Monday, June 29, 2015

Smith & Deli II

June 23, 25 & 26, 2015

After the excitement of Smith & Deli's launch, Cindy and I decamped to the Sunshine Coast for a week, missing the madness of the Deli's first week of proper trading. On our return, I got busy making up for lost time.

My first visit on Tuesday morning was intended as a quick stop to grab a sandwich for lunch. On discovering that the sandwiches aren't an option first thing in the morning I decided I'd have to come back later in the day. Still, no point walking out empty-handed. I grabbed a soy flat white and an Egg McMartinez ($7) to tide me over.

The coffee (by Wide Open Road) was excellent, but the Egg McMartinez was the real star - a deliciously eggy muffin sandwich with a slice of melty cheese and some crispyish bacon. It's a snack rather than a meal, but an incredibly delicious one.

I was back at lunchtime, in the rather long sandwich queue. I'd been hanging for a Godfather (hot chilli salami, pepperonci, mozzarella, roasted peppers and fresh basil, $13).

Is this the best vegan sandwich in Melbourne? The Reuben at True North is a contender, and there are another dozen or so to sample at Smith & Deli, but it's hard to see anything topping this - it doesn't hold back on the spice levels, has a pretty convincingly melty cheese undertone and has bursts of basil to accompany the thick salami chunks. Incredible.

I couldn't walk out without some lunch-dessert, adding a maple-bacon doughnut for afters (I've forgotten the price - maybe $5).

The crispy, salty coconut flakes took a good doughnut and made it great. Vegans now have a challenger in the fancy doughnut trend sweeping Melbourne.

Amazingly, I somehow found myself without a packed lunch just a couple of days later and in need of another visit to the deli. This time I started with the Temple of Doom (turkey, jalapenos, roasted corn, pickled cabbage, cheese and chipotle aioli, $13).

This was a bit of a messier eat than the Godfather, but was similarly great - the combinations on the S & D sangas have clearly had plenty of thought put into them - in this case the pickled cabbage, jalapenos and aioli worked some pretty great flavour magic around the turkey and cheese slices.

I almost ordered another doughnut for dessert, but branched out to sample a challah sticky bun ($7), a rich bun, gooey with some sort of caramel glaze.

After such a successful run of daytime dining, we finished the week sampling some of the pre-prepared meals for sale in the fridges at Smith & Deli, splitting a pepperoni pizza ($17) and a small serve of mapo tofu ($10).

The pepperoni pizza was a simple affair - an excellent thin base, topped with tomato sauce, a few big chunks of salami (possibly the same product that featured on the Godfather sandwich), some mozzarella rectangles and fresh basil leaves. It's a classy step up from the vegan pizzas we recently had delivered from Eat Pizza. In general, pizzas suffer from a vegan premium price-wise, and $17 is a bit of a stretch for this, but mock meats and cheeses don't come cheap.

The mapo tofu was gratifyingly similar to the version that I love making, right down to the over-enthusiasm with the chilli, which left Cindy gasping. I can well imagine grabbing a serve of this next time's Cindy's out of town and I'm too lazy to cook - it's really excellent.

The Melbourne veg*n community is losing their collective mind about Smith & Deli and with good reason. It's serving up a stunning array of vegan food, from pastries, sweets and sandwiches, to spices, staples and mock meat, plus a range of pre-made meals for home. Having an office within 500m is going to be an expensive, delicious privilege.


quinces and kale, Little Vegan Bear and Veganopolous all munched their way through Smith & Deli's menu during the first week it was open, while style melbourne, Eat And Be Merry, For Tomorrow We Die(t), table to paper, Veggie Mama and MEL: HOT OR NOT were all at the same freebie launch that we were.

