Green from a vego point of view.

There are plenty of other reviews though - melbourne's guinea pig, I talk too much my mouth hurts, Dammit Janet I Love Food, Doughnut forget about me, Plent(y)full (twice), The Owl's Nest, amy kath, Dozka, Diary of Yenn, Miss Muesli, heartshapesandcrosses,Yosie's Journey of Food, My Secret Garden, Eesh, juganaut's foodie thoughts, Ichigo Shortcake, EAT AND BE MERRY FOR TOMORROW WE DIE(T), my diet starts tomorrow, Melbourne Din(n)ing Blog, Let's Get Fat Together, Little Bits, Skinny Glutton, A Miniature Take on Food, Gastronomeal, CHOMP and SLURP, Dave Plus Food, The World Loves Melbourne, Clare's cafe chronicles, days are like scrolls, melbourne cafes photo blog, MEL: HOT OR NOT, Melbourne Coffee Review, odd sundays, Breakfasty Goodness, Words and Flavours, in da food, Rumbly in my Tumbly (twice), kat chew(s) and chomp(s), Travel Foodprints and Cheap Food Slut were all impressed. 

A few people have been disappointed by either the food or the service - see Sweet and Sour Fork, Judging Your Breakfast, Yellow Eggs, new international students, I'm so hungree and Dresses and Snacks for more negative experiences.

Green Refectory
115 Sydney Road, Brunswick
9387 1150
veggie breakfasts $6.50 - $10, muffins $3

Accessibility: Green Refectory has a strange little ramp-step on entry, but the doorway is always jammed with people and there's very little space between the counter and the tables. You order and pay at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

where's the beef? now on facebook

We digest our blog subscriptions via RSS, but it's clear that other blog readers have other preferences. We've been tweeting out notifications for several years, hooked up an email button a little later, and Blogger offers its own system of following too. Now we've decided to add a facebook page to the set.

It'll primarily just be links to our new posts, with the odd shared post from the veg-friendly blogs and businesses that we like. If you've already got your where's the beef? routine down, there's probably no reason to disturb it. But if you'd like to see us in your friend feed, head on over give us a like.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sniggers bars

October 19, 2013

We are blessed with some talented and generous friends. Clamps and Bec are handy with sewing machines and bags of gluten flour (though I've not seen them combine the two): we visited them last weekend to learn shirt sewing and eat spectacular seitan sliders. Then on Sunday morning, while we were still bleary from side-seams that stretched past midnight, our mate Troy dropped round to assess our hot water system and trek out to the hardware shop.

I shared this slice around as a gesture of appreciation. I'd seen it on Eat This! just a day or two earlier and still hadn't shaken the memory of Monk Bodhi Dharma's divine deconstruction of the Snickers bar. Jade's recipe is another mostly-raw ode to that caramel-peanut chocolate, though it sticks closer to the original formation. I made a few convenience substitutions - using up almond meal instead of whole almonds, dried dates in a little water instead of fresh, date syrup instead of rice malt syrup, not to mention crappy peanut butter and not-raw cocoa - and don't think I compromised the flavour at all.

The preparation wasn't quite so smooth, though. The drier dates and flax seeds in the base weren't inclined to grind, while the almond meal had a head start compared to whole almonds. I'd suggest that it might even be worth grinding the flax into a vegan-egg state to assist with binding this base. Mine was a royal pain to press into the tin, and I transferred a whole lot of not-raw spray oil into it via the back of a lubricated spoon. I also didn't pay my coconut oil the respect it deserved - it threatened to split both my caramel and chocolate layers, though they mostly held it together. I think Jade's bars might have a few little white streaks on top, so maybe I didn't go too far wrong.

I don't ride the raw wagon, but these Sniggers Bars hold their own. They're fudgy and sweet, with a bit of depth thanks to the tahini, cocoa and dates. They're best eaten straight from the freezer and don't lose any flavour in the cold.

Sniggers bars
(slightly adapted from a recipe on Eat This!)

1 1/4 cups almond meal (whole almonds are preferable)
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup dried dates, soaked in water
1/2 cup peanuts, roasted

1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/2 cup date, maple or rice malt syrup
big pinch salt

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/4 cup maple or rice malt syrup
1/4 cup cocoa

Line a small square baking tray with paper.

