Where: Nosh, 352 Little Collins Street Melbourne
What: Healthy food that doesn’t make me want to eat a bag of chips after
Who: Mimi Sashimi, Sashimi Slanderer and Resident Photographer
Bloat score: 0 – Living the dream
I am highly cynical about lunch salad bars like Supercharger, THR1VE and Mero Mero where you pay more than $10 to feel virtuous for an hour, after which you’re plagued by hunger pangs and regret that you didn’t instead go for a sub-$10 meal at Don Don that would have kept you full until 5pm. This is perhaps why I didn’t jump at the chance to visit Nosh, despite knowing it’d be intolerance friendly.
While I bond with Sashimi Slanderer over our shared Malaysian heritage and gluten intolerance, we deviate when it comes to our view on sashimi. She had suggested we visit Nosh ages ago and so the two of us paid it a visit one sunny Wednesday afternoon alongside a fellow raw fish ally Mimi Sashimi.
What I didn’t know was that Nosh specialised in the traditional Hawaiian dish poke – or what we here in Melbourne know as poke – and so what endeared me towards it almost instantly was that most of its dishes come served atop a bed of rice. They have brown rice and jasmine rice for the traditionalists, coconut turmeric rice for the slightly adventurous ones, cauliflower corn rice, quinoa and salad only for the exceedingly healthy ones.
Nosh has a readymade ‘signature poke bowl’ menu, a DIY bowl option and nori tacos where corn tortillas are replaced by seaweed, a novel idea but for the fact that each taco costs $7.50, a hefty price considering seaweed isn’t nearly half as filling as a taco shell. What becomes disappointingly clear when you examine Nosh’s philosophy is the lack of attribution to the tradition of poke bowls that it has built its menu around and an emphasis instead on ‘amazing, local seasonal food that will satisfy your inner foodie’, even though these bowls aren’t a new health fad nor something that Nosh has created itself. Poked off little Lonsdale Street does a better job of contextualising its borrowed food influences and paying homage to the traditional dish that it seeks to emulate.
Notwithstanding the issue of cultural appropriation in food, something I could talk about endlessly, I ordered the Poke Party off the ‘signature poke bowl menu’, which featured salmon sashimi cubes doused in roasted sesame sauce on a bed of coconut turmeric rice alongside edamame, roasted sweet potato, charred capsicum strips, spinach and toasted sesame seeds. I asked for it without onion and garlic, which was a godsend because it typically comes doused in fried shallots.
Mimi Sashimi bucked her sashimi-loving ways and crafted a DIY bowl with sous vide diced fennel chicken, as did Sashimi Slanderer. Mimi Sashimi had her chicken atop a bed of brown rice accompanied by charred corn, pickled jalapeno and seaweed salad, while Sashimi Slanderer had her chicken with cauliflower corn rice, edamame, charred capsicum strips and charred broccoli. We all went for the small bowls, although my decision was motivated by the fact that I couldn’t bear to part with $16.90 for a large bowl.
Turns out the small bowl was the right size, even for me. The coconut turmeric rice was the star of my dish – it tasted like a lighter and more fragrant version of the coconut milk laden rice that features in the famous Malaysian dish nasi lemak. Coupled with the generous serving of fresh salmon sashimi cubes, the creamy sesame dressing, the thin strips of crunchy seaweed and the inoffensive spinach (I can’t muster more of a compliment for spinach than that), my dish was a winner.
Mimi Sashimi was equally magnanimous in her praise for her dish, and Sashimi Slanderer – a Nosh veteran – enjoyed her trademark order as much as she always does.
I loved my dish so much I paid a visit to Nosh two weeks later with Resident Photographer and coerced him to order the same thing as me. Nosh was Resident Photographer’s first experience of a poke bowl, and he enjoyed it.
I couldn’t get enough of Nosh, but made the mistake of ordering the vegetarian option the next time I visited with two colleagues. Don’t get me wrong – I love vegetarian food, but Nosh’s tempeh teri-san tasted exactly like the kind of self-flagellating healthy dish that gives no joy to the eater and which I actively try to steer clear from. Where every other dish came with brown rice, jasmine rice or coconut turmeric rice, the tempeh teri-san came with dry quinoa because I guess giving up meat for the sake of the environment and animal welfare isn’t enough of a sacrifice? The teriyaki-glazed tempeh, lotus and tofu that were purportedly ‘braised to perfection’ were instead tasteless and unremarkable, and the burst of brilliant colours apparent in every other Nosh dish wasn’t replicated in the dull sea of grey of the tempeh teri-san. To add insult to injury, the staff had forgotten my request for no onion and garlic and I spent half my meal picking out hidden pockets of deep fried shallots.
It’s such a shame that my trifecta of Nosh visits ended on a low note, but I remain an avowed fan of the Poke Party and will be back, if only to taste that bowl of coconut turmeric rice again. When it comes down to it, Nosh is a bloat-friendly destination (if those dastardly delicious shallots don’t make an unwelcome appearance) and with small bowls that range from $10.90 to $13.90, it is a reasonably priced lunch when you’re feeling like something other than sushi rolls or wraps.
Nosh is open from 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday, from 10am to 8pm on Saturday and from 12pm to 8pm on Sunday.