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 March 4th 2013
Modern Japanese cuisine in the heart of Collingwood
Japanese cuisine epitomises the art of matching carefully-selected seasonal ingredients with simple, layered flavours. Eating Japanese food is thus like an organic experience and a fulfilling way to ingest flavoursome, natural meals. So, it's only natural (pardon the pun) to dine at Wood Spoon Kitchen among its organic settings in its unassuming location of Smith Street Collingwood.
A naked brick wall and light globes hanging from the ceiling, sans shades, set the scene for a nourishing three-course meal. In the centre of the space, a chopping board-style communal table waits idly for foot traffic to wander in and sit in its earthly presence. Wooden tables and miss-matched seats orbit this commanding centrepiece, along with framed prints depicting Japanese geishas.
Our waitress embodies all that is ethereal about genuine Japanese hospitality. She is humble, smiling and overly polite. Poised, she helps us navigate the menu and answers any questions we may have with knowledgeable ease. She takes our orders precisely and efficiently before delivering to us a refreshing bottle of Koshihikari Echigo rice beer. This crisp, pale lager proves to be a well-matched choice for our meal and the bottle is reminiscent of its Japanese origins.
Seaweed salad and agedashi tofu arrive soon after and provide a delicate start to our banquet. Japanese cuisine is known for combining staple dishes such as rice with a few main or side dishes. While rice doesn't make an appearance until our mains are delivered, we are nourished by such light yet rich entrees. The seaweed salad is gently coated in a house-dressing; the seaweed is delicate in flavour and devoid of the overpowering taste that some seaweed tends to possess. The agedashi tofu is silky in texture and dressed in a delicious soy and sweet chilli sauce. To complement our hand-crafted meals, we're each supplied with wooden chopsticks and wooden spoon – an added touch to punctuate Wood Spoon Kitchen's natural ethos.
For mains, hearty bowls of dengaku don and vegetarian miso soup bring a filling course to this three-stage dinner. Swimming among steaming miso broth and above a bed of soft udon noodles are pumpkin, sweet potato and bamboo shoots, all peppered with black and white sesame seeds. Dengaku don of grilled eggplant in miso based sauce rests atop glutinous rice, tofu and fresh veggies. By the course's end, we're bursting at the seams yet feeling content by such flavoursome choices.
We manage to squeeze in a small dessert. Pumpkin dango is a unique dessert choice and one that encapsulates the subtlety of Japanese cuisine. Soft and sticky pumpkin dumplings are served bobbing in a sea of coconut soup, crowned by red bean topping and a sprig of mint. This warmed dessert is modest in size but still nudges at the belt buckle. We're full to the brim yet ever so thankful for our Wood Spoon Kitchen experience.