Smith & Deli
111 Moor St, Fitzroy
9042 4117
sandwich menu 1, 2
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a lip on the door and the interior is flat. All foods are easily visible, but some of the groceries are easier to reach than others. Ordering and payment is at a low counter.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Greenhouse Cafe

June 17, 2015

I spent my formative years living in Caloundra on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. At the time eating out for me usually meant fish and chips at the beach, Pizza Hut or, if we were feeling particularly sophisticated, a trip to the local Thai place. I was thrilled to notice last year that Caloundra's first all-vego place had opened and even happier to find it still in business nearly 12 months later when I finally managed to swing by for a visit. 

Greenhouse is more than just vegetarian - it's also fully organic. The menu seems to change semi-regularly, and on our visit there was a good mix of vegan and non-vegan stuff, including made-to-order dishes, pre-made wraps and sandwiches and an array of muffins and sweets. There's plenty of gluten-free options scattered throughout. They're also big on smoothies and juices and they have kombucha on tap. We settled in for a proper lunch with my Mum and all three of us ordered from the a la carte menu.

Mum went with the spinach, onion jam and three cheese tart, served with a beautiful looking pumpkin salad ($15.90). She was a bit overwhelmed with the size of the meal when it came out, but enjoyed it so much that there were no leftovers for me to sample.

I ordered the vegan burger off the specials board, marinated tofu with pickled veggies and satay sauce on Turkish bread ($17.90). This looked a bit sad when it came out - it was definitely not the kind of burger you could pick up and eat - but fortunately the taste easily overcame any doubts I had over the presentation. The satay sauce reminded me a bit of our favourite curry peanut sauce recipe, melding a hint of spice with nutty goodness. The pickled veggies added a nice salty kick, and the mint gave it all a fresh edge. I stole some chilli from Cindy's plate too, which I can heartily recommend.

Cindy ordered the avocado with coconut cashew cheese, pickled green chilli and mint on long-fermented sourdough ($14.90). This was a lovely fresh lunch plate - the avocado was perfectly ripe and all the trimmings were lovely, especially the fresh mint. The cashew cheese was smooth and creamy, but didn't have a particularly strong flavour - it probably would have helped smooth out the fresh chilli chunks if I hadn't stolen them all.

We couldn't resist the lure of the sweets counter on our way out, taking home a Mexican chilli choc beetroot slice and a raw vegan choc-cranberry tart (both gluten-free, total price ~ $13).

I'm not usually a big fan of raw desserts, but the choc-cranberry tart was the clear winner out of these two - sweet, tangy and nicely textured. The slice was good too, but I think it needed a bigger chilli hit to cut through all the chocolatiness.

We had a great time at Greenhouse - the staff that work there are incredibly warm and friendly, turning a decent lunch into a really lovely meal. The food is great, if a little on the expensive side (I guess getting everything organic doesn't come cheap), and it's a nice spot to sit and people watch. I'm so impressed that someone has given a vego cafe a shot in my hometown and even more impressed that they're making it work - there was a steady stream of customers while we were there and it's easy to see why the locals would keep coming back.


A handful of bloggers have checked out Greenhouse and been uniformly positive - check out sustainability in style, Vegie Head, Live Blissful and Riley xo.

Greenhouse Cafe
5/8 Ormuz Avenue (off Lamkin Lane)
07 5438 1647

Accessibility: Smooth entry with a relatively spacious interior. The outside tables are on a slightly uneven footpath area. There's table service and you pay at a low counter. Things seemed super child-friendly on our visit (toys, kids' table, high chair etc).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The B-East II

June 15, 2015

We're irregular visitors to the B-East, usually stopping in when Jess McGuire is hosting trivia and grabbing a Morrissey burger for dinner. This week they've upped their veg credentials by introducing an all-vegan menu on Monday nights under the banner Mock The Casbah. I managed to nibble my way across most of the menu with the help of some friends.

The vegan fried chicken ($11.50) used the same crispy-skinned greasy wheat-meat as their excellent Morrissey burger, ditching the bun and harissa for a drizzle of smoky chipotle aioli and some dill pickles. This would tickle fanciers of the Cornish Arms' basket of wings.

