Justine de Jonge is a Melbourne freelance travel writer and blogger who loves travelling the vegan road. She also loves blogging about her vegan travels at www.fireandtea.com .
Published October 20th 2012
Shakahari has built a cult-like following on Melbourne's vegetarian food scene. Combining locally-grown produce with Eastern-inspired techniques and flavours, Shakahari has served satisfying, full-flavoured meals to vegetarians and vegans alike for over thirty years.
The restaurant's Carlton location is packed regularly and this popularity has swayed Shakahari's parents to give birth to a sister restaurant, nestled in the heart of South Melbourne on Clarendon Street. Shakahari Too has recently opened its doors to give south-side vegetarians and vegans an overdue destination for their dietary needs.
Nourishing meals are crafted from the fruits, vegetables and labour of Shakahari Farm, and are all served amidst organic furnishings , freshly picked blooms, warm lighting and earthly coloured walls. Most of the walls are canvases where spray-painted koi fish dive cheekily into orange or charcoal hues. Towards the back of the main dining area lies a sky-lit room bathing in late afternoon sunshine. Shakahari Too's menu is similar to its Carlton brother, and a couple of new surprises can be found.
To start, an apple and wheatgerm juice, complete with a lemongrass swizzle stick, cleanses the palate for our three-course feast. Scent of Green Papaya is a crunchy slaw of papaya, seasonal raw vegetables and roasted cashews, all dressed in chilli and tamarind sauce. Vegetable Dialogue, another salad-based entrée, is a healthy mass of spinach leaves, lentils, capsicum, sprigs of coriander and toasted walnuts in a chili-based dressing that gives every crunchy mouthful its zing. Both entrees are large in size and could easily pass as light meals.
Stomachs are feeling nurtured yet room is found for second course. Crispy croquettes of roasted yams and potatoes, macadamia nuts and quinoa arrive blanketed in a citrus and red capsicum sauce, accompanied by a bright broccoli salad. There's also the Shaolin Claypot and it's as much a visual novelty as it is a dinner game. The claypot arrives on an earthen stand and our attentive hostess ignites a tea-light within. The flame flickers gently to warm marinated tofu and rice. Spoonfuls of this bounty are submerged in a pumpkin seaweed broth before being salvaged and placed onto a nearby plate of pickled seasonal vegetables and ginger. Second course proves to be filling, tasty and full of fun.
Shakahari Too's flavour fusions continue after mains, and we find the desserts are just as tempting. Tofu Caramel is placed in front of us, its glossy ginger gula melaka sauce gleams with nuggets of pistachio toffee. With each spoonful, the silky tofu playfully wobbles. A toasty seasonal fruit crumble waits patiently to be devoured. To conclude this delectable feast is a Moroccan mint tea – fleshly plucked mint leaves immersed in hot water in a plunger.
The steam from the tea, together with meals served on earthen-ware crockery, exudes Shakahari's clean living ethos and dedication to unadulterated flavours, all delivered from farm to table. It's imminent that Shakahari Too will blossom into a South Melbourne institution as well.