Monday, October 31, 2011

Gasometer VI

11/11/2013: We're sad to report the closure of our beloved Gasometer.

October 23, 2011
On Sunday last week we shared a farewell meal with Steph. We're sad about her absence from the VegMel scene but super-happy-excited for the adventures coming her way. We were also just a little excited to check out Gasometer's new menu. It's very much a continuation of the Americana theme and heavy on the mock meat; the beloved vegan Southern-fried chicken burger and Buffalo tofu strips remain but there's so much more to distract one from revisiting them. Vegan and veganisable options are well-labelled and cover most of the menu, gluten-free options are less abundant but still clearly stated. Michael, Toby and I split three new meals for optimum taste-testing.

Toby started out with the chicken and waffles ($21), choosing the iceberg wedge with ranch dressing and grilled corn cob brushed with smoked garlic butter as his sides. I did not hold high hopes for this sweet and savoury combo but was pleasantly surprised - the Southern-fried mock meat, waffles and syrup were a pretty tasty combination. That said, I can't imagine ever polishing this off solo.

I ordered the BBQ pulled 'pork' sandwich ($20) with chips and slaw on the side. I barely recognised the slaw, more minced than shredded now. The chips are still great (phew!). I was most excited, though, to test out this jackfruit-based 'pork'. Opinions are divided - it's a little smoky, heavily sauced and very, very sweet. The bun is pretty sweet and puffy too, adding to the effect. I liked this 'pork', though I wished it came with an extra contrasting filling - something fresher with a bit of chew.

Michael's Reuben sandwich ($20) was the widespread favourite, a tower of imitation pastrami betwixt rye bread slices, with a little sauerkraut and Russian dressing. Another meal I couldn't ever hope to defeat on my own. His sides of cornbread and greens were solid if not inspiring.

Gasometer is going bigger and better with every alteration. I love it, but my appetite is struggling to keep up with their super-sizing. It's probably time I scaled back to apps and zerts.

Check out our previous visits to Gasometer: one, two, three, four, five. The new menu has already been covered by Louise, By Degrees. Veg*n reviews have also recently appeared on Healthy Party Girl, Ballroom Blintz, Black Bunny Carousel and easy as vegan pie. There's only been one omni review in the last few months, on two munch. Everyone loves the food, though some of us have had to wait for it.

The Gasometer
484 Smith Street, Collingwood
9417 5539
veg eats $5 - $21
facebook page

Accessibility: The Gasometer has a small step on entry. The tables are crowded in some areas but the booths and tables closest to the entry are relatively spacious. Ordering and payment occurs at a high counter. Male and female toilets are on the same level as everything else but are not particularly spacious.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Caesar salad simulation

October 23, 2011
Our latest veg delivery turned up a huge lettuce. It got me thinking about Vegangela's Caesar salad recipe and our recent experiments with tempeh bacon. Michael was up for it. Not finding tempeh at the shops, he trialled tofu bacon and it was pretty fab too! More fleshy, for want of a better word, and less crispy. Meanwhile I pulled together the salad dressing and it was just my kind of thing, a little creamy and very tangy. We loved this salad. When the croutons ran out the next day, our remaining tofu bacon and dressed lettuce leaves made great sandwich fillings.

Later in the week I was at a catered event featuring two large bowls of Caesar salad. It struck me as rather inefficient in a time when so many people have special dietary requirements. Eggs, bacon, anchovies, parmesan and croutons - there's enough here to put off vegetarians and vegans, the dairy intolerant, gluten intolerant and anyone keeping kosher. This version has all the flavour of the original and will satisfy almost all those restrictions (the gluteny croutons remain for now).

Caesar salad simulation
(embellished on a recipe from Vegangela)

tofu bacon
1/2 cup tamari
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
600g firm tofu
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

small loaf bread
2 large cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large lettuce

1/4 cup blanched almonds
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Start by marinating the tofu bacon. In a large shallow dish or tray, whisk together the tamari, maple syrup and liquid smoke to form a marinade. Slice the tofu into 3mm-thick pieces and dredge them through the marinade, leaving them to soak up the flavour for at least an hour (we left them in the fridge overnight).

Next work on the croutons. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Remove the crust from the bread and slice the rest into 1 inch cubes. Mince the garlic. In a medium bowl, stir together the bread cubes, garlic and olive oil. Transfer them to a baking tray and spread them out. Bake for 5 minutes, give 'em a stir, then bake them for a further 5 minutes or until they're golden and crunchy. Leave them aside to cool.

Time to finish off the bacon! Fry the tofu slices in the vegetable oil on medium-high heat, until browned on both sides. Slice the tofu bacon into strips and set aside.

