Shakahari Too's 'Scent of Green Papaya'. Photo: Melanie Faith Dove
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
Pomona Cafe understands the concept of health as pleasure.
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
Madame K's soba noodle salad.
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?
Raw Ingredients in Queenscliff.
Madame K's Vegetarian Cafe, 367 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 9415 6099; madamek.com.au
At Hibachi, presentation is as exquisite as the food is nuance
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