South Melbourne

Mission #1: Shakahari Too (Event)

The Event
As part of my monthly mission, I decided I would also hold a monthly event to go along with it! This would allow bloggers and friends to join me, allowing some interaction and fun offline and not just online. You can imagine how nervous I was when I started inviting friends to a vegetarian event…

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Luckily, I have some amazing supporters who came to share this unique experience with me. I was after somewhere I hadn’t particularly heard of, but still sophisticated enough for my first dinner event. I came across Shakahari in Carlton and realised they had a second branch in South Melbourne, which looked worth checking out.

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It looks small from the front, but they led us to another dining area at the back. The fish on the walls and mythical creatures on the menu seemed to provide some undertones of possible spiritual influences on the type of food they serve.

20140815_190036 Entree
I found the menu quite accessible for people who aren’t vegetarian – as everything still managed to sound familiar yet delicious. Whilst we decided on our mains, we enjoyed the Avocado Magic for entree; tempura avocado wedges and capsicum rolled in eggplant, served with coriander and sesame puree.

I feel like this was quite creative for a vegetarian entree, and I particularly enjoyed the puree to provide more flavour to the batter.

My friends also ordered a few non-alcoholic drinks. The left drink tasted a bit like apple juice, whilst the right included tamarind and had a bit of a sour aftertaste. I feel that the vibe of the restaurant meant these drinks are supposed to showcase natural ingredients and provide some sort of cleansing in the body.

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Mains

  • Nonya Lodeh ($22): Basmati rice, coconut curry, pappadum (Vegan, Non-dairy, GF)
  • Italian Secret ($22): Spaghetti or Linguini tossed in herbal oil, fresh basil and pesto (Vegan, Non-dairy, GF)
  • Green, Green Laksa ($20.50): Udon noodles in Thai krachai and basil green coconut stock (Vegan, Non-dairy)
  • Croquettes Quinoa ($20.50): Patties of mashed yam, potatoes, quinoa and more (Vegan, Non-dairy, GF)
  • Lasagne Conchita ($22): Lasagne layered with cousous, kale, pumpkin, chia seeds and more (Dairy)

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I had the lasagne, which was so large I struggled to finish it. The layers filled with couscous really made a filling meal and The Sunday Oven beside me also couldn’t finish her’s. For the first time in my life, I would recommend making the lasagne a tad smaller and providing more of the sides and salad to balance it out!

I felt like I also had a bit of food envy for the people who ordered the laksa – it looked delicious and I usually enjoy tofu dishes.

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Desserts

  • Lemongrass Coconut Cheesecake ($15.50) (Dairy)
  • Flourless Chocolate, Cherry and Fig Pudding ($15.50) (Dairy, GF)
  • Tofu Caramel ($14.50) (Vegan, Non-dairy, GF)
  • Black Rice and Sago Pudding ($14.50) (Vegan, Non-dairy, GF)
  • St Ali Coffee Ice-Cream ($6.50, not pictured)

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After some talk, most of us still had room for dessert and I loved the variety in the menu that seemed to cater to all my guests’ tastes.

I had the tofu caramel, but was slightly disappointed as the caramel flavour wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped nor did there seem to be enough sauce to liven up the tofu. My friend’s black rice on the other hand was delicious. It wasn’t pretty, and looked like “cat food” according to Consider the Sauce. But warm and topped in milk, pandan and coconut caramel, the flavour truly shone.

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Some of my guests also chose the freshly made ice-cream. The coffee flavour was made with St Ali coffee and tasted stronger than your usual coffee ice-cream, but I really enjoyed it at that strength.

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Thanks to everyone who made it to this event and I hope you enjoyed the food. I’m glad everyone also enjoyed my cards and programs for the Environmental Film Festival Melbourne – the event that inspired this vegetarian theme.

There’s no mock meats here, so don’t expect that, but expect some flavoursome and creative vegetarian food. I’ll be trying more vegetarian places this month, but feel free to provide suggestions for next month’s event and theme!

Shakahari Too is located at 225 Clarendon St, South Melbourne and is open for lunch Tue-Sat 12-3pm and dinner Wed-Sat 6-10pm. They will start opening Tue-Sat 6-10pm from 2nd September.

Shakahari Too on Urbanspoon

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Mr Loy’s Puff

Whilst Melbourne’s weather becomes chillier, we braved the cold in the evening to visit Mr Loy’s Puff, a small takeaway shop that serves Singaporean hawker food. The location is a bit out of the city, thus it’s part of a little strip of shops that’s more likely to be bustling at lunch rather than on a week night.