In a food processor, blend together the almonds, flax seeds, dates and 2 tablespoons of the soaking liquid. (Next time, I might try grinding the flax seeds first, adding 1 tablespoon of water, then adding the dates and whole almonds to this paste.) Press the mixture into the base of the baking tray. I found this tough! I broke the mix into small pieces with a fork, scattered them across the base and then gradually pressed them flat using the back of a spoon, regularly sprayed with oil. Sprinkle the peanuts across the base and press them in a little to secure them.

Make sure the coconut oil is cool before proceeding with the caramel. Clean out out food processor, then use it to blend together all of the caramel ingredients. I stopped the second I saw a little white coconut oil separating from the rest. Spread the caramel over the peanut base and smooth it over.

Again, make sure that the coconut oil for the chocolate is at room temperature before proceeding. Then it's just a matter of whisking together the three ingredients until smooth. Pour the chocolate over the caramel, gently smoothing it out to the edges. Cover the slice and store it in the freezer; retrieve it and slice it into bars just as you're ready to serve it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


09/02/2014: Overdosa no longer operate from this warehouse but can still be spotted around town. Visit their facebook page for updates.

October 19, 2013

Our Saturday lunch plan involved a trip to Storm in a Teacup to finally sample their brunch menu. Sadly for them we wandered past an Indian takeaway place wafting garlicky aromas on the way to the tram stop and promptly changed course for Overdosa, the newish pop-up dosa place in Fitzroy. Story SiaT! We'll get there, promise.

Overdosa is an all-vegan, all-gluten-free pop-up that has taken over a corner of a vintage bikestore in the back streets of Fitzroy. I know that sounds like a setup to some sort of Melbourne hipster joke, but it's just the truth I'm afraid. It's all very informal - a little stall in the corner with a dosa pan, a deep-fryer and an esky full of drinks. They do takeaway or eat-in, with the eat-in options limited to some very stylish but quite low seat/table combos.

The menu is simple: pick one of three dosas (potato masala, tamarind pumpkin or smoky eggplant and peas, $9 each) and decide whether or not you want a $5 serve of lentil-based poppers (hint: you do, trust me).

The poppers come straight from the deep-frier to you and are incredibly delicious - we paired them with a mint chutney and gobbled them down in seconds. 

The dosas are excellent as well - crispy-fried and pretty well stuffed with fillings. You get your choice of chutney on the side (coconut, chilli, coriander and mint or curd and dill). Be warned: the chilli is quite hot, so it helps if your co-eater has ordered the coconut and you can steal some to make use of its cooling properties. 

Overdosa is an excellent addition to Fitzroy's eating options - they're not going to be around for long (probably December), so make sure you swing by one weekend and try them out.


We got the heads-up about Overdosa from Brian at Fitzroyalty. They've also been very positively reviewed by The Northsider.

50 Rose Street, Fitzroy (Sat and Sun only, 11am-sundown)
dosas $9, poppers $5

Accessibility: Overdosa is tucked inside a vintage bike shop, so there's a flat entryway. The interior was very spacious, with lots of low and slightly awkward chairs. You order and pay at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monk Bodhi Dharma V

October 18, 2013

On Friday night we headed south to revisit Monk Bodhi Dharma for dinner with some vegan friends. (Perhaps you've already seen the meal, posted with such speed on quinces and kale!) We previously knew this restaurant's Friday night dinners to be entirely raw, but they're now shuffling the sub-40°C fare with a few very-much-cooked dishes. Their consideration of special diets remains commendable, with vegan and gluten-free options not only clearly marked but positively dominating the menu.

We started out sharing a generous bowl of roasted and spiced sweet potato cubes ($10), a fine way to sully the silky raw pesto mayonnaise.

For my main meal I dipped into the uncooked end of the menu and ordered the Living Falafel plate ($20). The dehydrated carrot and almond falafel bore an impressive and tasty resemblance to the baked kind, and they were backed up with a refreshing tabouleh and diverse array of dips - beetroot and walnut, cashew zucchini hummus, olive sundried tapenade, tahini sauce and chilli oil. I didn't warm to the lavosh crackers, but they did their part getting those dips to my lips.

Michael had a hearty Bodhi Moussaka ($24), a dish layered with sweet roasted potato, eggplant, zucchini, brown lentils and tomato in cashew bechamel, topped with vegan cheese and a raw tzatziki, with a little salad on the side. This is pretty much his ideal winter meal.