The pulled pork burger ($13) was tangy, spicy and messy, served on a chewy rye bun. The snap & crackle cauliflower taco ($6.50) was a milder prospect with its avocado cream, and probably the pick of the table.

I dug into a chargrilled corn and quinoa burger ($14), jettisoning half the thick bun on sight. It centred around a thick cake of fluffy quinoa with only a few corn kernels, and was substantially boosted by a cheese slice, chilli aioli and a layer of sweet potato crisps.

We didn't have the appetite (and the little ones didn't have the patience) to stick around for dessert, on this night a double chocolate fudge tofu brownie with vegan salted coconut caramel ($7).

The B-East are promising to rotate the menu from week to week, so bear in mind that these particular dishes might not be available if you swing 'round on a future Monday. Nevertheless they're putting in a great effort to include gluten-free options (taco plus both burgers adaptable on this night) and assure the vegan status of their ingredients. I'm excited to see what they come up with next.


You can read about one of our previous visits to the B-East here.

The B-East
80 Lygon St, Brunswick East
9036 1456
first Mock The Casbah menu, dietary info

Accessibility: There's a wide entry with a ramp. Tables are a mix of standard and high, chairs a mix of stools and backed with a baby's high chair or two on hand. Furniture is pretty densely packed but there are wide corridors through the middle. It's dimly lit and noisy, with food and drinks to be ordered and paid for at a high bar. The toilets are on the same level through a narrowish corridor by the kitchen and are gendered and quite large (although I can't remember seeing a specifically accessible cubicle).

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Smith & Deli

June 14, 2015

We are long and loud supporters of vegan restaurant Smith & Daughters. Over recent months, co-owners Mo & Shannon have been bursting with excitement over their new venture Smith & Deli and they threw a freebie our way today, inviting us to its media opening.

While their flagship restaurant is a place to sit and share something special, Smith & Deli is seat-free and stacked from floor to six feet with foodstuffs to take away.

Around the sides there's food for your home kitchen - housemade pizzas, pies and dips, fresh produce, dry staples and spices, plus many of those obscure ingredients that you might have wanted to hunt down, like coconut syrup and canned hominy. They're also stocking the best of brand-name vegan groceries, like Tofurkey mock meats, Alter Eco and Loving Earth chocolates, So Delicious ice creams and Daiya cheese.

Step up to the counter and things get really serious. Here deli favourites like pastrami, pretzels,  croissants and scrolls get the vegan treatment! They make sandwiches to order and the menu runs to almost three dozen options, with names like Club Sandwiches Not Seals, Parmageddon, and The Wiggum (photos of the sandwich menu linked at bottom of post). There's gluten-free bread with a $2 surcharge.

Mo packed us up with a Rubenstein and two salads. This sandwich is a glorious saucy mess of pink mock pastrami, sauerkraut, pickles and cheesy Russian dressing on thick rye slices (to be sold for $15). The peanutty noodle salad and spicy chickpea-dotted potato salad were meals of their own, and we saved most of them for later (price unknown).

The snickerdoodle and double chocolate cookies were fine specimens, more crunchy than chewy. When it comes to vegan amazestakes, though, they were roundly beaten out by the pain au chocolat (which Michael paid $5 for). It's a teensy bit on the bready side, but there are golden flakes to be had, not to mention soft, dark chocolate.

The array of vegan foods on offer here is frankly overwhelming and I'm sure everyone's going to find their own favourite delicacy, whether it's a croissant (always Michael's soft spot), a vegemite & cheese scroll, or an egg McMartinez. It'll be months, if not years, before we've got it covered and made our final judgements.


Smith & Deli
111 Moor St, Fitzroy
9042 4117
sandwich menu 1, 2
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a lip on the door and the interior is flat. All foods are easily visible, but some of the groceries are easier to reach than others. Ordering and payment is at a low counter.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Steamed custard buns

June 8, 2015

We had a somewhat underwhelming experience at Buddha's Day last month, with the steamed custard buns least whelming of all. They were packaged ones, took half an hour to receive, and weren't vegan. Our friend Bec reminisced that custard bao were a pre-vegan favourite of hers, and I got to wondering whether I might be able to make them myself.

