8

No Bull: An All-Vegan Affair At Maha, City

‘Tis the season for lots of excellent all-vegan degustation dinners in Melbourne! Last night was Maha’s turn. Maha is known around vegan town for their fine plant based options. I’d never been before (I might lose vegan points for that somewhere) but the vegan options on the menu always sounded impressive and certainly not some kind of afterthought– the vegan dishes are treated with much consideration.

Owner and Head Chef Shane Delia draws on his Maltese background and travels through the North Africa, Turkey, Iran and the Middle East. Yesterday’s event was No Bull: An All-Vegan Affair and we were served five courses inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine. The restaurant was completely booked out and already busy when I arrived about ten minutes early. While waiting to be seated, we were given a cocktail (a mocktail was also offered as an alternative) and things kicked off soon after. Shane Delia got on the mic and spoke to us about how the approach and attitude to vegan cuisine has changed. I always love hearing how vegan food is becoming a popular dining choice with non-vegans and how more people are now actively seeking out meat free meals. From here, I believe it will only get better and degustations such as Maha’s really do highlight how wonderful vegan food can be– remember, it’s not just salad!Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

Everything was go go go with busy, friendly staff doing an excellent job.

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

We were seated in a very dim (for photo taking) corner so please excuse the pics! I also hate holding people up from eating (including myself, ha…) so thanks to my table buddies for putting up with it! I didn’t want to hold everyone up even more with changing camera thingies either when I noticed pics not turning out, so some of the dishes aren’t shown.

For the first course we had almond ajo blanco, green apple, orange blossom, watercress. Nice and refreshing for a first course:

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

For the second course, we had ‘fattoush’- spiced tomato ice, garlic and sumac warqaa, compressed cucumber and onion. I’m not a big fan of ice in my foods (sensitive teeth and all) but the flavours here were lovely:

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

The third course had five dishes: sweet potato and seven spice briwat (I really wished we could have had more of these, though I’m greedy):

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

BBQ young corn, aleppo pepper, coriander and almond (not shown, but really tasty); spring beans and peas, preserved lemon, seeds and nuts. I want to try and replicate this at home:

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

Wild green hummus, caraway spiced onions, stinging nettle. This was great with the fresh bread buns. A welcome change from lots of the hummus I usually have:

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

Saffron rice crackling, whipped split peas, tomato, pomegranate. Really nice though I would love these mega jumbo size (remember, greedy):

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

The fourth course had six dishes (again, all shared plates). Za’atar crusted zucchini flowers, fava and truffle, toasted almond. Really good:

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

Red lentil Turkish dumplings (I only got to try one little size dumpling, so I would have loved more for sentimental reasons as my grandmother grew up with Greek and Turkish influences and made a dumpling dish called mantou); puffed grains, spiced carrot, pickled marrow; asparagus, preserved lemon, spring onion, black aleppo pepper (this made me appreciate asparagus more):

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

Tamarind and saffron braised pumpkin. This was spicy and full of flavour. Probably my second favourite dish of the night:

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

Charred broccolini, freekah, smoked almonds. I loved this and it’s easily my favourite of the night. Smoked almonds rule:

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

‘Fattoush’- tomato, mint, roast garlic, baked bread:

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

Our fifth course was the dessert- strawberry and arak ice, coconut sorbet, dark chocolate crumble. This tasted great though my sensitive teeth got a bit of a shock at the big pieces of ice:

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

All up, a great meal. Drinks were on a separate menu (not included in the $99 dinner price, though the cocktail/mocktail on arrival was included). I want to return to Maha for their lunches and dinner as reviews from fellow vegans have been positive. Maha is a very popular restaurant and I look forward to returning.

From the No Bull event, I can see that Maha do vegan food incredibly well and again, like other degustations I’ve recently been to, you know you’re eating fine food, not fine vegan food specifically. Maha did a great job with showing that vegan food is also fantastic food and you don’t have to be a vegan or vegetarian to appreciate it. I love meals like this that show people that plant foods are for everyone and you are absolutely not missing out by going animal-free.

