I love creative food. Food that doesn't just make you go "Mmm that was yum," but also "Wow, I would've never thought of bringing those two ingredients together." And I think one of the best places that do this is Shakahari Vegetarian Restaurant.
Nestled on Faraday Street in Carlton, this quaint, humble looking restaurant is arguably the best vegetarian restaurant in Melbourne. It only uses natural ingredients in its food and as such offers a seasonally rotating menu to take advantage of the freshest seasonally available ingredients. There are cons and pros about this. Pro in that as a diner you're always excited about what fantastic creations they'll have next season. Con because when you find your favourite dish, mine being the vegan lasagne, and discover that it's only available in Winter. That being said, there's enough mouth watering items each season to keep me coming back in the lead up to Winter.
Shakahari, incidentally, is the Hindi word for vegetarian and as you would expect all the food is meat-free and a large portion is also vegan. Additionally, Shakahari's food also caters for those who have gluten allergies with a large percentage of its items being gluten free. The food is a combination of eastern cuisine cooked and presented with western techniques. Exotic ingredients are a staple at Shakahari that are often combined with everyday ordinary foods such as gnocchi made from quinoa with a balsamic dressing.
The result is an explosion of unique flavours and contrasts, presented artistically with precise detail evident in every dish. Such is the quality of food at Shakahari that The Age Good Food Guide has awarded it the 'Best Vegetarian Restaurant' 14 years in a row. There is also an exemplary wine list accompanying the dishes with the inclusion of some vegan and organic wines.
The service and knowledge of the waiting staff is impressive. Knowledge of menu items and suitable wines are commendable. The interiors of the restaurant gives an air of humbleness with its wooden furniture, buddha statues and water features. There's also nice fireplace which is a favourite spot for many during the colder months.
A visit to Shakahari is an experience that is savoured. You don't just go out to dinner, you're going to Shakahari. The food plays as much as a role to the evening as the people you go there with. Whether or not you eat meat, Shakahari offers a dining experience that is hard to surpass.