201-203 Faraday Street, Carlton 3053
(03) 9347 3848
While I’ve since heard a bunch of raving reviews for Shakahari (the supposed apex of vegetarian food in Melbourne) I first heard about this restaurant from my parents. Apparently they loved it back in the 1970s when they were studying at La Trobe University and surprisingly, it’s still standing. My parents are the furthest things from vegetarians (my mother is always making subtle suggestions that maybe I should eat a steak) so I knew that if they loved it, I would be in heaven.
Shakahari is quite an unassuming restaurant. Appearing as if it’s been converted from a Carlton house, it’s easy to miss if you’re walking along Lygon Street. Booking doesn’t appear to be necessary, as every time I’ve been here I’ve gotten a table immediately, despite clearly being a popular vego hub. The interior is pretty stereotypical for an Indian-Asian inspired vego joint. With warm orange hues abound and Buddhist motifs subtly placed everywhere, I have to say that the atmosphere lowered my expectations. Not to mention the wooden floors that made it very loud and impossible to have a quiet conversation. How good could this hippy place be? But I found that my hesitance was unwarranted when I saw the menu. As with the Vegie Bar, everything here is completely vegetarian, with options to go vegan or gluten free. The menu isn’t as extensive as Vegie Bar’s, but each meal is packed with protein and flavour. I’ve been here twice and while I’ve heard good things about the other menu items, my go-to meal is the Satay Shakahari. This time I also ordered the Avocado Magic as an entree, which I had heard rave reviews about.
The Avocado Magic consists of pieces of avocado, wrapped with capsicum and eggplant, fried in a tempura batter and served with a green sauce which tasted like a sweet mint sauce. It was quite small given the price but it made for an interesting combination that I would probably try again. The Satay Shakahari is a perfect vegetarian meal. Pierced on skewers were pieces of veges as well as tofu, tempeh and seitan, providing much-needed protein. The thick peanut satay sauce which was generously smothered on the skewers was a treat, tasting deliciously salty. The brown rice on the side was soft and fluffy and the salad on the side, which included pickled ginger, provided some sweetness to balance the overwhelming saltiness of the dish. Overall, the meal was very filling although perhaps felt a bit too carbohydrate-rich. My friend tried the Green, Green Laksa which was, despite a waiter’s insistence otherwise, very spicy and contained far too many mushrooms. I finished the meal with gourmet icecream that was “like chocolate icecream but not”, according to the waiter. It was interesting, and far more subtle than actual chocolate icecream.
Perhaps the main downfall of Shakahari is the price. While it’s quite decent for a sit-down restaurant around Lygon Street, with most meals costing between $15-25, it’s quite costly on a student budget. But, if you can look past that, it’s great vegetarian food that feels genuinely healthy.
- Taste: 9/10
- Nutrition: 9/10
- Atmosphere: 6/10
- Cost: 6/10
- Convenience: 9/10
- Overall: 39/50
Conclusion: Tasty. Worth trying.