Thank you to all Maha staff for helping make this evening an enjoyable one for my table!

 

Maha

21 Bond Street, Melbourne city (CBD area)

From the street, Maha is down a flight of steps to a sub-basement level.

https://maharestaurant.com.au

Maha Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maha No Bull All-Vegan Affair, Melbourne city

16

Roots, Fruits And Wild Herbs: A Vegan Degustation At Bar Idda, Brunswick East

Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation

Pre-vegan, I was a big lover of Italian food and always happy to look for an excuse stuff myself on dishes from different regions of Italy. I still love Italian food, though it seems most of the vegan options for dining out are limited to pastas, pizzas and risottos– things I can make at home easily. Admittedly, I haven’t really researched properly and I’m sure there are some great options out there I just don’t know about! So when I heard that Bar Idda were holding a ‘Roots, Fruit and Wild Herbs Vegan Degustation’ evening as part of The Age Good Food Month, I was pretty hopeful this would fill the gap!

Located on Lygon Street in Brunswick East, Bar Idda serves Sicilian inspired cuisine with a particular focus on fresh seasonal produce. For their vegan evening, Bar Idda offered a seven course degustation with paired wine, centering on Sicilian specialties.

Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation

My first impression when I walked in was one of feeling immediately familiar– the mixed chairs, tablecloths and bread on the counter reminded me of my own family gatherings. I felt like the dining area was treated as a special extension of a family home, where guests are both welcomed and well looked after.  It took me back to sitting under the grapevine in my grandparent’s back yard on warm days, with a table laid out and everyone welcome.

Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation

The restaurant was full by the 7pm start. I’d arrived early to take some photos (many thanks to Bar Idda for letting me take pics) and got to check out the menu which certainly seemed to promise great food!

We started with the antipasti courses. For the Verdura cunzati, we were served Sicilian green olives, warm maccu with olive oil and pane di casa along with pickled artichoke, asparagus, cucumber and melon. The melon here was great, I usually don’t like rockmelon but it was a stunner here and I went back for more. I also learned what maccu is (follow the link!) and decided that yep, we were off to a really good start:

Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation

Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation

Next up were the fritti dishes. We had zeppole of potato, chicory and salmoriglio– these were superb! So were the chickpea panelle (the picture that looks a little like nachos), served with tomato, chili and cumin salsa with sweet and sour avocado. I’d vote these my favourite of the night easily. I also loved the herb-crusted zucchini flowers:

Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation  Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation  Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation

Next up were the Primi courses, starting with the crudo dishes. These were raw and refreshing– soused cauliflower with currants, pine nuts, witlof and fresh herbs along with zucchini spaghetti with broad beans, mint, pistachio and stemperata. A great way to showcase seasonal produce and the pine nuts were really good in the cauliflower dish:

Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation

For the arrosto course, we had capunata of roasted baby vegetables with raspberry vincotto– really good. The roasted eggplant and chickpeas with tomato passata were good, and unfortunately my photos for this course haven’t really turned out well:

Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation

Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation

For the secondi dishes listed (pasta e contorni), we had a great homemade ravioli (yesss!) of wild local vegetables, cannellini beans with salsa verde and olive oil. Sooo good and I think some of my dining buddies counted this as their favourite, along with the warm lentils with garlic mollica and citrus:

Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation

Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation

I think this was the point where we chose to pace ourselves a bit! Next up for the dolce courses we had a spiced prune sorbet with Sicilian artisanal dark chocolate for our sorbetto. I must apologise for the really bad photo here, but I kinda gave up the effort to take better photos because I just wanted to dive right in and eat this (note to self: don’t play around with a new lens when there are serious photos to take and sorbetto to eat!). Another winner:

Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation

Finally, an almond milk, oat and farro pudding with bombolone, fresh berries and nut candy for our cuccia course. I loved that this wasn’t too sweet and the bombolone smelled and tasted great (I could eat a bag of them easy). I chose the espresso to go with it, the other option was a bay leaf and lemon rind tea:

Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation

I was hopeful this dinner would be a winner and it most definitely was! This is the kind of great food where you forget that it’s vegan (not that vegan is a bad thing of course, but some people out there think we only eat boring salads!), because the food is so good that’s all you focus on– that it’s really good food, not specifically really good vegan food. This is also the kind of food that easily shows the doubters that plant based meals can really be amazing and that such a celebration of fresh seasonal produce doesn’t have to be for vegans alone. It reminds me of when I became vegan and some of my Greek relatives asked “but what will you eat?!” and I rattled off the names of some Greek regional dishes and they were all ohhh you’ll be fine then! 🙂

Broadsheet had named Bar Idda’s vegan degustation as one of their key dinners and it was a well deserved mention. The food was great, staff were great and everything was paced out really well. It was both a successful celebration of Sicilian inspired cuisine and vegan cuisine. Everything vegan is becoming more mainstream now and vegan degustations have seen some amazing food that have blown apart the rabbit-food stereotypes. Bar Idda has definitely helped dispel that myth, showing people that this is food for everyone, not just vegans and plant based eaters.

Thanks to Bar Idda for holding their vegan degustation and showcasing such beautiful springtime food that is all plant based!

Bar Idda

132 Lygon Street

Brunswick East

http://www.baridda.com.au/

https://www.facebook.com/BarIdda/

Bar Idda Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Bar Idda Brunswick Vegan Degustation

12

The Harvest: A Vegan Degustation at Transformer, Fitzroy

Harvest Vegan Degustation at Transformer

With a number of vegan degustation evenings happening around Melbourne this time of year, I was happy to see Transformer were holding their own vegan evening. I enjoyed my first dinner there back in July and this seemed like a great opportunity to go back!

‘The Harvest- Celebrating the Best in Vegan’ was Transformer’s first ever completely vegan dinner, held on October 22nd, showcasing organic spring harvest ingredients in a seven course degustation. We had the choice of the food on its own, or paired with Australian vegan wines and cocktails. The latter was my choice, I rarely drink alcohol but I was really keen to try the pairings. There was a beautifully designed sheet at each place setting giving us some hints about what we’d be having.

Harvest Vegan Degustation at Transformer

I forgot to take a pen to write everything down because my memory isn’t the greatest when I’m around great food I want to get in my face, so many thanks to Lydia at Transformer for emailing me the tasting notes.

Our first Nibbles course was * hazelnut polenta with tofu cream cheese, sous vide mandarin and micro thyme * Pickled vegetables with dry miso * Tomato tartare with hijiki and nori on a lotus chip * Paired with gin garden aperitif cocktail

These were delicious, though I loved the flavourful tomato tartare more. The cocktail is pictured further down below with the sprig of thyme:Harvest Vegan Degustation at Transformer

Harvest Vegan Degustation at Transformer

We were off to a great start! When the second course came out I was rapt to see it included pulled jackfruit as I’ve never had it before (making me potentially one of the last vegans in the village who haven’t) and this was fantastic. Probably my favourite of the night.

* Activated Charcoal Steamed Bun with BBQ jack fruit and Sriracha mayo * Paired with a lime and coriander elixir:Harvest Vegan Degustation at Transformer

I suspect the charcoal steamed bun was a favourite with others in my group but the asparagus Hollandaise served next won some praise for the Australian morel mushrooms which were great– I’m not adventurous with mushrooms other than your standard button shape but these morels were really good. I also enjoyed the Hollandaise sauce and we had a bit of a discussion about what the ingredients could be. I’m also not a huge asparagus fan unless it’s done properly (too many overcooked spears in my time) but these were prepared beautifully.

* New season asparagus, yuzu hollandaise, morel mushrooms, edamame, cherry tomatoes + purple basil * Paired with 2011 Box Grove Vineyard Roussanne:

Harvest Vegan Degustation at Transformer

Next up was artichoke with garlic puree. The black garlic puree was caramelised for four to six weeks and for me, made this dish. I’m not big on artichokes and can take them or leave them (mostly leave) but with the garlic puree, they were dressed up beautifully. The green strip in the photo is shaved artichoke.