20140501_182648 The interior is quite basic, but it’s brightly lit with boisterous colours trying to grab your attention. Little reminders of home for the Singaporean chef decorate the shop, from a little merlion statue at the register to photos of the city at night on the walls.

20140501_183842We were greeted by Rudy, one of the owners, who provided us with a bit of background. He spoke of their chef’s desire to bring Singaporean food to the area and for people who miss these traditional dishes from home. Furthermore, he spoke of their two types of signature puffs ($2 each), which we tried below.

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On the left, we had a bit of an experiment with a black pepper and chicken filling. Apparently, people have remarked that it’s like a pie because of this filling and I can understand why. Mr Loy’s Puff serve handmade puffs with thick and crusty exteriors. Thus, when you reach the black pepper inside, it does almost feel like you’re eating a pie in puff form.

I preferred their more traditional curry puff (right), packed with ingredients and flavour whilst the crunchy crust just made it a touch more enjoyable and different to smaller puffs with indistinguishable ingredients.

20140501_183714Next up, we were tried the popular dish of Hainan chicken rice (left) and also the roast chicken rice (right – both $7.80 regular, $10 large).
20140501_183554Rudy spoke of how they originally served the meals in takeaway containers, but some customers questioned this and now they have changed to the presentation pictured. I think it was a good move, as it feels more thought has gone into the meal, and nice that they are open to feedback.
20140501_183544Both dishes are served with a considerable amount of rice and cucumber. The dishes were not standouts, yet there wasn’t anything wrong with them either. I am not in a position to judge their authenticity, and it’s time like these that I miss my Singaporean friends and wish they were here to help me judge haha!

What I did enjoy was the carrot soup served on the side, which helped balance out the drier rice dish and is a great comfort for a cold, wintery night.
20140501_191534We were lucky enough to try two more dishes, the nasi lemak ($8.50, top right) and curry chicken ($7.80, top left). I really enjoyed the curry chicken as it almost tasted like something my own mother would make, with pieces of potato and chicken.

Apparently it’s become quite popular at the shop due to the cold weather. I can definitely see this as a hit in winter, and a dish that suits this serving style rather than in a packed takeaway container if you’re dining in.

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We felt that the chicken cutlets with the nasi lemak could have been cooked a little more. The sambal (spicy sauce on top of the cucumbers) was quite spicy and I can picture Singaporeans enjoying that strong chilli flavour a lot.

I can’t comment on how authentic the dishes are, but I feel that some of these dishes are accessible in many Asian restaurants so there could easily be a more convenient place closer to you. But if you work around the area or happen to be nearby, I’d definitely recommend the signature curry puffs and the curry chicken.

My Loy’s Puff is located at 452 City Road, South Melbourne. They are open Thurs-Mon 11.30am-8pm and closed Tues/Wed.

Mr Loys Puff on Urbanspoon

*Mons Adventures was invited as a guest of Mr Loys Puff

Chez Dré

A trip down memory lane often leads to memories of food. It’s been a little busy lately so apologies for the lack of posts, but as I tried to rack my brain for places worthy of writing about that were visited a long time ago, Chez Dré came to mind.

Was it the delicious brunch food or desserts that keep it still in my mind? Probably both.

It’s not far out of Melbourne CBD, only a short tram ride away and a little walk off Clarendon St. And typically for a hip brunch spot, its entrance is down a sloping alleyway. It’s one of those always-busy places and, on both occasions, I was seated closer to the entrance of the place and not fully inside where one would be able to see the counter and desserts display more clearly.

Despite my visits being 1-2 years ago, they seem to stick to a slightly similar menu. My first experience, I chose the Moroccan Baked Eggs ($18.50, below), which perhaps has set the standards for me whenever I order baked eggs now.

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It was a decent size and presented well with the spicy sausage pieces scattered in a circle. This is unlike some bigger servings that choose size over quality, and don’t put too much effort into the presentation. This provided just enough of everything and I think the spicy sausage made the dish a winner.

Another bonus was the dipping sauce of tahini yogurt for the baguette, creating a beautiful Mediterranean air for the dish. My friend ordered the same on my second visit (below), although the presentation was slightly different, with the addition of more greens such as mint.

