Sunday, December 17, 2017

Revisiting Sydney favourites

November 30 & December 2, 2017


I arrived in Sydney right on dinner time Thursday night, and I was eager to treat myself to a fun meal after a week of mediocre catering. I was just a couple of blocks from Yulli's, where I perched at the bar and caught up on their menu. It's changed a good deal and might be better than ever! I was certainly enamoured with the naan pocket ($17.50), served with beer-battered fries and stuffed with a cluster of crispy-fried enoki mushrooms, haloumi slices, pickled cabbage, lettuce, fresh herbs and aioli.


I wandered strategically past Gelato Messina on my way back to my accommodation, and found there wasn't much of a queue in spite of the warm weather. I took a successful punt on a scoop of the special Breakfast of Champions ($5) - the cereal milk gelato was rather subtle, but I loved the sticky-chewy swirls of Milo and crushed honey joys.


Yum cha at Bodhi in the Park is always a treat, and this visit was the perfect intersection of conditions. The weather was gorgeous and we scored a table outside under the trees by a couple of wily ibis; the staff were engaged and helpful; the plates were varied and scrumptious! Fluffy mock chicken buns, dumplings dredged through sauce, crispy rolls stuffed with mock prawns, sauteed greens, cups and cups of tea, all finished with a shared glass of pandan sago with coconut milk and palm sugar syrup poured at the table. The bill here is always a little heftier than I expect (almost $90 this time), but I've not regretted it yet.


We visited Another Outspoken Female and her Significant Eater on Saturday night, and we shared a delightful meal for the second time at the all-vegan Gigi pizzeria. They generously let us pick our preferred pizzas, and we chose:

  • the Patate ($24) with both thin-sliced and smashed chunky potatoes, garlic, rosemary, and dabs of black truffle pate,
  • the Funghi e Radicchio ($22) with Swiss brown mushrooms, garlic, Vegusto blue cheese and roasted walnuts under a scattering of radicchio leaves and parsley,
  • the Cavolo ($22) spread with cauliflower puree and topped with artichokes, pine nuts, capers, currants, garlic and parsley,
  • Rucola, mele e cannella ($14), a salad of rocket, radicchio, roasted apple pistachio, cinnamon, olive oil, salt and lemon zest.


It's a remarkable and remarkably popular restaurant, with a completely different approach to Melbourne's vegan pizzeria, Red Sparrow.

This little escape to Sydney felt long overdue! We certainly crammed in as many eats as we could - it's always exciting to check out what's new, and I've now caught myself feeling nostalgic as I re-re-revisit stayers like Bodhi.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Shift Eatery & Green Mushroom

December 1 & 3, 2017

I arrived in Sydney just in time to meet up with Cindy for lunch at Shift Eatery, Sydney's answer to Smith and Deli. It's more a sit-down place than S & D, but the menu is working similar territory - lots of sandwiches and toasties, plus some salads and a cabinet full of sweets. It's all vegan and it's pretty popular, we were lucky to sneak a table before the lunchtime rush hit.


Cindy ordered the 'nothing fishy' sandwich ($12), made from chickpea and artichoke 'tuna', with house made aoili, greens and tomato. Cindy described it as a healthy version of Smith and Deli's Free Willy 2, which is a bit of a back-handed compliment (it probably didn't help that she filled up on her chilled iced chocolate with macadamia milk and 50% cocoa chocolate, $5). I ordered the 'Reuben's brother, Steve', a combo of corned beef, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, cheddar cheese and gherkins ($16). I was very impressed with this - loads of mock meat piled up with great accompaniments and toasted to perfection.

We took a couple of Treat Dreams sweets away for later and they were brilliant - their chocolate bars are available from Cruelty Free Shops we're keeping an eye out for a Melbourne pop-up soon.


We were enthusiastic enough to head back to grab a wrapped lunch on our way to the airport. We decided that untoasted sandwiches were the most likely to travel well, so I grabbed the smoked tofu (minus the pineapple, but with greens, slaw, lime tahini sauce, tomato, chipotle and mix sprouts, $14) and Cindy picked up the 'join the club' - chicken schnitzel, turkey slices, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado and house made aioli ($16).


