FORGET antacids, Shakahari Too (South Melbourne sister to the Carlton stalwart) has the ideal antidote to plum pud overload. Simultaneously light and luscious, Scent of Green Papaya is a piquant slaw of papaya, raw vegetables and roasted cashews tossed in a chilli and tamarind sauce. Also try the crispy croquettes of sweet potato, quinoa and macadamia nuts in a citrus and red capsicum sauce or cleansing fresh juice concoctions (think apple and wheatgerm juice replete with a lemongrass swizzle stick). This vegetarian paradise combines punchy natural flavours to delicious effect. Even dessert is worthy - a panna cotta-esque tofu livened with a caramel-like sauce made from gula melaka (brown sugar made from coconut sap) and ginger.
Shakahari Too, 225 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne, 9682 2207; shakahari.com.au
EVERYTHING at Pomona screams class, from the slick window frontage at odds with its less design-conscious retail neighbours, to the treats showcased in glass vitrines at the cafe's entrance. With a vegie garden out the back and a focus on allergy-friendly fresh foods, this place understands the concept of health as pleasure. Nab a courtyard table and dig into a bircher of divine simplicity that eschews heavy dairy for organic muesli soaked in fresh apple juice and a touch of milk, topped with poached seasonal fruit and toasted almonds. A veg and bean pattie sandwich on the eatery's go-to spelt loaf is topped with scamorza cheese, caramelised onion and mayonnaise. And don't miss the gluten-free sausage rolls.
Pomona Cafe, 474 Murray Road, Preston, 9478 0026; pomonacafe.com.au
LIKE much of this part of Brunswick Street, Madame K's delivers conscious eating. Sure, there is enough slatted timber for it to fit the alternative-eatery mould but there is no disguising the menu's elegant altruism. From the sweet pleasure of crispy, soy sugarcane prawns and steamed wontons stuffed with mushrooms and water chestnut, to a soba noodle salad served with tempura soy chicken and a soy vinaigrette, this is food for the vegan hippy in us all. And if all that cleansing is too overwhelming then dive into the exotic richness of a banana-stuffed roti topped with a homemade berry sauce and served with soy vanilla ice-cream (dairy ice-cream optional). Who said Asian restaurants don't know how to do dessert?
Madame K's Vegetarian Cafe, 367 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 9415 6099; madamek.com.au
IN THE heart of Queenscliff's historic main street, Jocelyn Adam is busy attracting gourmets with a healthy bent to her charming petite shopfront. Squeeze past the front room filled with bulk spices and nuts to the rear counter decorated with jars of homemade superfood treats (perhaps a muesli slice with honey and tahini topped with dark chocolate), fronting a tiny kitchen churning out fragrant curries and verdant salads: coconut lime chicken is zingy and light, while a Cypriot grain salad is a sweet and nutty mix of currants, pepitas, almonds and pine nuts topped with a smoky cumin yoghurt. A well-stocked fridge offers handy options for light dinners while her traditional Indian chai is a good alternative for coffee detoxees keen to hit the New Year with a clean slate.
Raw Ingredients, 36B Hesse Street, Queenscliff, 5258 5275; rawingredients.net.au
THERE is much to be said for the health benefits of Japanese cuisine post-Christmas. At Hibachi, fish gets the royal treatment with glossy slivers of fresh sashimi and sushi, the latter draped on delicately vinegared rice hiding a devilish wasabi hit. Of course, it's not all raw goodness: skilled chefs manning the charcoal grill present hot-plate seared seafood, silky Scotch fillet tataki, or a deceptively tasty organic tofu topped with spicy miso minced chicken cooked on a sizzling hotplate. Presentation is as exquisite as the food is nuanced, while the pleasingly sombre space is a welcome relief from the gold-and-red chintz that has come to represent the festive season. And if the Japanese-inspired desserts fail to tempt, well, let's just say that's a win for the waistline.
Hibachi, 230 King Street, city, 9670 1661; hibachi.com.au