4th February 2016
201-203 Faraday St
Carlton, VIC 3053
While Ming is slaving away at work like usual, I, Chris, have a convenient 3 weeks of holidays before starting a new job. Perfect time for a guest post if you ask me!
I love lasagne. Ever since eating it at home as a child, I’ve always found myself irresistibly drawn to it any time I see it on a menu. It doesn’t even need to be a traditional Italian lasagne – so long as it has the trademark layers of pasta and cheese (or cheese substitute) with some kind of saucy goodness inside, I’m sold, so even vegetarian lasagnes – such as Shakahari’s Lasagne Pasolini – attract me just as much. As such, it should be no surprise that our recent visit to Shakahari carried one condition – “so long as we get the lasagne, I don’t care what else we get”!
Once we got there, I was pleasantly surprised by the interior. Don’t be fooled by the somewhat dilapidated signage out front- on the inside, Shakahari is clean and colourful, with a lovely garden view visible out the back. Sitting down in a nicely sunlit dining area and receiving our menus, I eagerly perused mine for my much-awaited lasagne.
“I don’t mean to alarm you,” I said to Ming, “but… there’s no lasagne here”. Alas! We had been led astray by an old menu. Reeling from disappointment, we had no choice but to replace the lasagne with another dish and move on.
Cushioning the blow of the absent lasagne was a delicious-sounding Lassi ($5.5) prepared with seasonal fruit, in this case mango, which we sipped away whilst waiting for our meal. Refreshing, creamy, and not too sweet, this certainly lifted my spirits.
What is it with our recently visited restaurants and finding ways to make me like avocado? Normally I’m not a big fan, but first Journeyman and now Shakahari have me actually enjoying avocado dishes. In this case, it was their Avocado Magic ($14.5) that did the trick – large pieces of avocado tempura which created a great contrast between the crunch of batter and the velvety smooth avocado. The sesame coriander puree sitting underneath added a welcome touch of moisture, keeping these quasi-wedges from feeling dry.
Having never heard of agnolotti before, Ming and I thought we’d try Shakahari’s Hemp Agnolotti ($15.5). What arrived actually reminded us a lot of Japanese gyoza at first glance, due to the seared tops and bottoms of the skin. However, biting into these dumplings revealed a sweet mixture of pumpkin, corn kernels and various other grains. The peppery rocket alongside these complemented the dish nicely.
Our main for the night was a set of Quinoa Croquettes ($21) served with kimchi and steamed greens. These croquettes nearly looked at home in a veggie burger, given their size, and the texture inside was nearly substantial enough to serve as a patty as well. Their taste was pleasant but mild, to be helped by an onion wasabi puree underneath which gave it some more oomph. The kimchi was nice, while the streamed greens (mainly broccoli) were stock-standard – which is OK, though to be honest I was expecting a little more.
I think I was expecting a bit too much of Shakahari – after the delicious vegan witchcraft of Smith & Daughters, I was fully ready for some more vegetarian food that wows me as much as, say, a good burger. Suffice to say, Shakahari was a more conservative affair – rather than emulating common meaty dishes with clever substitutes, they provide unashamedly vegetarian fare done well. If that appeals to you, you’re in for a good time; but it certainly won’t tear me away from the more carnivorous options available.
(Except maybe for that lasagne, if it ever returns)
This rating reflects my (Chris’) personal experience at the time of visit.