Wash the lettuce leaves thoroughly, dry them out, then break them into large-ish pieces and pile them up in a large serving bowl.

Dressing time. Grind the almonds up in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly. Season to taste, and add a little water if you'd like it to be thinner. Pour the dressing over the lettuce leaves and toss it through. Add the croutons and bacon and you're done.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trippy Taco IV

October 22, 2011
Trippy Taco have been warning us of their impending relocation for many months - finally they've made the move just around the corner to Gertrude St! There's just barely more seating than their previous premises but the kitchen appears to have increased capacity (surely a good strategy given their popularity). Unfortunately it's not much easier to queue or wait for takeaways.

Though we'd heard rumours of an expanded menu, it looks the same for the moment. No complaints there - it's all vegetarian, with abundant vegan and gluten-free options. I gave the nachos a shot for the first time. Would you believe this is a small ($9.50) portion?! It's a full meal for me. While there's not a lot of spice or complexity, there's plenty of toppings and not too much congealed cheese (my pet nacho hate).

The new Trippy Taco's not so different to the old Trippy Taco - but why mess with the formula when so many like it? It's cheap, filling and boasts more fresh veg than your average takeaway. (The chips are pretty great too!) We'll be back any time we can find an empty seat.

You can read about some of our previous visits to Trippy Taco here, here and here.


Trippy Taco
234 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
9415 7711
veg mains $6-15.50

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry and the tables are fairly crowded inside. Ordering and payment occurs at a high counter.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Om Vegetarian

October 22, 2011
At a loose end in the CBD and for once not feeling like Lord of the Fries, Cindy and I finally dropped in on Om Vegetarian. It's almost directly above the Elizabeth Street LotF store and proudly advertises $6.50 all-you-can-eat vegetarian food. While it's not a Krishna place, Om works on a very similar model: $6.50 gets you a big tray of food including a couple of curries, some bread, rice and pickles. It also gets you as many refills as you can handle. You can pay $2 more to get a lassi or a couple of gulab jaman, but the main focus is on the savouries.

The menu changes every day, so you can go back with some expectation of variety. We were offered moong dal, a capsicum and potato curry, pulao rice, naan and an onion pickle.

The curries were both fairly simple - warm and filling but not particularly exciting. The star of the show was the naan bread, freshly made, hot and delicious. The staff brought around bread refills and I couldn't resist.

Om Vegetarian is a fairly basic sort of place (both in terms of food and décor), but it's made a space for itself because of its tremendous value for money. We saw heaps of people getting full value by making 2 or 3 trips back to the bain marie to reload. Vegans will struggle - there's butter and/or ghee in much of what Om serve - but as a quick, cheap CBD lunch for vegetarians and omnivores, Om does a decent job.

Om has been praised mainly for its value for money by Oh There You Are, Sweet and Sour Fork, Living Cheap Down Under and Gastrology.


Om Vegetarian
Level 1, 28 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne
9663 0062
All you can eat veg food $6.50

Accessibility: Om is one floor up, with stair and lift access. The restaurant is fairly spacious and open, with ordering and payment happening at the front counter. We didn't explore their toilets.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Birdman Eating III

Edit 11/03/2016: Fitzroyalty has declared Birdman Eating to be closed.

October 20, 2011
While we've visited and enjoyed Birdman Eating for several breakfasts, we only recently looked over their evening tapas menu and gave it a go. It was a risk to take our friend Mike there - he's got this thing against shared plates - but after a little while wandering the neighbourhood, being turned away from and individually vetoing other restaurants in turn, we persuaded him to try it. The menu's just over half vegetarian and had a few items I was very keen to try.

Our waiter was a bit distant, just barely helpful and not really friendly, but successfully committed our order to memory.
First to arrive was the fried haloumi with a salad of red rice, dried sour cherries and pistachios ($15). Having enjoyed the flavour riots that are Ottolenghi's grain salads all year, this was disappointing. I couldn't taste the cherries or pistachios at all.

Unfortunately after our first plate, there was a long wait before we saw any more food. This was a little surprising, since the restaurant was at best half full. 

The rest of our order arrived all at once. The confit kipfler potatoes with chilli salt and vanilla aioli ($9.50) were the highlight - a little greasy, but beautifully seasoned. The unexpected vanilla didn't stand out.

Meanwhile, the ricotta gnocchi with blue cheese, pear and chives ($16.50) didn't really come together. The gnocchi were large and bland, the blue cheese appeared as a few dry clumps... without a sauce these were just disparate ingredients in a pan.