I can’t remember what my friend on my first visit had exactly, but by the photo, it was probably scrambled eggs on sourdough ($9.50) with extra sautéed mushrooms ($4). Despite the simplicity of the meal, my friend kept wanting to go back to Chez Dré after that day. I also ended up with one or two takeaway macarons (vanilla and coffee I think?), which I remember were quite good but not extremely special.

On the second occasion I wanted to save room for some of their proper desserts so I went for the Veggie Petit Déjeuner in French, being the vegetarian big breakfast ($18.50). It included poached eggs, sautéed mushrooms, potato rosti, tomato, avocado and tomato relish.

I think this was a great vegetarian option of the classic big breakfast. I especially enjoyed the potato rosti, a large addition to ensure that you can still get full with no meat. A look at the current menu looks like they have updated this to roasted herb potatoes.

Something that should not come as an afterthought at Chez Dré, are the desserts! We had so much trouble deciding what cake to share ($9.50 each) that the inevitable question of, “Why not both?” sprung to mind.

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Thus we ended up with the Hazelnut-Praline Crunch and also the Blueberry Cheesecake, and the closest I can find on the current menu seems to be the Blueberry and Chestnut Tart. The hazelnut was certainly not the prettiest and we chuckled at the unpleasant look of it. However, it was amazing with its combination of mousse and praline layers, living up to the crunch of its name. The crumble at the top topped it off too – this piece disappeared into nothing extremely quickly.

The cheesecake was nice, but as with most cheesecakes it’s better in small doses. You can see the high amount of the creamy section compared to the base, providing an imbalance and also a cake that is too sweet even for three eager girls to finish. The hazelnut was definitely the winner – although looking at their menu now, I’m tempted by the sound of the Banana, Caramel and Ghana Milk Chocolate gateau!

I would happily agree to drop by Chez Dré any time, but as my food adventures continue, two visits is already plenty, but I would definitely recommend it to other people.

Chez Dré is open 7.30-4.30pm seven days a week and can be found at the rear of Rear of 285-287 Coventry Street, South Melbourne. Find their current menu here.

Chez Dré on Urbanspoon

Merry Weekendnotes!

It’s that season where you finally get to have a break and enjoy your time off. In the spirit of spending your time doing fun things and not working, here’s a Weekendnotes update if you haven’t had a chance to see my latest articles.

Host a Charity Dinner for the Philippines: article
To do our part and assist the Philippines in their time of crisis, we held a small charity dinner that managed to raise $1500 in donations. In the midst of trouble, we shared Filipino culture with those who are not as familiar with it and managed to aid those in need, providing a fun night but with sincere thoughts going out to those in need.

Secret Forest Walks in Daylesford: article
If you want an adventure and you’re not usually a hiker, here’s a challenge. Walking in a secluded forest in Daylesford with a GPS to guide you through a scenic walk, Secret Forest Walks will lead you to places that other people don’t really go. You may or may not be physically challenged whilst you can allow nature’s silence to engulf you.

How to Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Melbourne: article
If you’re looking for a relaxing night or a night that isn’t just full of drinking to welcome 2014, here’s a few ideas. As a person who isn’t a heavy drinker, it’s always nice just to spend the night with good friends and appreciate the year that has passed in good company.

Ayomo Frozen Yogurt Cafe: article
Ayomo, standing for “A Yogurt Moment”, is a fairly new place on Clarendon St in South Melbourne. It provides unique flavours of frozen yogurt, their signature flavour being macadamia. In addition to this they make nutritious juices and smoothies, and even serve up some amazing waffles, so check it out for some healthy late-night dessert!

Ayomo on Urbanspoon

Dahon Tea Lounge

This is what my friend (and I guess a lot of Melbourne) have been waiting for – a Filipino restaurant. Located in the shopping centre of South Melbourne Central, we found Dahon Tea Lounge a little hard to find the first time, until we realised its entrance is much easier to find from York St and not from within the centre itself.

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As a tea lounge, they have a range of interesting sounding gourmet teas, which you can find here. I always enjoy their refreshing flavours of iced tea, my first time opting for my favourite fruit, mango, with passionfruit (below, $5.20) and my second, a berry and lychee (above), which even had some lychees at the bottom. The tea mixes in well with the fruity flavours, so you don’t feel like the flavour is too diluted or either the fruit or tea overpowers each other. The drink on the top right, is a vanilla sago drink, which I can’t say I enjoyed the taste of and would very happily try the entire gourmet tea menu instead. Perhaps the pandan sago version tastes better, but I don’t like pandan either haha!

