Sunday, September 13, 2009

September 6, 2009: Shoya

Shoya has received plenty of blog attention over the past few years. Japanese barbecue, degustations and lunch sets, top notch sashimi, seafood, ox tongue, foie gras, blah blah blah - what does this vego care? Well, this vego started caring when she heard from Emily Aduki that Shoya had an $80pp (vegan-friendly) vegetarian degustation menu. I filed this information away for a month or two until our anniversary came around and we could justify the expense. By then the asking price had risen to $100pp, though the meal was no less impressive in its volume and scope.

Some bloggers have been unimpressed with the service they received, yet we can only report good things about the Shoya staff. Making the reservation was easy, we were seated in a pleasant secluded space on the entry level, and our waiter was already aware of our interest in the special vegetarian menu. He even double-checked with us whether we'd prefer to avoid seafood-based stock throughout our meal.

Our first course was sumisoae, which I think refers to the terrific mustard miso dressing in this dish. We both enjoyed slathering it over the lightly boiled green beans, though I've still not come around to the distinctive texture of seaweed.

This was followed up with the palate-cleansing ohitashi - lightly boiled spinach and enoki mushrooms served with dashi and a delicate radish garnish.

Next came furofuki daikon - poached daikon radish with a sweet red miso sauce. These tender little morsels were really brightened up by the small garnishes, especially the fresh pink peppercorns.

Time for tofu! This is Agedashi Yasai Tofu, a deep-fried ball of vege-tofu goodness served with sweet soy sauce and grated white radish - a neat combination of different textures, flavours and even temperatures.

The deep-frying got serious with yasai tempura, served with more sweet soy, radish and ginger.

The usual okonomiyaki took a turn for the unexpected when we were served with mixed vegetable pancakes - dense and squat, the black truffle sauce was a darkly delicious world away from the mayo and sweet soy used elsewhere.

At this point I was getting rather full... only to be hit with more food than I'd normally eat for dinner! We were presented with these beautiful long, narrow plates - salty-steamed edamame and shredded lettuce bookended a tofu steak, stunning for both its size and flavour. I don't think I'll ever tire of those sticky sweet soy sauces, especially when they're studded with mushrooms and cashews.

I'd barely tasted the tofu when out came the vegetarian California rolls. Four huge ones. Each. I regret to report that unlike the widely-lauded sashimi, this was not particularly fresh and the avocado was floury and flavourless. I left two on my plate and feebly sipped at the miso soup. Could I possibly fit dessert in?

That, of course, would depend on what dessert was - the menu just teased us with the promise of Chef's dessert. It seemed unlikely that we'd be dealt the famous sea urchin cheesecake; I had my fingers crossed for the tofu chocolate mousse, even if I could only bear to taste a single spoonful.

What we ended up with was this layered soy jelly. The top section was all bittersweet green tea, while the milder underlayer held a few strawberry chunks and a reservoir of sweet red bean paste. It's well outside my usual dessert range and though I didn't love it I appreciated its mild, cooling effect at the end of an extravagant meal.

Shoya gave us an interesting degustation to contrast with the $100+ Mod-Oz renditions we've tried elsewhere. Some dishes were refined and tasty, though the deep-fried lead-up to some enormous 'mains' was rather bloating, and there were one or two disappointments along the way. It's unlikely that we'll be returning for a while, but we're nonetheless impressed at the vegetarian spread put on by a distinctly non-vegetarian restaurant.

Address: 25 Market Lane, Melbourne CBD
Ph: 9650 0848
Fully licensed
Price: Vegetarian degustation $100 per person


  1. Gorgeous photos of what looks like a very tasty and interesting meal.

  2. That looks great, but you're right. From looking at the photos, I think that their degustation is definitely designed for meat-eaters. Having done the omnivore degustation, myself, it just looks like they put this together to offer an option.

    And also, phew, always, heaps of food!

  3. The green tea soy jelly looks great. I love a green tea ice cream finish to a japanese meal.

    I agree that it's refreshing- in other words: I don't feel as guilty!! haha

  4. Thanks, Mandee!

    Yeah, Jess, we got glimpses of Shoya's awesomeness but not much to match the sashimi that everyone seems to love. :-)

    If you're into green tea then you'd like this dessert for sure, Adrian!

  5. Ohhhhhhhhhhhh yummie :D I should really try their vegies stuff but I can never escape from their yummie fresh sashimi :)