I really haven’t tried many vegetarian restaurants. The one I have been to is Shakahari in Carlton. They seem to be doing rather well given they also have one in South Melbourne and it isn’t surprising because they’ve managed to make vegetarian food rather interesting even for meat eaters like myself. Their menu is extensive and they make it rather clear which items are vegan, non-dairy, gluten-free etc. Not surprising given their name, Shakahari, actually is the Hindi word for vegetarian. The food offered at Shakahari actually uses elements of Japanese, Chinese and Thai cooking so don’t be surprised at the food on offer including tempura, sago and tamarind.
Be aware that the front of the Carlton venue looks a little like any other house on the street. Or maybe it was just rather dark the day I went.
If you go, let me recommend the entree my friend raves about (incidentally it is a signature dish of theirs). Avocado magic. Avocado, capsicum and eggplant rolled together, deep fried with a light tempura batter and served on top of coriander puree. If you don’t like coriander, too bad but it packs a punch!
Their papaya salad also looks like it would be rather popular and has a tamarind based dressing.
We tried their krub phom dumpling which contained sweetcorn, mushrooms, pumpkin and walnuts. The broth was rather puzzling for me because dumplings in Chinese cooking almost never have coconut milk! An interesting experience.
Mains wise I was really tempted by the shanti pie my friend ended up ordering. the pie itself contains chickpeas and a mix of root vegetables. Pot pies always look lovely and have less puff pastry so you don’t have to feel too guilty about having it!
I ended up having the lasagna pasolini – vegetarian lasagna inevitably has baked eggplant which goes well with tangy tomato sauce. Their version wasn’t bad but I found the whole plate a little heavy – possibly they could have done more with the salad instead of serving the baked root vegetables.
The legendary satay shakahari is actually beancurd on skewers slathered in satay sauce and served with tumeric sauce. I really like beancurd but when it’s presented like this I’d be expecting some meat in there!
Desserts wise, I ordered the tofu caramel and wasn’t disappointed. I will keep silken tofu in mind for a healthier alternative to milk or egg based puddings in future for home cooking. Pistachio and caramel go so well together and it’s well exploited in this dish. Reminds me of the one from Tang’s family restaurant on Middleborough Road.
If you’re looking for something a bit meatier their wild rice pudding looked a treat. Black wild rice and sago cooked in coconut milk can’t go too wrong.
Whilst I’m not a fan of steamed puddings in general, the pomegranate chocolate one at Shakahari was quite tempting. Flourless it’s served with custard and orange coulis. Just looking at it makes me think it’s the festive season
So if you’re looking for a place that caters for all kinds of dietary requirements such as gluten free, vegan, dairy free, try out Shakahari – fresh vegetarian food utilising many different elements from a range of cuisines.