A few weeks later, we invited Bec and her family over for lunch and I embarked on a bun-steaming bonanza. I pulled some home-made seitan out of the freezer, sauteing it with onion and spices to make a mock-BBQ pork filling. Then I set about making a thick vegan-friendly custard filling, taking inspiration from China Sichuan Food. I made a double batch of yeasted bun dough, fashioning massive BBQ bao and slightly daintier dessert buns, and Michael stir-fried some Chinese broccoli while I supervised the bamboo steamers.

We took on the buns with gusto, and I had to remind everyone (myself included) to leave room for the custard ones. They were a worthy first effort, with hot, tearable white dough and a sweet, yellow centre. I couldn't help wishing that they were just a little sweeter outside, and a little fluffier, with a less floury flavour inside. But all that cornflour is what has the thick custard filling behaving so well, and I'll be reluctant to reduce it. Best of all, Bec seemed to get a kick out of them - mission accomplished.

Steamed custard buns
(based on this BBQ bun recipe by ErinWiko,
and a custard filling recipe on China Sichuan Food)

bun dough
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 x 7g packet instant dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 cups plain flour
spray oil

custard filling
1 1/2 tablespoons custard powder
1/2 cup cornflour
100mL soy milk
1/3 cup caster sugar
3 tablespoons margarine

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the sugar and dry yeast into the warm water. Give it a minute or two to check that it's foaming and live. Pour the yeasty water into the flour bowl and mix it all together thoroughly to form a dough. Knead the dough inside the bowl or on a clean lightly floured bench for 5-10 minutes, until smooth. Spray a clean bowl with oil, place the dough in it and roll it around to coat it in the oil, then cover the bowl with a tea towel. Leave the dough in a warm place to rise to double the size, about an hour.

In a small-medium saucepan, stir together the custard powder, cornflour and sugar. Whisk in the soy milk until it's as smooth as you can achieve. Set the saucepan over low-medium heat and add the margarine, stirring it as it melts. Gently cook and stir the custard, scraping the bottom and sides of the saucepan to prevent it from burning. Continue until the custard is thick and gluey, about 10 minutes, and turn off the heat. Beat out any lumps with some vigorous stirring, then set the custard aside to cool.

When the dough is ready, divide it into 12 equal portions. Lay out some baking paper to work on. Use a rolling pin to roll each portion into a circle, slightly thinner around the edge than in the middle. Spoon a rounded tablespoons of custard into the centre, then gather up the dough edges to fold it around the filling, pinching it together to close. Cut a small square of baking paper and set the bun seam side down on it and score a cross on the top, transferring the bun to a steamer. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Steam the buns for 10 minutes and serve them immediately.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Rum'n'raisin cocoa cake

June 7, 2015

Michael's birthday was barely half elapsed before he got on his plane to Munich, so we agreed that I'd have a celebratory cake ready for him when he returned home. Michael had picked out the rum'n'raisin recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World and I offered to pump it up with a bit of cocoa.

Instead of forming a dozen cupcakes, I poured the batter into a single round cake tin and baked it a little longer. It makes for a damp cake with a fluffy crumb and deep flavour - it has the dark caramel sweetness and only a little of the sharp booziness of dark rum. While I'm not especially fond of dried fruits in cake, the rum-soaked raisins dotted through this one are happy bursts of tripled sweetness.

A soaked-in glaze and slathering of buttercream layer but don't belabour the rum flavouring; I also added a ring of dark chocolate chips to the top to extend the cocoa theme.

We ate this cake with cups of vanilla-scented black tea, and everyone went back for seconds.