These were both spectacular. Shift are really delivering some solid Sydney lunches. It'll be a regular stop on our future Sydney jaunts.

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We headed to Glebe for dinner, following some Twitter advice to check out Green Mushroom, an all-vegan Indian restaurant. We were a bit overwhelmed by the menu, which ran to something like 8 pages and spanned all manner of classic Indian dishes along with a couple of random pasta options. We were tempted by the mock lamb options and the palak tofu, but in the end had to restrain ourselves to just a couple of dishes.


We combined the eggplant and potato masala ($18.95) with a veggie and tofu biryani ($16.95) and a serve of the excellent vegan garlic naan ($3.50). The eggplant and potato dish was wonderful, with the eggplant surprisingly out-shining the potato. The biryani had a good spicy kick and a nice mix of veggies and tofu throughout. 


Prices seem a little bit excessive for Indian food, but the portions are generous (we couldn't eat all of this between the two of us) and the service was great. It'd be a fun place to take a big group to - there are so many dishes to try! It's pretty ace to have an Indian restaurant where vegans don't have to worry about ghee sneaking into things too.

It was great to check out a couple of new (to us anyway) all-vegan places in Sydney. They'll likely make it onto our repeat-visit list... that's coming up in our final Sydney post.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Breakfast in Surry Hills

December 1 & 3, 2017


At the start of this month, both Michael and I had work commitments in New South Wales, allowing us a stealthy weekend stopover in Sydney. We booked a little apartment in Surry Hills and soaked up the sun.

The Urban List had a handy recent article on the neighbourhood's best breakfasts, and we tried two of them. I visited Gratia before Michael arrived. It's a social enterprise that hosts community events and donates its profits to charities, some of which customers can vote for. The menu is short but appetising - eggs on toast, fruits, fritters and a pancake, with sandwiches and salads at lunch time and some vegan-friendly goodies on display at the counter.

I took a seat in their small, pretty courtyard and ate the avocado toast ($14); it was lined with tahini, sprinkled with sesame seeds and pea leaves, and very well seasoned.
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Shenkin came with an additional recommendation from a shop manager I met on Friday morning. The first Shenkin opened a decade ago in Erskineville and now five outlets dot the inner city. The breakfast menu adds Tel Aviv twists to dishes we're used to seeing: the avocado toast comes with artichoke hearts and za'atar, muesli is served with tahini and rosewater-infused yoghurt, and waffles are sprinkled with halva.


I took on the Tamar Pancakes ($18.50, above left) and found the flavours on point but the proportions out of whack. Just one big cakey disc would have been plenty, and I was pining for more strawberry and banana slices. Vanilla creme and date molasses were terrific garnishes.

Michael wasn't quite sure how to handle the Malawach special ($19, above right), but he relished every bite! It centred around a roti-like pastry and a boiled egg, upon which he tipped numerous condiments: hummus, grated tomato, spicy coriander harissa and tahini.


These were fun ways to start our days, and of course we ate plenty more besides. Michael will cover a couple of the newer vegetarian cafes in his next post.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Mock fish sambal goreng with coconut greens

November 19. 2017


This is a slightly involved but deeply rewarding meal that Michael and I teamed up on, on a quiet Sunday. We were clearly feeling a little nostalgic for the holiday we had in Bali a couple of months ago!

The meal centres on a mock fish sambal goreng recipe from Sri Owen's Indonesian Food, a cookbook that long pre-dates our holiday. It's not intended to be vegetarian, but I glibly replaced the fish and shrimp paste with vegan imitations. I also subbed in a little almond meal for a couple of candlenuts in the spice paste, and was pretty generous with my use of tamarind concentrate and coconut milk. The spice paste is designed to be tangy and complex, and the sauce rich and runny. It was largely a success, and we reveled in drenching our salty 'fish' pieces and steamed rice in it. Nevertheless, I'll try reducing the coconut milk quantity next time, because it came close to smothering a really great spice paste.

Our accompaniment comes straight from our holiday cooking class, a flexible blanched-greens-and-coconut salad. It's robust to haphazard treatment, even benefiting from a bit of bruising to release the makrut lime flavour, and a bit of time at rest before being served. Sprinkling the fried shallots on just as it's being served guarantees it'll feel fancy.