* Globe artichokes with warrigal greens, broad beans, black garlic puree,capers and chilli * Paired with 2014 Sam Miranda Arneis from the King Valley:

Harvest Vegan Degustation at Transformer

The Tofu Dashi was next. The tofu came out in a bowl, with a plate of peas alongside. The broth was then poured in to our bowls. This was lovely, not as fully flavoured as other dishes but still good.

* Crispy silken tofu, fresh truffle and smoked dashi * Paired with 2015 Save our Souls Sangiovese:

Harvest Vegan Degustation at Transformer

Time for the ‘chocolate + peanut surprise’! Chocolate and peanuts, I knew I’d love it. I thought it would be some kind of pudding or small tart but nope, it was a soy based ice cream with salted peanut and coated in dark chocolate with gold leaf. A very nice surprise indeed, the sort of thing where if I made say a dozen of these at home, I’d eat a dozen in one day.

* Chocolate + Salted Peanut Surprise ice cream stick * Paired with Prickly Moses Otway Stout:

Harvest Vegan Degustation at Transformer

Then the slightly sad part of the evening where you realise this is the final course but wow, what a stunner. The aged rice pudding had a crispy sugary shell and was truly excellent. Don’t even think ‘mehhh, rice pudding’ for a nanosecond! This was superb and I snuck looks at my dining companions and they were all nodding along about how excellent this was. A fantastic end to a night of wonderful food!

* Aged rice pudding with compressed pineapple, rum foam and a caramelised banana passion fruit sorbet * Paired with House made Tea and Coffee cocktails:

Harvest Vegan Degustation at Transformer

For our final beverage (with the aged rice pudding) we had the choice of a coffee or tea cocktail. The tea cocktail (shown with the sliced pear below) was an Earl Grey Tea with Laphroaig 1/4 Cask. I chose the Averna + cold filtered coffee cocktail (pictured with the raspberry, mint and citrus peel). I don’t drink coffee but figured this would be a good choice as everything else had been so good and I was correct:

Harvest Vegan Degustation at Transformer

The food and service were both excellent. The wait times between courses were well spaced out and we weren’t left waiting for ages. I found everything well paced and left there very, very happy– happy enough to sign up to the next Transformer degustation as soon as I see it advertised.

Many thanks to the staff at Transformer who made this such an enjoyable evening! And many thanks to my dining buddies too who waited patiently while I took photos– a difficult task when the food was so lovely.

Transformer

97-99 Rose Street

Fitzroy

http://www.transformerfitzroy.com/  to book online

https://www.facebook.com/transformerfitzroy  for more information

14

A Vegan Christmas In July Dinner at Shu, Collingwood

Shu Restaurant, Collingwood

Shu Restaurant in Collingwood has been at the top of my must-eat list for a while. Every Wednesday evening is dedicated to vegan dining but arghghgh, we’re usually always busy on Wednesday. So I was pretty excited to receive an email from Shu inviting me to a vegan Christmas in July degustation evening on a night I was free.

Specialising in Sichuan cuisine, dishes vary from night to night based on the fresh seasonal produce Shu sources from local suppliers. There’s no set menu for this reason and the meals are seasonal, organic and sustainable where possible. On the Wednesdays, the vegan menu is $45 for shared plates of three courses with nine to twelve dishes.

Shu Restaurant, Collingwood

I’d seen plenty of photos of the meals and a few of the space online but walking in, I was rather awestruck by it all. Neon light installations (though not overdone or overwhelming), a wall displaying projected film, art work and sculptures, the beakers used as glasses– everywhere I looked there was something to see and I liked that fun vibe with a real sense of someone’s cheerful personal touch.