The showstopper was without doubt dessert. The unforgettable raw Snickers of our previous visit has been upcycled as Monk's "Snickers" 2 ($16.50), a gorgeous glass of molten peanut caramel and chocolate sauce swirling around vanilla and chocolate ice-creams, with contrasting crunchy moments from biscuit crumbs and peanuts.

Monk's Friday night menu doesn't quite match the vegan banquet brilliance of, say, East Elevation or Shu, but its raw desserts are unrivalled. We can't wait to see what these folks have in store for their upcoming Abbotsford venture.


You can read about this very meal on quinces and kale.

We've previously blogged about Monk Bodhi Dharma one, two, three, four times. Since our last visit for brunch, MBD's received more positive reviews for brunch (EATABLE, I Spy Plum Pie), the Friday dinners (The Yummy Blog,) and its annual peace dinner (Clean Eats Melbourne).

Monk Bodhi Dharma
rear of 202 Carlisle St, Balaclava
9534 7250
veg entrees $10-12, mains $20-24, desserts $12.50-16.50

Accessibility: MBD has a narrow entry with a small step and very cramped interior; most seats are small heavy backless stools.We ordered at the table and paid at a medium-low counter. We hear that the toilets are located outside and around the corner and sound difficult to access, particularly at night.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Grub Food Van

Gertrude St Grub

October 15, 2013

I've fallen into a bit of a lunch rut lately. A delicious Sonido-based rut sure, but a rut nonetheless. So with a quiet day at work and no packed lunch in my bag, I branched out and finally visited Grub Food Van. I've been intrigued by it for ages - it seemed like a kind of hipster vortex: stationary food van, ping pong table, Fitzroy back-street - all the boxes are checked.

As pretentious as that might sound, there's something really wonderful about the setting. You wander in past a very stylish old van (closed on the day I visited) into a glorious covered greenhouse area. There's a ping pong table, plants everywhere, mismatched tables and bright colours. It's stunning.

I nestled in amongst it all and perused the menu. There's a reasonable smattering of veggie options: porridge with dates, coconut, banana, brown sugar and butter ($12), mushroom and prune ragout with parmesan polenta cake ($15), cannelini, butter beans and chickpeas in tomato sauce ($12), a veggie tasting plate ($16), mushroom burger ($10) and a vegetable tagine ($17). Vegans will probably struggle (although the tagine might be okay).

I ordered the avocado, chilli and lime parfait with tomato salsa, manchego and housemade seeded tortilla ($14).

This was just okay - the avocado was a super smooth paste with just a hint of lime and chilli. The fresh salsa was excellent, but the tortillas didn't really rock my world. They were crispy and a bit dry, which made them easy to eat, but if you're going to make your own tortillas, you shouldn't hide their freshness like this.

I headed back for a cheeky pre-work breakfast on a glorious morning and the sun-filled greenhouse was just as lovely. This time I ordered the vegetarian board (boiled egg, cheddar, marinated veggies, avocado, salsa and relish, $16).

This was more successful - the cheddar was the key ingredient, sharp and crumbly and combining perfectly with each of the other ingredients.

I'm a Grub convert - the food hasn't blown my mind, but it's fresh and tasty and served in such a lovely space. The staff are friendly and the coffee's decent - definitely somewhere to seek out when Melbourne turns on some decent weather.

Everyone loves Grub - there are completely positive write-ups at Suchgoodlife, Howie's Melbourne Food Blog, MEL: HOT OR NOT, Miss Jessica Louise, urban kaleidoscope,where food is, i am, Decorating Mumma, Cope's Curiosities, Popcorn & Toast, Sharking for chips and drinks and dear melbourne, while Temasek and Gourmet Chick feel more like me - the setting is incredible, but the food isn't world-beating.

Grub Food Van
87-89 Moor Street, Fitzroy
9419 8991
veg dishes $7-$17

Accessibility: There's a couple of steps down from the street to the food van area, and things are a little crowded between the driveway and the greenhouse. You order at the table and pay at a low register - I didn't visit the loos.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bopha Devi

October 8, 2013

We recently visited the Moody Noodles to meet their newest member, then stuck around west side for dinner. Cambodian restaurant Bopha Devi has a long-established reputation both in Yarraville and in Docklands, and we knew from K and Carla that they offer decent veg options. Indeed, many mains on their menu included a tofu option and a V, and there were plenty of GFs scattered throughout too.

We started with the gleegan-friendly garlic chive rice cakes ($10.90), crispily crusted with a soft rice-dough middle and green garlicky centre. Though it looked as innocent as ketchup, the accompanying sauce had some chilli heat and I spread it sparingly.