Rum'n'raisin cocoa cake
(adapted from a recipe in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World,
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero)

2/3 cup raisins, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons dark rum
spray oil
1/4 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup castor sugar
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup or molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornflour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground mace or ground nutmeg

1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
1 1/2 tablespoons castor sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon margarine

1/4 cup margarine
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon barley malt syrup or molasses
1 tablespoon soy milk
1 cup icing sugar

dark chocolate chips, to decorate

Place the raisins in a small bowl and pour over 2 tablespoons of the rum. Allow them to soak up the alcohol for at least 30 minutes and preferably an hour or two.

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a springform cake tin with baking paper and lightly spray it with oil.

In a medium bowl, stir together the soy milk and apple cider vinegar. Allow them to curdle for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the oil, sugar, syrup, remaining tablespoon of rum and vanilla until everything is well combined.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, cornflour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and mace. Pour in the whisked liquid ingredients and stir thoroughly until well combined and smooth. Fold in the rum-soaked raisins. Pour the cake batter into the cake tin and bake until the cake passes the skewer test, about 35 minutes.

While the cake is still warm, prepare the rum glaze. Stir the rum and sugar together in a small saucepan and set them over low-medium heat, until the sugar is dissolved and they've been bubbling about a minute. Take the saucepan off the heat and add the margarine, stirring until it is melted. Whisk in the vanilla. Use a skewer to poke holes in the top of the cake and spoon over the glaze. Allow the cake to cool completely.

To make the buttercream, place the margarine, rum, vanilla, syrup and soy milk in a medium bowl. Beat them until they're well mixed (I struggled). Sift in half the icing sugar and beat it thoroughly into the margarine mixture. Repeat with the remaining icing sugar, and continue beating for several minutes, until the buttercream is light and fluffy. Spread the buttercream over the cooled cake and decorate the top with chocolate chips.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015


May 27 and 29, 2015

Every June for the past eight years, I've jetted off overseas for the biggest perk of my job, an annual international conference. This year the setting was Munich - full of sunshine, giant beer gardens and beautiful old buildings. The traditional Bavarian diet is not particularly sympathetic to vegetarians (and vegans would really struggle). I ate a lot of creamy mushrooms and cheesy potatoes. Luckily, there are a decent number of vego places in the city and I had a few free meals to explore. My main focus was Bodhi, a well-reviewed place that takes the traditional German pub vibe and vegans everything up.

My first visit was an early dinner (staving off jetlag as best as possible) and I sat outside in the sunshine with a tall wheat beer watching most of the city biking past. 

The menu they gave me was in German, and I puzzled it out as best I could although I'm sure the staff would be happy to translate if you wanted more details (I've just used google translate below). The grilled tempeh in dark plum sauce with millet/hemp dumplings, roasted tomatoes and sauteed zucchini (19.90€ ~ AU$29) sounded interesting, as did the lupin fillet with a mustard crust, red wine shallots, broccoli and mashed potatoes (16.90€ ~ AU$24.70), but I decided to go for the most German-sounding meal on the menu: the crispy soy steak with a dark beer sauce, red cabbage and potato dumpling (14.90€ ~ $21.80). I threw in a side of chilli cheese nuggets (3.90€ ~ $5.70)  just because I could.

Look at that triptych of amazingness! The soy steak was crisped up with a kind of cornflake batter, swimming in a rich beer gravy. The potato dumpling had something impressively cheesy about it, and the red cabbage was soft and tangy. The little cheesy nuggets were completely unnecessary after the giant plate of heavy German food, but they were so great I couldn't stop myself. After 25 hours of travel, a litre of beer and all that food, I barely managed to make it home before falling asleep.

After a full day of meetings on Saturday, I had a spare morning on Sunday to do some more exploring. First stop: Bodhi's weekend brunch.

This time I parked inside, mostly so I could stare longingly at the buffet table. From memory, the brunch price was 18.90€ (AU$27.60), which bought access to an amazing spread of breads, pastries, spreads, salads, desserts and three hot dishes: pancakes, scrambled tofu and a tomato-y potato bake.