Shu Restaurant, Collingwood

The guests all sat at a long communal table and much good conversation was enjoyed. When I arrived with Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe, we were first treated to the lovely warmth inside (it was freezing outside and raining) and this drink made with vodka, lychee syrup, Vietnamese mint and lime (I think I’m missing another ingredient). This was put together by one of the guests sitting opposite us and was quite delicious:

Shu Restaurant, Collingwood

Guests were provided with details of what was to be served and first up we had some chilled and raw dishes. In the photo below, from the bottom right to the back, we have the daikon roll of enoki mushroom, Asian herbs and lettuce in spicy soy sauce. There was a lighthearted discussion about how best to eat this in a dainty, elegant fashion. I really liked this, even though I usually avoid enoki mushroom (only because I’m a mushroom wuss and only like the non-weird stuff like button mushrooms). In the middle is silken tofu with beans, sprouts and pickled chilli relish. This had quite a bit of heat but I still enjoyed it. My favourite though was the cucumber, seaweed and soybean skin with spicy tahini and roasted pumpkin seeds. I don’t usually like cucumber but this was great and possibly my favourite of the night:

Shu Restaurant, Collingwood

Next we had, from left to right below, a steamed tofu pocket stuffed with preserved mustard greens and peanuts. This was nice and mellow for me and I want to try my hand at stuffed tofu like this. Usually I’m too heavy handed and end up cutting the tofu to bits. In the middle there are the pan fried shiitaki and cabbage wonton with pickled chilli jam and Chinese vinegar. Honestly some of the nicest wontons I’ve ever had and the chilli jam had the amount of heat I can tolerate easily. At the back there is the crispy beetroot and wood ear roll with a green chilli dip. I’m not the world’s greatest beetroot fan but I loved this and would happily order a whole plate if they were available:

Shu Restaurant, Collingwood

We had a bit of a pause before the first shared plate came out. I didn’t photograph the entire ‘plate’ but imagine a really long rectangular plate loaded with these pan roasted eggplant rolls with pickled vegetables and roasted cashews. With eggplant dishes like this, I usually feel a bit heavy if there’s a lot of oil involved but I was fine with these and enjoyed them:

Shu Restaurant, Collingwood

Before the eggplant rolls were finished, we had what I think were (according to the list we were given) Home Town noodles. These were flavoured beautifully and a nice cool temperature too which initially was a bit of a surprise as I just assumed they’d be hot. But the cool temperature worked perfectly. Clearly I need more experience with colder noodle dishes but it’s something I’m looking forward to!

Shu Restaurant, Collingwood

Next we had the crunchy coleslaw tossed with seeds and nuts with a Sichuan pepper infused soy sauce. Yet another dish containing an ingredient I don’t really like much (cabbage) but that I loved. For me that’s a testament to how good the food was, being served ingredients I often avoid but loving them here and being inspired to explore them more:

Shu Restaurant, Collingwood

Because I had enjoyed the enoki mushroom daikon roll, I was not as hesitant when it came to the mixed Asian mushrooms, ginger and fennel stir fried in a sweet soy sauce. Another winner:

Shu Restaurant, Collingwood

I was starting to feel slightly full by this point but there was more to come. These wok fried seasonal vegetables with dried chilli and Sichuan pepper were another favourite:

Shu Restaurant, Collingwood

There’s more! The crispy tofu and grilled beanshoots in preserved Pixian bean paste were superb:

Shu Restaurant, Collingwood

We finished off the evening with a raw avocado cheesecake with blackberry syrup and toasted coconut chips. This is how I like my raw cheesecake, not too sweet. A great ending to a wonderful dinner:

Shu Restaurant, Collingwood

Wow, you guys. Everything was great. I’m bummed that I’ve missed out on so many Wednesday vegan nights now that I’ve experienced this, but I’m going to have to make another visit (visits!) a top priority. The food was beautifully presented and the intervals between dishes being brought out were really good too.

Many thanks to Shu for hosting this fabulous evening. Be sure to check out the vegan Wednesdays!

Full disclosure: Shu contacted me to invite me along. On the night we paid for any drinks we ordered, as well as paying an amount of our choosing in to a big money box.

 

Shu Restaurant

147 Johnston Street, Collingwood

http://www.shurestaurant.com/

https://www.facebook.com/eatatshu

Shu are open on Wed-Sun from 6pm to 10:30pm.
Click to add a blog post for Shu Restaurant on Zomato

Shu Restaurant, Collingwood