We shared a small Char Trop ($16.90) - smoky, slippery eggplant with tofu strips and steamed rice.

The Char Kroeung ($17.90 for small) gave us mixed signals on the menu, listed with a V and a mention of fish sauce. Our waiter assured us that we could eat it fish free so we gave it a go, picking through stir-fried noodles with tofu, capsicum, onions and bean shoots with a scoop of crushed nuts. It's said to be flavoured with lime leaves, lemongrass, turmeric and fresh mint, but it turned out a little tame for all that.

I pushed for dessert and found that their serving of Cambodian Classic Coconut Palm Cake ($10.90) was more than enough to share. The warm cakes were spongy and faintly palm-perfumed, and might have been a bit dry if not for the icecream on the side.

Bopha Devi is clearly a neighbourhood favourite - the tables were on high rotation during our visit, and many more customers loitered on the footpath awaiting their takeaway orders. The staff were friendly, informative and generally efficient in the face of this high demand. We didn't feel at all rushed - if anything they seemed pleased that we wanted to stick around and sample one of their traditional desserts. Most of all, it's great that they cater to special dietary requirements with such breadth and understanding.


Bopha Devi has been roundly enjoyed by bloggers, with posts spanning seven years! Read more on easy as vegan pie, The Urban Ma, Foodscrazy, lyttel fish big pond, EAT AND BE MERRY, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE(T), FoodStuffMelb, the melburnian and Richard's Restaurant Reviews.

Bopha Devi 
27 Ballarat St, Yarraville (also at Docklands)
9362 0941
veg dishes $8.90-20.90

Accessibility: I think there was a step up on entry. The interior is very crowded, though there is a clear corridor through the centre of the restaurant. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. The toilet is unisex and narrow.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cafe Azul

October 6, 2013

Cindy and I spent Sunday morning grabbing a few bits and pieces for our new place on what was hopefully our final IKEA trip. We were buggered afterwards and our initial plan of lunch at Touchwood was torpedoed by a half hour long wait for a table. Luckily, I remembered that Cafe Azul was nearby and had a good rep for vego brekkies (thanks to a long ago recommendation from Joanne).

We nabbed a table in the front room (they have a courtyard as well) and perused the menu. It's very veg friendly, with some fairly standard eggy dishes, quesadilla rancheros, a veganisable burger and some salads. The drinks menu has a bit of variety as well - the wattleseed latte ($4.50) had Cindy immediately intrigued.

Cindy found the wattleseed latte an excellent non-coffee option, with enough spiciness and bitterness to be interesting. The coffee itself was fine without really knocking my socks off.

Food-wise, I was all about the tofu scramble with Spanish onion, capsicum, herbs, baby spinach and organic quinoa and soy toast ($16.90).

I was very impressed by this - the tofu was well seasoned, with turmeric and cumin providing a nice rich warmth. There were plenty of veggies as well, although the big glob of spinach was a bit much on its own and could have been combined with everything else a bit better. Still: a good scrambled tofu is a rare treat around Melbourne, and this was a very good one indeed. 

Cindy had to order something sweet to go with her hot drink and her options were pretty limited. The ricotta hotcakes with salted caramel, pear, citrus chantilly cream and candied walnuts ($17) from the specials list were the only realistic option.

Everything was well prepared, but the whole dish was a bit heavy on the sugar - the cream was sweetened, the walnuts candied and the salted caramel super sweet. It all got a bit much by the end. A version of this that had plain roasted walnuts and regular thickened cream might have offered more contrast. 

Cafe Azul is a reasonable option for veg*ns wandering Bridge Road - the staff were very clear about vegan vs vegetarian dishes (my scramble was vegan, but I think they'll butter your toast if you'd rather), the cabinet has vegan pies and a smattering of vegan sweets and the food is solid. The staff were pleasant and there was a quietly friendly atmosphere to the whole place. It's definitely worth a visit if you're in the area, but probably not somewhere you'd head across town for.


Pigging out around the world and Melbourne Din(n)ing Blog were pretty positive about Cafe Azul, while Bitch, I Like It Hot! was a bit more ambivalent.

Cafe Azul
346 Bridge Road, Richmond
9421 5959
veggie breakfast: $6 - $18.50
facebook page

Accessibility: There's at most a small step on entry. Thing are pretty cramped, with most of the front room filled with tables. You order and pay at a medium high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.