It was not a performance to convert Mike to tapas. Yet having paid little more than $20 each to eat the rest of us didn't feel awfully cheated. If the dishes had lived up to their descriptions and we'd enjoyed the environment a little more, we would have been happy indeed with the price. Since they and we didn't, our next meal out with Mike is likely to involve jumbo burritos.

You can read about our visits to Birdman Eating for breakfast here and here. Meanwhile, the tapas menu has received very mixed reviews from others; see eyes on the fries, Foodie About Town, FOOD CHEE, The Love we make - The Love we take, Out of my kitchen, mochii eats, Fill My Belly in Melbourne, message in a bottle, The Gourmet Challenge and The Neo Melbournian.

Birdman Eating
238 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
9416 4747
veg tapas $7.50-17.50

Accessibility: Tables outside are on a sloping footpath. There's a small step on entry and tables are a little crowded. There's full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Supreme beetroot pizza

October 19, 2011
This meal was pure folly. The first sunny, truly hot day of the season; Michael and I meet in the city for a rooftop cocktail before heading home for dinner. And what have I picked for dinner? Pizza. From scratch. In the oven. With these marinated things you're meant to bake first. On a school night. Like I said, pure folly. But worth it!

We'd received a couple of little beetroots in our vege box, y'see, and I had my heart set on turning them into beetroot pepperoni - seen on In The Mood For Noodles and sourced from Diet, Dessert and Dogs. It starts off very much like the bacon marinade recipes we're familiar with but brings more ground spices into the mix  (and I'd encourage you to up the paprika and add some cayenne if you like it spicy). Thankfully the thin-as-you-can beetroot slices don't need any pre-marinating - it all just goes straight in the oven, to cook down to sticky deliciousness.

With these little gems on our pizza, we kept the rest pretty simple - just tomato paste, sliced mushrooms (another fading vege box item) and a little cheese. It was a supreme pizza.

It would a smarter pizza, of course, if I'd pre-baked the beetroot. This stuff would surely double or triple and store well in the fridge for days. I can imagine adding it to all manner of things - sandwiches, pasta, salads, burgers, bakes, tarts, muffins, ...

Thankfully we were able to get our teeth into another pizza while the beetroot was baking. This one was topped with a vegan pesto kindly given to me by a friend, pre-baked pumpkin slices (a vege box advance-planning win!), pine nuts and rocket.

Supreme beetroot
(adapted slightly from In The Mood For Noodles,
where it's credited to Diet, Dessert and Dogs)

3-4 very small beetroots
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons tamari
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon beef-style stock powder
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/8 teaspoon ground sage leaves
1/4 teaspoon paprika
I'd recommend: more paprika and cayenne for extra spice

Preheat an oven to 170°C.

Peel the beetroots and slice them as thinly as you can. In a baking tray or casserole dish, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Add the beetroot slices, coating them thoroughly in the marinade then spreading them out as best you can.

Bake the beetroot slices, first for 20 minutes and then in 10 minute intervals. Flip the slices over and keep basting them in the marinade each time you retrieve them from the oven. When they've absorbed most of the marinade and are starting to dry out and curl up around the edges (this took mine a bit over an hour) they're done!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The annual lab culinary competition

October 17, 2011

The annual culinary competition is still my workplace's social highlight. That it occurred a week or two later than usual this year only served to heighten the anticipation. Our hyper-competitive lab leader was sadly absent but the quality didn't diminish for lack of his trash talk or formidable skill. This year tended towards fewer entrants, though many of them made multiple submissions - certainly no-one went hungry.

This is the one post each year where you'll see non-vegetarian foods on this blog. Everyone puts in a lot of effort, a range of dietary requirements are catered to, and I think every dish deserves a mention.

smoked wild trout dip
personally caught and smoked by the cook
winner of the Bear Grylls Award
co-winner of the Jane's Choice Award

an Iranian roasted eggplant dish with curd
winner for the Tastiest Brown Mush

lemon marinated flathead tails
and a coriander, mint and Thai basil salad
with galangal dressing
winner of the Taste of Spring Award
co-winner of the Jane's Choice Award

winner of the Herbaceous Award

(accompanied by the spicy tomato sauce below)
winner of the All-inclusive Award

tuna carpaccio
with lime, passionfruit, coriander and capers
co-winner of the Jane's Choice Award

braised fennel

pepper, sesame and fennel-crusted tuna
on asparagus and blood orange salad
co-winner of the Jane's Choice Award

