I’ve previously heard some great things about Shakahari, and with an eclectic menu and vibrant service it served as an excellent choice for a long overdue catch up dinner with friends following holidays, occupational changes and a baby arriving. The vegetarian dining experience at Shakahari was amongst the best I’ve had in Melbourne and I was thoroughly thrilled it lived up to its title. Stepping in to the low-fuss venue you might not think much of it at first, but it does carry a constant homely feel with a spacious dining floor and partial courtyard.
We couldn’t go past the signature Avocado magic to start ($16) of avocado wedges and red capsicum rolled in eggplant slices and ‘tempura-fried’ in a rice batter with a sesame coriander puree. This plate perfectly encapsulates the Shakahari experience; exciting, timeless twists on tasty food that just happens to be vegetarian. I could have eaten this all night, a delectable crunchy coating covering moreish vegetable morsels with a fragrant, herby dip.
Our second sharing entree was the Mushroom hemp dumplings ($16) with a filling of mushroom and hempseeds poached in a lemongrass and galangal soy milk stock laced with Thai herbs. This was a quality starter, perhaps not quite to the extent of the former, but we enjoyed these mushroomy pilloy bites and the broth was pleasant and aromatic.
My main was another of Shakahari’s signature dishes, being the Satay Shakahari ($21.50) with some of the photos online being a little deceiving – this is a huge plate. There’s sides of turmeric rice, vegetables and pickles with deep-fried skewers of beancurd, seitan, onion and capsicum that’s blanketed by the peanut satay topping. Slightly naughty on the deep-fried front but a tasty, tasty dish wth the sides all holding up with the sauce nutty, sweet and in copious supply. I haven’t had too many bouts with seitan but its was a most worthy meat substitute here and my only qualm would only be slightly more on the rice front for balance.
Gazal also couldn’t resist the Shak’s satay, with her husband getting the Lasagna Donatella Yomama ($22.50). Interestingly this lasagna is completely non-dairy with layers of turtle beans, pinenuts, tomato and pumpkin, beetroot and pumpkin seeds. Jenny’s order was the Sonam, Chum Chum ($22.50) which has lots of components which I’m too lazy to list, but all you need to know is that it was great! Lots of love for Shakahari and easy to see why it’s been around for over a staggering forty years in business.