Michael cheerfully gloated his way through the leftovers, packed for lunch, while I was committed to catering at a work function. I reckon we'll both have the appetite to make more of this soon.



Mock fish sambal goreng
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Sri Owen's Indonesian Food)

spice paste/bumbu
4 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
3 large red chillies, stem and seeds removed then roughly chopped
1 teaspoon mock shrimp paste
1 generous teaspoon almond meal
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon fresh galangal, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons liquid tamarind concentrate
2 tablespoons coconut milk

other sauce ingredients
850mL coconut milk
5cm stem lemongrass
2 makrut lime leaves
3 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
salt

1 tablespoon peanut oil
250g mock cod fillet, sliced into bite-sized pieces


Place the spice paste ingredients in a spice grinder or food processor and blend until smooth.

Set a medium-large saucepan over medium heat and add in the spice paste, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, lemongrass and lime leaves, and bring everything to the boil. Turn down the heat to medium and cook, stirring regularly, for 50 minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt, and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Set the sauce aside.

Heat the peanut oil in a frypan over medium heat, and fry the mock fish until lightly browned on at least one side. Pour over the sauce and cook for 5 minutes, season to taste. Serve with steamed rice and coconut kailan.



Coconut greens
(slightly adapted from a recipe shared at Casa Luna Cooking School)

1 cup grated coconut
1 large bunch kailan or other green vegetable
2 tablespoons sambal
3 makrut lime leaves, shredded finely
1 tablespoon fried shallots
salt, to taste

Preheat an oven to 150°C. Place the coconut in a dry tray and gently roast it for up to 30 minutes; check and stir it every five minutes and remove it when it starts becoming golden (gold is great, but don't risk burning it!).

While the coconut is roasting, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Trim the stems from the kailan and chop it into large pieces. When the water is boiling, blanch the kailan for abotu 2 minutes, then drain.

In a medium large bowl, stir together all the ingredients, including the roast coconut and kailan. You can be a bit rough, allowing the ingredients to bruise and the flavours to mingle.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Merri Table

November 19, 2017


We've enjoyed some nice brekkies at CERES over the years, so I was a bit shocked to wander through one weekend and realise that the old outdoor cafe had disappeared. Instead, CERES have focussed their energy on The Merri Table, a cafe that was briefly a fancy-ish restaurant (e.g. see this review) and was then a site for functions/courses, etc. Now it's the main breakfast and lunch option at CERES, with a nice mix of indoor and outdoor seating (it also hosts the excellent Tamil Feasts nights these days).


We stopped by on a Sunday morning to try it out. The menu is pretty standard Brunswick breakfast - chia seeds, crumpets, a range of interesting egg dishes and a few vegan options. It's not all vego, but there are no shortage of options. I sampled something from the specials board - braised brussel sprouts with capers, onions, garlic croutons, spiced yoghurt and poached eggs ($17). 


This was a solid option - it's always nice to get a big plate of seasonal veggies, and the croutons added some nice garlicky crunch to the dish. It all got a bit soggy towards the end, but it hit the spot nicely. 

Cindy was hoping for a nice fresh fruit salad, but the closest offering was a chia pudding, so she looked to the cabinet goods for something small. A pear, walnut and banana muffin ($4.50) did the job, especially when paired with a dandelion tea ($5). 


The Merri Table is a lovely place to have a meal - from the balcony area you look across the beautiful CERES gardens and catch the sunshine. The menu isn't that exciting - it doesn't compare to the range of goodies on offer around the corner at New Day Rising for example, but there are a decent range of savoury options, good coffee and friendly service. The best part about it is the location - while we were there we picked up some organic groceries at the market, dropped off some goods for the ASRC and hit up the nursery for some herb seedlings (as an added bonus, there's a whole family of tawny frogmouths living near the creek nearby).


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There are some positive reviews of the cafe version of The Merri Table at Fitzroyalty, Hide and Seek and A Place a Day
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The Merri Table
CERES, cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East
9389 0100

Accessibility: The entry way is via a rough gravel path, but once you're inside things are spacious and flat. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.