two more nameless seafood dishes
co-winners of the Jane's Choice Award

winner for Best Tapas with Matched Wine

mystery meat

kangaroo sausage rolls

spiced meatballs

mushroom garden
winner for the Tastiest Garden

blue cheese and walnut baked ricotta

baked ricotta with lemon thyme and garlic

sweet and salty berry crispbread

barbecued chicken and pretzels,
accompanied by home brewed beer (pictured below)
award winner for Best Savoury Bakeage
and the Grand Prize Winner

a palate cleanser and an I.O.U. from an unlucky cook

bakewell tarts
winner of the Stru Award for Excellence in Pastry Making

buttery orange cake
co-winner of the award for Classics Done Right

lemon yoghurt cake
co-winner of the award for Classics Done Right

chocolate, coffee jelly and chestnut cups

Sicilian rose almond (twice baked) biscuits

bread and butter pudding with berry compote
winner of the Lady Gaga Award 


You can also see my reports on lab competitions in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thai On Street

October 16, 2011
Our carefully planned Saturday evening was thrown off course when we discovered the closure of Merri Table at CERES. We headed back towards Lygon Street, falling back on Thai On Street, a restaurant that had been on our list since it opened about a year ago. It's definitely found its place on the East Brunswick strip - we squeezed into one of the few unbooked tables and spent most of our meal watching people being turned away.

The siren-song of spring rolls is always hard to resist - for $6.90 we got a serve of six.

These were pretty good - crispy and not too oily, with a dipping sauce that wasn't sweet chilli straight from the bottle. The filling was a bit dull - basically noodles and a little bit of carrot - but we're really ordering these for the pastry and sauce anyway.

The menu has a substantial vegetarian section (16 mains!), covering a good range of standard Thai dishes. For once I avoided the curry section and Cindy resisted the lure of Pad Thai. Instead, I opted for pad tofu nakuer (stir-fried vegetables, bean curd, eggplant, chilli, garlic and sweet basil, $12.90).

I was very impressed by this - the sauce had a great chilli kick, the eggplant was a tender sponge for it and the rest of the vegies were good. A bit heavy on the onion probably, but otherwise great.

Cindy got stuck on the phrase 'deep-fried tofu' and ordered the pad rich tofu (deep fried tofu, mixed vegetables and onion topped with sticky ginger sauce, $12.90).

The massive pile of crispy vegetables on top of this meal wowed us both, providing healthy cover for the crispy cubes of deep-fried tofu. The sauce wasn't as sticky or gingery as we were hoping, but otherwise we had no complaints.

Service was friendly but scheduling was flaky - I'd almost finished my main by the time Cindy's arrived. My coconut juice was delicious but overly sweet and the coconut rice was excellent. All in all, Thai on Street turned out pretty well for us - maybe not quite up to Bangkok Rain's high standards - but still a good local option.

There are only a couple of blog reviews out there about Thai on Street, both pretty positive, from Miss Adriennely and EatDrinkPlayShopMelbourne.

Thai on Street
56 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
9388 2314
veg entrees $6.90, mains $12.90

Accessibility: Thai on Street has a step-free entry way but is pretty jam-packed inside. There's not much room to move at all. Ordering and payment happens at the table.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

North Cafeteria III

October 15, 2011
Cindy and I decided to make a long overdue return visit to nearby North Cafeteria on Saturday morning. Nothing much has changed - it's a welcoming, slightly hip stop that manages to separate itself from the rest of the Rathdowne strip. The menu hasn't changed too much over the years, yet we both found something new to sample.

Cindy ordered the French toast with poached pear, walnuts and honey labne ($14.50).

They got the proportions of this dish right - no skimping on the fruit or heavy handed syrup puddles. The French toast itself was OK and all the trimmings were done well, adding up to a fairly solid sweet start to the day.

I went for a bagel-based brekkie, with poached egg, goat's cheese, roast capsicum and asparagus ($10.50).

This had the makings of an excellent dish: well poached egg, the excellent flavour combo of roast capsicum and cheese, spring-appropriate asparagus on top. I found the rocket a bit of a pain to deal with (as with the bagel at Manchester Press) and was let down slightly by the rough and chewy asparagus stalks. Not a bad effort though.

We were both satisfied with our meals, and with decent coffee and friendly service North is just a pleasant place to hang out. A good way to get the weekend started.

Read about our previous visits here and here. Since our last visit both Mel: Hot or Not and The Hungry Lawyer have enjoyed their North Cafeteria experiences.


North Cafeteria
771 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North
9348 1276
veg brekkies: $4.50 - $14.50

Accessibility: North has a ramp on entry but is a little cramped inside. Ordering happens at the table, payment at a low counter. We didn't explore the toilets.