The scrambled tofu was probably my highlight, with chunks of smoked tofu dotted throughout the scramble. The pretzel was great, but they're available everywhere, so I probably should have focussed more on the bread and dips or grabbed myself a plate of pancakes. Instead, I found myself fading after my salad plate, even after a decent cup of filter coffee. The place gradually filled up between 10:30 and 11:30 when I moved on, so if you were coming with a group, I'd recommend making a booking. The staff are lovely, happily speaking English to monolinguists like me and making me feel super welcome even as a solo traveller.

I spent the rest of the weak pining for more Bodhi - sadly our conference venue was too far away for me to sneak off at lunchtime and all of our nights were booked up with beer-garden-related shenanigans. It's a wonderful place - definitely worth stopping by if you've got a day or two in Munich.

There aren't too many blog posts about Bodhi that I could find - Living in Germany is the only one in English, while there are positive (if a bit garbled thanks to Google Translate) reviews on Wie ein frischer Veganer die Welt erlebt, Muc.Veg, Claudi Goes Vegan, Munchen Blogger, Prostmahlzeit and tine taufrisch.

Ligsalzstrasse 23, Schwanthalerhohe, Munich
+49 89 41142458
menus (in German): starters, salads and pasta, mains (and another), dessert
facebook page

Accessibility: There are a couple of steps up on entry, to a reasonably spacious interior. The toilets are gendered and on the narrow side. There's full table service.


I did manage to check out a couple of other veggie places during the week: Max Pett is Munich's most famous veggie establishment, a centrally-located, vegan and alcohol-free restaurant with a wide-ranging menu. It was a welcome source of salads and vegetables amidst the regular German food, including this excellent (but badly photographed) palak tofu (15.80€ ~ AU$23).

I also stopped by Tian for lunch - the two course set meal of carrot soup with bulghur and a romaine lettuce salad with hummus, hazelnuts and herbs was fresh and healthy, but not something you'd go out of you way for.

Munich's a lovely city - well worth a detour from the veg*n Mecca of Berlin if you've got a few spare days. Beautiful historic buildings, lovely parks and some jaw-dropping Alpine scenery a short day trip out of town - some non-food highlights are in the slide-show below.

Monday, June 08, 2015


January 2016: B'stilla has been closed, replaced by Enquire Within (run by the same people) a restaurant that will reinvent itself once a year. 

June 1, 2015

Moroccan restaurant B'stilla recently held a one-off vegan dinner to coincide with an exhibition of Julia Deville artworks. Rosalie was quick to organise a table of keen diners and I happily signed on for a seat. At first glance our table looked cramped and out of the way, but it proved perfectly cosy for sharing a conversation right across the table and we had no trouble attracting the staff's attention throughout the night.

The kitchen had prepared a multi-course vegan meal for $45 per person. All we had to do was alert them to extra dietary requirements (which they handled expertly) and pick some drinks! I skipped over the matched drinks and other alcohol, mightily pleased to see a couple of mocktails on offer. My house made rosewater lemonade ($8) had a strong rose perfume that overwhelmed the mint garnish but balanced the lemon well.

Our first table of food featured triangles of freshly char-grilled batbout bread served with a thin and tangy tomato citrus jam, crispy baby okra spiced with zhoug, and cups of harira soup. In contrast to the version we cook at home, this soup was light on the tomato; more brothy, with plentiful chickpeas and lentils.

For round 2 we were treated to a vegan alteration of their signature B'stilla. Instead of birds, this thick flaky pastry was filled with eggplant and pumpkin pieces, almonds, cinnamon and saffron. It was rather mild, for all that - I enjoyed the icing sugar and cinnamon dusted over the top but cursed our ineffectual knives as I plunged through the casing.

The accompanying salads were also terrific - roasted beetroots were served with walnuts and chermoula, and the refreshing coleslaw included almonds, apricot and chilli.

We had to work hard to find room for the final round of savoury foods - we really didn't do the root vegetable tagine or dill-garnished couscous justice.

