Shu Restaurant in Collingwood has been at the top of my must-eat list for a while. Every Wednesday evening is dedicated to vegan dining but arghghgh, we’re usually always busy on Wednesday. So I was pretty excited to receive an email from Shu inviting me to a vegan Christmas in July degustation evening on a night I was free.
Specialising in Sichuan cuisine, dishes vary from night to night based on the fresh seasonal produce Shu sources from local suppliers. There’s no set menu for this reason and the meals are seasonal, organic and sustainable where possible. On the Wednesdays, the vegan menu is $45 for shared plates of three courses with nine to twelve dishes.
I’d seen plenty of photos of the meals and a few of the space online but walking in, I was rather awestruck by it all. Neon light installations (though not overdone or overwhelming), a wall displaying projected film, art work and sculptures, the beakers used as glasses– everywhere I looked there was something to see and I liked that fun vibe with a real sense of someone’s cheerful personal touch.
The guests all sat at a long communal table and much good conversation was enjoyed. When I arrived with Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe, we were first treated to the lovely warmth inside (it was freezing outside and raining) and this drink made with vodka, lychee syrup, Vietnamese mint and lime (I think I’m missing another ingredient). This was put together by one of the guests sitting opposite us and was quite delicious:
Guests were provided with details of what was to be served and first up we had some chilled and raw dishes. In the photo below, from the bottom right to the back, we have the daikon roll of enoki mushroom, Asian herbs and lettuce in spicy soy sauce. There was a lighthearted discussion about how best to eat this in a dainty, elegant fashion. I really liked this, even though I usually avoid enoki mushroom (only because I’m a mushroom wuss and only like the non-weird stuff like button mushrooms). In the middle is silken tofu with beans, sprouts and pickled chilli relish. This had quite a bit of heat but I still enjoyed it. My favourite though was the cucumber, seaweed and soybean skin with spicy tahini and roasted pumpkin seeds. I don’t usually like cucumber but this was great and possibly my favourite of the night:
Next we had, from left to right below, a steamed tofu pocket stuffed with preserved mustard greens and peanuts. This was nice and mellow for me and I want to try my hand at stuffed tofu like this. Usually I’m too heavy handed and end up cutting the tofu to bits. In the middle there are the pan fried shiitaki and cabbage wonton with pickled chilli jam and Chinese vinegar. Honestly some of the nicest wontons I’ve ever had and the chilli jam had the amount of heat I can tolerate easily. At the back there is the crispy beetroot and wood ear roll with a green chilli dip. I’m not the world’s greatest beetroot fan but I loved this and would happily order a whole plate if they were available:
We had a bit of a pause before the first shared plate came out. I didn’t photograph the entire ‘plate’ but imagine a really long rectangular plate loaded with these pan roasted eggplant rolls with pickled vegetables and roasted cashews. With eggplant dishes like this, I usually feel a bit heavy if there’s a lot of oil involved but I was fine with these and enjoyed them:
Before the eggplant rolls were finished, we had what I think were (according to the list we were given) Home Town noodles. These were flavoured beautifully and a nice cool temperature too which initially was a bit of a surprise as I just assumed they’d be hot. But the cool temperature worked perfectly. Clearly I need more experience with colder noodle dishes but it’s something I’m looking forward to!
Next we had the crunchy coleslaw tossed with seeds and nuts with a Sichuan pepper infused soy sauce. Yet another dish containing an ingredient I don’t really like much (cabbage) but that I loved. For me that’s a testament to how good the food was, being served ingredients I often avoid but loving them here and being inspired to explore them more:
Because I had enjoyed the enoki mushroom daikon roll, I was not as hesitant when it came to the mixed Asian mushrooms, ginger and fennel stir fried in a sweet soy sauce. Another winner:
I was starting to feel slightly full by this point but there was more to come. These wok fried seasonal vegetables with dried chilli and Sichuan pepper were another favourite:
There’s more! The crispy tofu and grilled beanshoots in preserved Pixian bean paste were superb:
We finished off the evening with a raw avocado cheesecake with blackberry syrup and toasted coconut chips. This is how I like my raw cheesecake, not too sweet. A great ending to a wonderful dinner:
Wow, you guys. Everything was great. I’m bummed that I’ve missed out on so many Wednesday vegan nights now that I’ve experienced this, but I’m going to have to make another visit (visits!) a top priority. The food was beautifully presented and the intervals between dishes being brought out were really good too.
Many thanks to Shu for hosting this fabulous evening. Be sure to check out the vegan Wednesdays!
Full disclosure: Shu contacted me to invite me along. On the night we paid for any drinks we ordered, as well as paying an amount of our choosing in to a big money box.
147 Johnston Street, Collingwood