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On our first visit, my friend was so excited we pretty much ordered everything. By everything I mean longganisa (Filo sausages), pancit canton (wheat noodles stir-fried with vegetables, prawns and chicken, $9.70), deep fried pork belly ($10.20) and a serving of BBQ pork skewers in a meal ($6.90 with garlic rice, extra $1 for egg).

It’s lucky I have a Filo friend to assist with judging the authenticity of our meal. My friend’s first impressions were that they did not taste as good as her homeland. The pork belly was a little dry and salty. Similarly, the noodles did not reach my friend’s expectations, tasting a bit flavourless and watery.

However, the BBQ pork and longganisa were both delicious, but had a different taste compared to food back in the Philippines. As my friend has mentioned numerous times, she loves Filo BBQ. As a non-Filipino, I find there is something about how Filipino people marinate or barbecue meat that gives their BBQ dishes a distinct, rich and smoky flavour, and makes it stand out from your average BBQ.

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Thus it only makes sense for Dahon to have added BBQ wings to their menu ($10.50, above) on our next visit. Once again, it had a delicious BBQ taste but a little too dark/burnt in some areas. My friend also asked for java (tomato) rice and but the waitress said we had ordered steamed rice, so perhaps we weren’t listening properly when she read back our order, although it would have nice for a swap to have been offered.

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They have also introduced the longganisa in a rice dish, so I went for that, having enjoyed  them previously. They were a bit darker than last time, still fat, juicy and full of flavour but I think the first time was better.

And of course, we couldn’t visit without some BBQ skewers (right, 2 pieces for $3.80), so we had the BBQ pork again (top) and pork tocino (bottom). The BBQ pork was again perfect and mouthwatering with its smoky BBQ flavour, however the pork tocino somehow didn’t emanate this same, addictive taste.

In fact, we love the BBQ pork so much, we shared another meal, this time with java rice (below)! In the top left corner, my friend ordered more of the side that the Filipino dishes come with (a little tub for $3), called atchara, which is pickled papaya, sometimes with other vegetables such as carrot. It adds a sour side of vegetables to balance out your BBQ dishes.

We also ordered seafood sinigang, a sour tamarind soup. To share, I think the dish was $20+ and I was surprised by the many prawns and abundance of fish that is included. It’s a little too sour for my taste, although it is similar to the Vietnamese dish, canh chua. I prefer the Vietnamese soup that uses tomato and egg, less watery/sour and more flavoursome for my taste than both the sinigang and canh chua. Despite this, I still happily enjoyed the seafood, whereas my friend preferred the soup itself.

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The question you may be pondering now is probably, did we have room for dessert? Well the first time, in the excitement of it all we went for the classic halo halo (below, $7.80). Similar to some other Asian desserts that use shaved ice, halo halo usually includes shaved ice, evaporated milk, yam, ice-cream, and various other ingredients such as beans, nuts and fruits. You pretty much mix this all together and eat it! The serving was large, but could not compare to the motherland for my friend. For me, it was definitely interesting but it had quite a lot of shaved ice diluting some of the flavour and I think perhaps it could be too exotic for my taste.

Picture taken from Dahon Tea Lounge Facebook page

The second time we were unsurprisingly quite full, so even though we eyed the leche flan (a Filo dessert like crème caramel) and the ube (purple yam) cake in their display cabinet, we had to take our full bellies and save it for another time. I have heard their cakes are quite good though.

So after these visits, I can conclude that Dahon is not 100% authentic. However, with the lack of Filipino restaurants in Melbourne, it makes an exciting venue and provides a change to other Asian restaurants that there are plenty of. This may be a start of many more Filo restaurants popping up – who knows! It’s not amazing, but there are plenty of aspects that can satisfy your Filo food cravings or curiosity as to what Filo food tastes is like.

Dahon Tea Lounge is open Mon, Tue, Thurs, Sun 11-4pm, Fri-Sat 11am-9pm and they are closed on Wednesdays. It is located at Shop 5, Sth Melbourne Central, enter from York St. 

You can view an old version of the menu here, or view their Facebook for more updated items.

UPDATE 23 Nov 2013: I’ve just heard that Dahon is now permanently closed after deciding not to renew their lease. I have since heard of other Filipino restaurants in the suburbs, so stay tuned!

Dahon Tea Lounge on Urbanspoon