Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

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It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Sunday, July 10, 2011


201 Faraday St
Carlton VIC 3053


I know what you’re thinking!
Shaka Zulu? Hari Kumar? Kit has gone all African-y/Indian on us!
But nothing could be further from the truth! Shakahari is the name of a vegetarian restaurant in Carlton I went to with some friends for a vegetarian meal the other night, and I thought you might be interested.

I’ve had complaints about this blog previously (hello Dharamjot!) that everywhere I pick is polluted by the corpses of our animate brethren. But far be it for me to be said to be biased agin vegetables. Hey, I don’t mind lentils and mung beans. Let’s see how the herbivores do it, baby! (Answer: on the grass… much like the reviewer - Ed).

Located in a terrace house opposite Brunetti’s, Shakahari was the only vegetarian restaurant in my copy of the Age’s Good Food Guide. The only one? Yes! And a hat! So let’s take a look at the ONLY vegetarian restaurant in Melbourne that made the cut for the Age Good Food Guide, shall we?

Shakahari has been around for donkey’s years (read around twenty), and some of my older pals had heard of it. Ask a Gen Y-er about vegetarian food, though, and they all say ‘the Veggie Bar’ (Brunswick St).
So how would you describe Shakahari? In one word? Hippies. In a few words? Vegetarian hippies who have a predilection for Asian grub. I should have been twigged right off when I called to make a booking.

“Hello? I’d like to book a table for four tomorrow please.’
(Longish pause…) "Sigh. Alright.”
“Um, would you like my name?”
“I suppose.”
“Kit. For four.”
“Would you like a mobile phone number?”
‘I guess... You know there’s no BYO?”
“That’s OK. See you tomorrow!”

How’s the ambience, I hear you ask? My initial reactions were positive. Wood floors, wood furniture, carved elephant statues, orange walls. But the tables? Too high. Chairs? Too hard. Lighting? Too bright. Porridge? Too hot… oh no, that’s another story. But you do have to go into the back garden and trip over loose bricks to go to the loo, though, so there is an element of a bear in the woods… if you get my drift.

And the other clients? Nutty. As in as nutty as a nut cutlet. It did make for an entertaining floor show though; people with anaemia saying things like “I’ve just been really stressed, you know?”, rockabilly boys chatting up tattoo girls, and same sex couples holding hands over lentils. You know. Cool people. Vegetarians.

The food is Asian inspired with a western influence. This can pretty much be distilled down to “Eastern food, Western plates”. Not a share thing, although the entrees said ideal to share and each one came with four portions. But then they came out on massive bits of white crockery, we had to decant them onto side plates, the serving was a disaster.

The menu has V (vegan), D (dairy), and E (egg) written against the various dishes, so you can work out what is least offensive to your sensibilities and or delicate digestional situation. I did, however, find myself with a tummy upset after going here (whether it was the food or not I’m unsure, so am unwilling to litigate); I guess the moral is just because something’s vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean your body won’t reject it.

We had the mushroom dumplings (yum), the fried five C’s in pastry (I dunno what the five C’s were – and stop being rude), and the avocado magic (deep fried with capsicum and eggplant). For mains, I tucked into something called the Shaolin Treasure Chest – basically tofu with mushrooms (Asian) with five types of rice grain. Dessert was a lactose intolerant person’s wet dream, with tofu based baked goods that were delish.

The verdict? I thought it was a little bit on the expensive side, especially considering that no one died in the preparation of my dishes. If you HAVE to take out a vegetarian, or even better a vegan, GO! Go gangbusters. But if you’re looking for a fine dining experience, cross the road to Brunetti's and have a cake and coffee. Hard core vegetarians would no doubt give it a seven and a half out of eight. Me? A confirmed mollusc eater and lover of luxury? Meh. Let’s call it a scrape-y five tentacles out of eight.


Anonymous said...

haha - as a vegetarian, ive never been there but im certainly not going now!!! Sounds pathetically....vegetarian. That's why im happy with the one choice of vegetarian meal at a great restaurant rather than a choice of 100 bad vege meals at a vegetarian restaurant.....

Melanie said...

Glad you braved a vegetarian adventure Kit! As a vegetarian of some 15 years I've been there a handful of times and enjoyed it but fine dining it isn't! Veggie bar used to be a fave but their style is less fine dining I think and more HUGE plates of veggies. Maybe next you should come over to Richmond for the Tofu Shop - excellent (cafe) veg fare.

peter said...

Mary is a vegetarian who doesn't like tofu, mushrooms, any sort of risotto. Loves baked vegs, any sort of potato, aloo gobi, 'nn stuff like that. Hates Soul Mama, thinks everything tastes the same and ambience of a hospital emergency dept waiting room on Saturday night. Can anyone suggest vegy joints to suit such catholic tastes?