Australia: Magic Moments in Melbourne

January 19th, 2012 · Lisa · restaurant review, Travel · Comments
I’m in Auckland now, having an incredible time seeing the sights and prepping for Saturday’s demo, but before I tell you all about my time in New Zealand I’d like to take a step back to continue sharing the amazing meals and meet-ups I had in Melbourne.
So…
I like Lisa. She sleeps when I’m tired, eats when I’m hungry and likes to be quiet when I need some peace. 
But, if I spent all my time just with Lisa, I’d rarely discover new music (she’s not very with-it), new perspectives, or new menu options (at lease not ones that don’t list kale, apples or ginger in the description).
Having friends who motivate you to try something new expand your world. They broaden your perspective and push fresh ideas into your little space in the universe. Exploring Melbourne’s fantastic food scene with friends old and new allowed for a diverse array of discoveries.
Today, I’m going to share some of the cooked vegan meals I enjoyed…my next post is all about the raw wonders.
Ryan, my host and long-time travel friend (we’ve hung out on three continents), shared his joy of muesli. Aussies and Kiwis love muesli in a much more intense way than Canadians do. I was amazed by the amount of shelf-space dedicated to muesli options at the local Coles.
During my stay in Melbourne I started most of my days with a bowl of fresh Aussie apricots and either a sprinkle of Ryan’s muesli or a some of my Loving Earth Deluxe sprouted buckwheat cereal. Both provided enough fuel to get me through the ups and downs of urban hiking.

On my first day out exploring, I was all on my own (you know, with Lisa). When I saw the neon sign for the Vegie Bar I had already been walking for hours and was definitely ready to sit down for a substantial meal and a tall glass of water. The chef raised the bar on the simple salad with a delightful array of marinated mushrooms, chickpeas tossed in a light vinaigrette, a pile of greens, beets and carrots and a crispy triangle of sautéed tempeh.

It was a great meal…but very typical Lisa.

The next day, I met my long-lost soul mate on Brunswick Street. Some of you already know Hannah and owe her huge gratitude for bringing such sunshine and joy into the blogosphere.

In real life this woman simply glows. She is beautiful, intelligent and hilarious. I just loved listening to her. I have no doubt we’ve forged a long-lasting friendship that will flourish even across the world.

I had such fun exploring the city on our double date (that’s two days not two people). But one of the highlights for me was our meal at Shakahari. The food was fabulous but the server made the meal. He gushed as he talked to us about the menu, shared his passion for dance and absolutely fawned over us. We giggled – it was all a bit intoxicating.

Being with Hannah and Dennis (our server) left me overwhelmed with joy. It made my cheeks pink as it filled me up :)

I was also full from the massive bowl of beans, rice salad, steamed veggies and the incredibly creamy, peanut sauce I drizzled on top.

Hannah ordered this bountiful bowl of papaya salad that made both of us swoon. It had such bright flavours, a nice balance of sweet, sour and spice. The tempeh and nori were a wonderful addition.

It was so hard to say good bye to Hannah, but I have no doubt we’ll meet again. I’m not-so-secretly hoping she’ll plan a good long stint overseas. Toronto needs more Hannah.
A couple of days later, I met the couple who would end up being the most amazing ambassadors of vegan Melbourne. I was delighted by every discovery they brought my way. They’ve been exploring the city’s best eats for years and documenting it all on In The Mood for Noodles. We met at Yong’s Green Food, a great spot to satisfy a hankering for kim chi dumplings or a fresh, bowl of raw pad thai.
We shared some tempeh sushi rolls as I sipped on the house kombucha.

I ordered the house salad, which I’ll tell you about in the next post. I can’t remember the name of Toby’s dish but it included some savoury soy slices that he topped with spicy kim chi. I’m a huge fan of that Korean condiment – it add such a special intensity to everything it touches.

K order the evening’s special, buckwheat crepes which were amazing, but my photo of it was not. Sorry – dark restaurants are a point-and-shoot nightmare.

After dinner, we decided to forego the raw cheesecake to make an attempt to visit Coco Loco for vegan crepes. When it was closed, I was swept off to Casa Del Gelato instead. You may remember the photos from my last post. It was the most decadent, creamy, nutty, chocolately gelato I’ve every spooned into my mouth. Amazing!

K introduced me to vegan Tim Tams and Mint Slices. I’m saving the details of this discovery for an upcoming post because I plan to rework the recipe into a raw vegan treat. If you live in Australia you must try them.

K and Toby were also the ones who took me to Monk Bodhi Dharma for their incredible brunch. I’m not sure I can express the gratitude I feel for the guided tour they gave me of the city’s best compassionate cuisine.

After brunch on Sunday, they stayed for my talk hosted by Natural Health Supplies in Elwood. It was so special to have them in the audience. The crowd was enthusiastic and engaged. After an amazing round of Q&A;, K whisked me away to the vegan grocery store to pick up some kale and avocado.

I love having friends who understand my need for a big dose of green goodness.

I really hope K and Toby will visit Toronto soon. I’d love to return the food tour favour.

All the advice from these local meet-ups was complimented by my friends who had visited or lived in Melbourne in the past. One of the most suggested spots was Trippy Taco.

I visited one evening for a sample of their vegan taco, with spicy black beans and lots of fresh garnishes. It was simple perfection.

I topped off this meal with with their decadent dessert: warm tortilla, sliced banana, and vegan nutella!
My local friend (Toby, again!) also suggest a great spot to share with my host and his parents that would satisfy us all.
On his recommendation we reserved a table at Gasometer, a casual American-style pub with an impressive menu of hearty vegan options. They offer an amazing array such as: tofu buffalo wings, vegan pulled-pork sandwiches and some decadent sounding desserts. I settled on the vegan reuben, sharing slices of the pastrami with everyone at the table. The reactions were all raves. I was happy to share with the enthusiastic eaters (who had never experienced soy or wheat meat before) since this ample helping was more than I could tackle on my own. However, I’m proud to say I did devour the double order of greens all by myself.

As you can see, my time in Melbourne was an eating extraveganza. I hiked everywhere, for hours each day to work up an appetite to try all the amazing options. I feel so blessed by the vegan and blogging community who have welcomed me in every city and have introduced me to memorable meals along the way.

I hope this post encourages you all to reach out to each other – take someone on a food tour of your city, or send that note to plan a meet-up the next time you find yourself on the road.

I’ll be back soon with more magical moments from Melbourne. xo

2 Comments

  1. Posted January 23, 2012 at 1:55 am

    Oh, I miss Melbourne! I lived there for 3 years, and Veggie Bar and Shakahari were major favourites of mine…. I went on a terrible first date at Shakahari, the food was FAR better than the company. Very jealous you got to meet the lovely Hannah in person too, I will get down to Canberra one day! It's been so great reading about you adventures, and now you are in NZ… my homeland :) Looking forward to hearing about your Kiwi experience!

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