As usual I perked up for dessert, spooning out my fair share of saffron rice pudding topped with tangy-crunchy-chewy bursts of freeze-dried strawberry, pistachio and dried barberry. It was encouraging to see a non-vegetarian restaurant convert a usually dairy-laden dish, instead of falling back on fruit or sorbet.

Nobody could possibly have left this dinner hungry! B'stilla were generous and thoughtful in their hosting of this vegan meal. One of their reps has previously contacted us stressing their willingness to cater to special diets, so there's a good chance that anyone could book ahead and receive dishes just as good as what we experienced at this special event. We can also vouch for the warm, attentive staff and relaxed atmosphere at B'stilla.


Quinces & Kale and Green Gourmet Giraffe have already blogged the same event. B'stilla was also covered by vegetarian blogger northmelbournelife last year.


30 Bray St, South Yarra
9826 2370
banquet menu, drinks

Accessibility: We took half a dozen steps up on entry and didn't notice a more accessible alternative. Tables are densely packed with clear corridors through the centre. We ordered and received the bill at our table, and elected to pay at the high counter. One of my dining companions observed that reaching the toilets required navigating crowded tables, and that they are gendered and relatively narrow.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Krishna Indian Restaurant

May 31, 2015

The Moody Noodles invited me and some other friends across to West Footscray to share a meal at Krishna Indian Restaurant. Although this family business has been established for 20 years, it has only recently become 100% vegetarian. They've really gone all out, often skipping the ghee and using ingredients like tofu and soy nuggets to bring a diverse selection of vegan-friendly, as well as traditionally vegetarian, dishes. Vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free options are well marked throughout the menu. The staff know what's what can will happily lend advice on request too. If you call ahead, they can even prepare gluten-free naan!

We started out with some complimentary chips and a jammy tamarind sauce with a surprise little slow burn. Onion bhaji ($6.50) and mushroom pakora ($8.95) had a lovely besan batter and a vegan-friendly minty-creamy dipping sauce.

It was tough picking from the multidude of mains! The vegetable korma ($10.95, bottom left) and soy nugget masala ($10.95, top right) were pleasant but turned out a little samey. We were more taken with a saag mushroom curry ($12.90, bottom right) and their unusually vegan-friendly malai kofta ($12.95).

The vegan garlic naans ($2.95) were still crispy-edged and buttery. Their gluten-free analogue reminded me of an arepa and it was roundly enjoyed by K, the table's coeliac.

Krishna's most exciting innovation might be their dairy-free desserts - so often vegans have to skip this last menu section! K shared a small bowl of carrot halva ($4.95) with little S while the rest of us ordered a gulab jamun ($2.00 each). The little doughballs were gorgeous, one of the loveliest, fudgiest versions of this dish that I've ever eaten.

We had many more hits than misses at Krishna Indian Restaurant. It's wonderful to see a family Indian restaurant catering imaginatively to a range of dietary requirements. Their prices are reasonable and the service is very accommodating. We hope the local community will embrace their newly meat-free menu.


Krishna Indian Restaurant
Shop 3, 578 Barkly St, West Footscray
9687 5531
menu front page, thalis & entrees, entrees & mains, mains 2, bread & rice, accompaniments & desserts
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a step up on entry and the tables are well spaced. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. I didn't visit the toilets.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Pineapple fried rice

May 31, 2015

Michael's away for his usual mid-winter conference. It's a good time to make recipes that he wouldn't like. This one, for example, is a savoury dish with pineapple in it - a complete dealbreaker for the other half of where's the beef?

I actually had some organic tinned pineapple in the fridge, having resolutely bought it for my half of a pizza night. (Incidentally, I can definitely recommend the fancy organic tinned pineapple - it's much tangier and toothier than the usual supermarket stuff.) In fact, I had everything I wanted to adapt Heidi Swanson's pineapple rice recipe right at home.

