Justine de Jonge is a Melbourne freelance travel writer and blogger who loves travelling the vegan road. She also loves blogging about her vegan travels at www.fireandtea.com .
Published April 28th 2013
An organic menu made from seasonal food and raw cooking love
A seasonal menu always promises a selection of meals containing the freshest ingredients. If a restaurant decides to mix a seasonal menu with raw macrobiotic cooking techniques, then the said restaurant has an exciting recipe on its hands.
Shoku iku, in High Street Northcote, is cashing in on this recipe. The restaurant has been started by Yoko Inoueex where she brings together her raw food smarts with simple, Japanese styling. Her abode has only been open for a couple of months, but it's already turning heads and energising bodies.
Tomato stuffed with sunflower pate on a bed of walnut pesto
Shoku iku is open for lunch most days, yet our intrigue lies within the restaurant's Saturday-only dinner service. There are three courses, two choices within each course, though it's hard to choose which ones to go for. Guests can choose whichever course they please, or they can opt for three courses including side salads at a set price. Cold and warm drinks are also on the menu, all exuding Shoku iku's healing essence and ethic. This restaurant shies away from food and beverages containing unnatural nasties, giving its guests a chance to boost their immune systems.
Vegetable ravioli with a side of leafy vegetable couscous salad
The space itself, a cosy dining room, has been stripped back to accentuate Shoku iku's organic, macrobiotic aesthetic. White walls, smooth lines, bare concrete floor and furniture made from recycled materials seat guests comfortably. Dried native flower arrangements and soothing atmospheric music add spice to the space. A robust counter is open-sided, containing stacks of plates and bowls for everyone's orders. Our waitress couldn't be any more laid-back. She floats to our table barefooted and with long skirt flowing before we agree for her to bring us one of everything on the menu.
Kelp noodle and vegetable pad thai with marinated carrot side salad
For tonight, curried crepes with julienne apple and zucchini, and whole stuffed tomato with sunflower pate on a bed of walnut pesto are our entree choices and both dishes are delivered to the table within minutes. Every dish is oozing with veggie goodness, as they're cooked and prepared under 48 degrees so as to retain as many vitamins and minerals as possible. We're here early, which may also contribute to the speediness of our order.
Our water is filled regularly, though our waitress insists we help ourselves from jugs at the counter if she's preoccupied with other guests. We don't need to take her up on her offer, but it's lovely of her to make us feel at home. It's not long before she's serving us part two of our staggered meal – a serve of vegetable ravioli with a rich, chunky tomato-based sauce, plus a serve of kelp noodle and vegetable pad thai coated in spicy almond sauce and teriyaki-clustered nuts and seeds.
Each meal has been paired on the same plate with a side salad – leafy vegetable couscous and marinated curry spiced carrot. Our dishes, so far, have been served with a dizzying combination of flavours which all join together seamlessly. There's slight tartness in marinated vegetables, toned down by sweet goji berries and grapes, all mellowed by smooth savoury sauces. I'm thankful to be dining with my partner because it's the best way to sample everything on the menu, and I mean everything.
Poached strawberries aside sabayon and orange cream
By the end of mains, we're sitting comfortable; another advantage of raw cooking. This style of cuisine leaves you full and content, though not stuffed and uncomfortable. Plus, we're bouncing with energy. It's now time for dessert and I'm wondering how Yoko can pull off a decadent dessert for this sickly-sweet tooth. Well, it can be done and it's being done at Shoku iku. I tuck into poached strawberries that are swimming in syrupy juice aside orange cream and lucuma and cupuacu sabayon. My partner opts for the peppermint and chocolate layer cake which proves to be another stand-out; draped in a sweet mint sauce. The taste of real mint brings a zing to the plate. So who said healthy food is bland?
Our desserts are topped off by warm drinks – a thick "hot" cacao chocolate scattered in cacao flakes. I order a teeccino, which ends the meal with an unexpected twist. It's herbal coffee, a coffee tea available in a range of flavours. I choose the chocolate version with a side of almond milk (made onsite) which adds a subtle creaminess to it all.
While it's easy to be greedy and order everything on Shoku iku's menu, it's hard to walk away feeling bloated. Shoku iku celebrates all that is nutritionally and tastefully good about food, without guests feeling burdened by an over-full tummy. You could say it's like a day-spa for the digestive system of sorts. After dining at Shoku iku, we feel more alive and revitalised than when we arrived.
Shoku iku delivers a seasonal Saturday night menu that changes on a monthly basis. Guests need to be seated between 6pm and 8pm. Bookings can be made by phone or email at firstname.lastname@example.org and it's recommended to book well in advance to avoid disappointment. Shoku iku's lunch menu changes frequently too.
Shoku iku also holds raw cooking classes at $80 per person. Check on the website or with the restaurant for dates and bookings.