Sunday, March 16, 2014

Smith and Daughters, Fitzroy (by invitation), by Bureaucrat

Food is a wonderful thing.  Besides give us sustenance, food allows us to share love with those that are dear to us.  There's no greater joy than to see people's faces light up when they eat something that you've made or to finally convince them that they actually do like their hated/feared ingredient (be it spinach, beetroot or seafood, for example) when you've turned that same ingredient into something so delicious that they totally change their views on said ingredient.  Recently, I had such an experience with vegan food.  I was privileged to attend the launch of Smith and Daughters, a totally vegan restaurant in Fitzroy.  It was evident from the get-go that co-owners, Chef Shannon Martinez and manager Mo Wyse, have a lot of love to share - in particular, their love of vegan food.

There was a lot of excitement in the air - from the staff and the guests.  You can practically feel the positive energy coming from the staff who were so pumped at the opportunity to showcase the food, the service and the place.  Diners, like myself, were super excited from an evening of trying vegan food - as for many of us, this was a relatively unfamiliar foodie territory.  The core principle of vegan food is that it doesn't come from animals.  So unlike vegetarians who'd eat dairy products and eggs, vegans don't.  As such, I'm sure I'm not the only one to think, "well, vegan food can't be that tasty... it's only just veggies and I can't even smother it with cheese sauce". For those who hold such views, get thee to Smith and Daughters for a life-changing revelation!

My Tromba tequila margarita being made.

Before we sat down for dinner, we had a wonderful trio drinks (pina colada, margarita and sangria) to whet the appetite.  I love cocktails more so than wine and beer.  The Tromba tequila margarita packed a chilli punch but it didn't stop me from drinking it!  Showing true commitment to their beliefs, the rest of the drinks menu are also vegan friendly.  I also loved the Sailor Jerry pina colada which tasted gorgeously rummy and had a lovely roasted coconut flavour to it (it was made with coconut water, it's practically a health tonic).  It also had an impressively frothy and creamy foam on top, which is amazing considering everything that's made here does not contain dairy or eggs.  It was like an alcoholic cocktail version of the icy pole, Splice.  Very yum!

As we sat down to dinner, we heard from co-owner, Mo Wyse, who welcomed us to her restaurant.  She warned us in advance that her fellow co-owner, Chef Shannon Martinez (former head chef at the East Brunswick Club, Gasometer Hotel and Sweetwater Inn) does not understand the concept of small servings.  

The first three dishes were from their small plates range.  First up was the taste bud tantalising oyster mushroom and white bean ceviche.  This is a variation on the Central American seafood dish.  This was an amazing way to win everyone over!  It was zingy, it was fresh and it was an 'OMG' moment for all of us.  The simple ingredients belie the deep tomato and savoury flavours in the ceviche.  I was won over by the gutsy use of lime juice.  I suspect there was something else in it too to give it that really tart kick (maybe tamarind?).  The ripe tomatoes, finely sliced red onions gave the dish freshness and crunch.  While the lovely slivers of squidgy oyster mushrooms and the white beans gave a nice creaminess to the dish.

The ceviche was served w twice fried smashed plantain chips, which we dipped into the lovely sauce.  The chips had a lovely golden colour and weren't greasy at all.  


The tuna and green pea croquettas were equally an 'OMG' moment.  Spanish bechamel w tuna and green pea, served with caper aioli and lemon.  They were perfectly fried so they had a lovely crunchy crust.  Inside, it was soft and gooey and creamy (despite it not being made from dairy products).  While there wasn't a tuna flavour, there was definitely a tuna-like texture from the fine flakey bits within it - I don't know what that could have been.  One word: yum!

Next was the Mexican dish called tamales.  Which is a mixture of masa (a flour made from maize) mushrooms, grilled corn then steamed in corn husk.  It was served w lime and hot sauce on top.  I don't think I've had tamales before.  The texture and flavour reminded me of the Chinese 'dumpling' zong zi (which is glutinous rice steamed in bamboo leaves).  It has a nice home-cooking vibe to this dish.  The flavours are subtle, and I reckon it's mostly a carb/filling sort of dish.  While it was nice, I didn't eat much of it because that hot sauce was hot!

Chef Shannon Martinez (L) and Mo Wyse (R) cooking up a storm.