And it's definitely an adaptation. I wanted my pineapple chunky, not blended into the dressing, and I fried my garlic instead of leaving it raw. I'm no fan of raw onions either, and elected to replace the green onions and shallots with a sprinkling of fried shallots. All up, my recipe's more a fried rice than rice salad and that's the way I like it - hearty brown rice dressed with tamari and a little sesame oil, studded with browned seitan pieces and juicy pinapple, topped with crunchy cashews and fried shallots. I could almost be back at the Japanese-Hawai'ian Olu'Olu Cafe with a bowl like this.

Pineapple fried rice
(adapted from a recipe on 101 Cookbooks)

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 cup pineapple juice
pinch of chilli flakes
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2/3 cup seitan, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pineapple pieces
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1 cup roasted cashews
1/4 cup fried shallots

Place the rice and water in a small saucepan, cover with a lid and set them over high heat. When the rice begins to boil, turn down the heat to the lowest setting and cook until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 40 minutes. Bring the rice to room temperature - I refrigerated mine overnight and then set it on the bench about an hour before I wanted to eat.

In a small jar or bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, pineapple juice, chilli flakes and tamari. Set them aside.

Set a large frypan or wok over high heat and add the sunflower oil. When the oil is hot, add the seitan and stir-fry it until it's beginning to brown. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for another 30-60 seconds. Add the pineapple pieces and let them sear a little before stirring them around. Add the rice, using your spatula to break down any big clumps, and stir-fry it. In the minute before you're ready to serve the rice, stir in the spinach leaves and the cashews, allowing the spinach to wilt a little. Serve the rice sprinkled with fried shallots.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Fina's Vegetarian Cafe 2

May 29, 2015

The Brunswick St veg*n enclave has expanded further still with the opening of Fina's Vegetarian Cafe 2 a couple of months ago. It's a sibling to the cute vegetarian Vietnamese cafe Fina's in Richmond with a matching orange mural. Everything we're fond of from Fina's 1 seems to be here  - that is, unless anyone was particularly attached to their dairy products! Fina's 2 appears to be completely vegan, right down to the Mister Nice Guy cakes, soy milk smoothies and soy condensed milk Vietnamese iced coffees.

They've also set the gold standard for menu labelling. There's a photo of every dish, and an extensive code indicating pure vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, onion & garlic-free, and MSG-free items, as well as offering 'no mock meat' and 'more mock meat' variations.

I started out with a slushy-sweet custard apple smoothie ($5.80) and picked at my friends' chosen entrees. The crispy tofu ($9.80) was silky and hot, while the wontons ($9.80) had more bite to them, stuffed densely with tofu and wood ear fungus.

On our recommendation, J ordered the magnificent grilled pork skewer ($26.80) and monopolised the table with rice paper wraps, hot water and two plates of fillings. It was OK, though, because he shared.

The menu recommends that the chicken satay with capsicum ($12.80 + rice $2.80) is for "people who love mock, this special clay pot will have it all". Clamps boldy took it on with More Mock Meat and was satisfied with his choice. The well-seasoned soy nuggets were nestled in a rich broth, without any of the peanuttiness I was expecting. I returned to the pancake that I know and love from Fina's 1 ($14.80) - it was crispy with a strong and welcome coconut milk flavour, stuffed with bean sprouts, mushroom slices and the odd skerrick of fatty mock ham and squidgy mock prawn.

The wait staff were terrific and it was great to see this new business bustling. Everything we ate was well prepared, balancing hot fried veg*n proteins with crispy-fresh vegetables, although the prices jumped all over the place. I don't think I'd stretch to $10 for the simple entrees again, but the chicken claypot was excellent value and the pancake held its own. Regardless, I'm thrilled to see Fina's extend their brand of Vietgetarian food to the inner north.


You can read about one, two of our past visits to Fina's 1 in Richmond. We haven't spotted any blog reviews of Fina's 2 elsewhere.

Fina's Vegetarian Cafe 2
339 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9415 6765
menu pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
facebook page

Accessibility: The entry has one step. Inside the tables are densely packed with a clear corridor through the middle. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. I didn't visit the toilets.