In shameful Hayley-is-the-slowest-writer-EVER news, here is my report on my dinner at Shu enjoyed in the company of Steph and Cindy & Michael, which they all managed to blog about back at the start of October a mere week after out visit. I know, I am THE WORST.
Shu is a Sichuan restaurant in Collingwood that has started to do Wednesday vegan degustations, where you can enjoy 10+ dishes of vegan goodness for the princely sum of $40. No, that is not a typo, it honestly costs only $40.
Rebecca from Shu had got in contact with Steph to let her know about vegan Wednesdays and was our waitperson for the evening, so it was known from the get-go who we were and that we would be blogging about the evening. BUT we paid our way fully, and from what I observed from other tables I don’t believe we received any special treatment, but should you wish to throw a pinch of salt on my pronouncements that’s your prerogative.
A quick note on Shu’s decor before getting onto the proper business of food – sitting in this restaurant is like eating dinner in a 1980s fantasy film with a slightly skewed Chinese aesthetic. It is the very best kind of veering just short of tacky AMAZING.
The very first dish was an array of little soup spoons filled with cubes of housemade tofu siting in pools of cinnamon-infused soy sauce and topped with a rocket flower. The cinnamon soy was a fantastic flavour explosion of a concoction, more infused soy sauces I say.
Next came rounds of sliced purple carrot topped with housemade chilli, borage flowers and broad beans. Kind of unwieldy, I probably would have benefited from being able to cut them into littler bite-sized pieces rather than levering them straight into my face, which got a bit awkward. The chilli was also quite intense in a way that was actually a bit distracting.
The daikon rolls with enoki, cucumber and zucchini flowers that was next presented is apparently one of Shu’s most popular dishes. I could easily see why – it’s beautifully presented, with curled tubes of thinly sliced daikon encasing the very strikingly arranged fillings, and it was just as fresh and bouncing with flavours as I’d anticipated from the sight of them. A little awkward to eat, yes, but wholeheartedly worthwhile.
I would have been very sad if there wasn’t anything dumplingish offered as part of proceedings, so I was very pleased to see the crispy tofu, soybean and sesame dumplings hit the table. They were very good little morsels indeed, so much so it was a little deflating that there were only four of them!
Here we entered into the “oh so many greens!” portion of the menu. A mizuna, trumpet mushroom and pickled cucumber salad had a nice touch of tartness due to the cucumber, and it was followed by some sauteed kale, broccoli, cashews and garlic tops, which ran towards being slightly bitter, but I’ll happily accept kale in all its forms (yes I know I’m totally a vegetarian stereotype, I’ll let myself out).
Next, something a little more hearty in the form of chilli eggplant with broad beans, calendula and onion. Frankly for me this dish was far too busy, I had no idea where I was meant to focus with it, so left it to the others to finish.
Two tofu-based dishes were next – fried tofu with beanshoots and nasturtiums, which was a very nice dry stir-fry indeed, I really got into the lightly spiced tofu, accompanied by a saucy bowl of tofu with wild coriander slicked with chilli oil, which provided a little bit more heat (we were all actually a little surprised that there wasn’t more heat going on across the board, accustomed as we all are to the more “THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH CHILLI OR PEPPERCORN” style of Sichuan cooking).
More greens! The proliferation of greens was clearly due to so many being in season all at once, and is a good thing to keep in mind whenever dining anywhere were everything is seasonal – you may get a lot of dishes including many of the same ingredients. The new broccoli and cauliflower shoots had been lightly sauteed and sauced; it was interesting to see a use of brassicas at the start of their bloom, rather than full flower, as it were. Also served was a plate of likewise sauteed and sauced mustard greens, which were a bit too bitter for my tastes.
The penultimate dish was where we started to really lose our minds in excitement. Little individual bowls of hand-made noodles with asparagus, preserved gai lan and walnut-infused oil were such unexpected taste explosions that we all exclaimed about them loudly before shutting up to tuck properly in. I would have been happy to curl up with a giant bowl of this alone.
The very last dish was a plate of crispy, spicy potatoes. We weren’t paying attention to what the spices actually were because we were too busy devouring them with a zeal that was bordering on cult-like. These taters and the noodles, that’s what I would like to eat forever, please.
While not every dish was an unqualified success, I still feel that Shu’s Wednesday vegan degustation is something that all Melbourne residing veg*ns should have a go at. The best thing about the menu utilising seasonal ingredients is that it changes from week to week, and for $40 the value is quite honestly obscene. It’s not the kind of burn-it-up Sichuan cooking that most of us are used to, but it was actually quite lovely to experience a more subtle interpretation of Sichuan’s rich culinary tradition.
To read Steph’s account of our visit, head over here to Vegan About Town.
To read Cindy and Michael’s account, head to Where’s the Beef?
147 Johnston Street, Collingwood
Ph: 9090 7878