By this stage, I was getting full.  I was fearing the next three courses as they were all main dishes.  But before we got to that, Chef Shannon and Mo came out with a massive paella pan to cook the, you've guessed it, paella!  This would be our final main dish for the night.  

While we watched the paella being made, we were served the deeply flavoursome pazole.  This was Smith and Daughters' version of the Columbian hominy soup.  Pazole is a chunky soup made with maize which has been soaked in an alkaline solution to turn it into hominy.  The broth here was fantastic.  It was more than just a basic vegetable broth - there was a lot of love that's gone into it to make the flavours so deep.  The soup had lots of black beans and was topped w tender sauteed oyster mushrooms, an avo and cucumber salsa, crispy tortilla strips, pickled purple cabbage and lime.  This would be perfect on a cold day - warming and filling and just so nourishing.

As we were getting full, we asked to share one serve of the next course instead of getting one serve per person.  This was chiles rellenos - a Mexican dish of chargrilled peppers stuffed w cream cheese and chorizo, then battered and fried until golden.  A very rich dish, which wasn't actually spicy.  The batter crust was thin and crispy, and hid the almost molten green pepper underneath.  And inside the pepper was very creamy cream cheese filling and a smoky vegan chorizo.  I was quite impressed with the texture of the cream cheese as it really tasted like and had the texture of your packet of Philly cream cheese.  The pepper was topped w tomatillo sauce, which wasn't spicy at all.

By the time we had finished the pepper, the paella was ready.  This was Chef Shannon's at-least 4th generation family recipe.  It's made with vegetable saffron stock, peas, veg prawns, sausage and scallops.  As with the pazole, you could tell that the vegetable stock was a pretty damn good one.  The rice was soft all over except for the chewy soccarat; and it had the lovely smoky aroma coming from the paprika.  The prawns, sausage and scallops were various types of mock meat.  I have to say, after all the wonderful dishes with only little bits of mock meat in it, this was slightly a let down.  I was hoping that there'd be less reliance of mock meat in the dish.  I was also rather hoping that there'd be some aioli to go with the paella.

Despite being really full, I was looking forward to dessert ever since I saw the quince-filled doughnuts on the menu.  I love freshly made doughnuts (it reminds me of childhood) and I love quince.  And these doughnuts were divine!  Thin crispy outer, light and fluffy on the inside.  Wonderful bite-size serves.  A sweet dusting of cinnamon sugar which almost melted into the molten quince filling.  I could definitely eat at least half of dozen (hell, make it a dozen!) of these babies!

Last but not least, the tarta de chocolate Azteca.  A rich, smooth chocolate top (almost a really thick ganache).  The middle was this gooey filling, which we all had differing views on what it was.  The Lawyer thought it tasted fresh with a hint of chilli; while others (including me) thought it tasted a little bit salty.  The bottom was a biscuit base.

Food – 9
Ambiance – 8.5
Service – 9.5*
Price – 7.5*
*Prices are notional as we were guests of Smith and Daughters.

Wow-wee!  If this is vegan food, then I'm a convert!  Both the Lawyer and I, and the other guests next to us, did not miss meat at all.  We are so impressed with the strong, zingy flavours and the interesting textures.  There's nothing boring about this vegan food.  There was not a piece of tofu in sight (at least not in the typical cubed, white form that it usually comes in)!  

Propz also to the fact that Smith and Daughters use local suppliers and organic produce wherever possible, and also the fact that they prefer small producers.  

You'll definitely get caught up in the infectious energy and the love of vegan food that Smith and Daughters do.  Vegans, rejoice!  Omnivores, do yourself a favour and treat yourself and your tastebuds to the wonderful food and awesome drinks at Smith and Daughters.

Smith and Daughters
175 Brunswick St
Fitzroy 3065
Telephone: 9939 3293

Smith and Daughters on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

I was also on the Guest list that night and within 30 minutes of being there, was so very glad I was! I'm not Vegan but am Vegetarian and OMG the feast was unbelievable!! Loved the ambience, the space, the vibes and the Staff were fabulous. Thank you 'Smith & Daughters' for your love of alternative food and for giving us the chance to experience it.

EatAndBeMerryCrew said...

I agree, it just a great night! Something just so special about the food, place and the staff. It's hard to find people who are so passionate about what they do.

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