10/01/2015: Fitzroyalty reports that Wood Spoon Kitchen has been replaced by Bowl Bowl Dumpling.
We were hoping to meet up with Jo, Mike and their friend Nicole for dinner at Gigibaba, but a deluge of rave reviews and no-bookings policy meant that we had no hope of obtaining a table for five at 7:20 on a Thursday night. I wasn't too fazed; we know plenty of other great restaurants on Smith St, and there was even another one we'd been meaning to try. Wood Spoon Kitchen is a cute little Japanese cafe just a few shopfronts down from Gigibaba and its highly informative website had alerted me to its veg-friendly menu. With the vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free items clearly labelled, it begins with a variety of flavoured onigiri, before listing an extensive set of soups, a few don buri (rice bowls) and curries, before winding up with sides, salads and desserts.
Having never eaten an onigiri before, I thought I'd give the cheese curry one ($3.20) a try. The 'crumpled vintage cheese and basil in curry' melded beautifully into the rice, though I found the cheese/nori combination a little incongruous.
Next came an okonomiyaki ($6.90) for Jo, which she generously shared around. Though it was certainly pleasant, it lacked the hot freshness of the similar pancakes we've enjoyed at Otsumami and Peko Peko.
Michael went for the vegetarian pumpkin curry ($12.90), another mild and pleasant offering that wasn't quite memorable.
For my main meal I ordered the pumpkin gnocchi in tomato coconut soup ($10.90). This was a steaming bowl of thick broth, concealing a multitude of tender vegetables as well as the promised balls of pumpkin dough. It was the perfect comfort on this unseasonably cool evening.
Wood Spoon Kitchen's flavours aren't quite as delicate as those at the nearby Peko Peko, but it has plenty else going for it. The setting and staff are charming, the food is cheaper, and the menu offers a range of veg-friendly snacks and meals unlike any other Japanese restaurant I've visited.
Address: 88 Smith St, Collingwood
Ph: 9416 0588
Price: veg snacks and meals $3.20-$12.90