Update 31/12/2014: Discobeans has moved from Northcote to 539 Plenty Rd, Preston, but is still run by the same people and still offers vegan friendly Japanese food.
We've been long overdue to visit Discobeans, a kooky Japanese cafe and art space that's been trading in Northcote since last winter. It was two of their biggest fans, K and Toby, who eventually dragged us there. We wondered whether we'd unwittingly crashed someone else's party when we entered - the front room was crowded with people sitting, standing, drinking and hanging out, few of them eating at all. It was much busier than K and Toby were accustomed to and we later figured out that we'd stumbled on the opening of a new exhibition. Hence the cacophonous atmosphere we encountered may not match your or our future visits to Discobeans.
There's no guarantee that the menu we ordered from will match that on your or our future visits, either! It changes weekly, though the general theme and some enduring favourites seem to persist. It's Japanese, yes, and there's seafood on offer, but there are also vegan options on every item and a ~50% gluten-free rate! A wonderful thing for those who have to avoid wheat-riddled soy sauce.
We shared a few starters then claimed a main each. First out was the marinated avocado yu-kke ($8.50), a charming salad of avocado chunks, green leaves, roasted seeds and a salty-soy dressing.
We threw ourselves upon the fried tempeh with soy mayo sauce ($6) - this is tender-yet-toothsome tempeh at its best.
The mock meat with soy mayo sauce ($6, not gluten-free) held similar appeal, though it was tougher to handle and share with chopsticks.
Michael tried out the Disco Don with tempeh ($13.50, not gluten-free). Underneath all that fresh greenery is a base of mixed grains, making this a healthy and varied (if not exciting) bowl.
I gave Yuka's okonomiyaki ($12) a go. It looked far from traditional - small, flat and greyish - but went down a treat. The mixed grain base is chewy, has crispy-brown edges and is surprisingly filling. The sauces, seeds and seaweed provide most of the flavour.
Michael and I figured we'd best try Discobeans' signature dessert, called Strawberry Fields Forever Cake ($9). It's a raw vegan frozen cheesecake, gently sweet and fruity with a coconut base - a lovely, light way to finish the meal.
In spite of the hubbub around us, the staff were very accommodating (even offering to split the bill) and we weren't left waiting long for food. The individual dishes range from good value to a little pricey but were all well prepared. I'm looking forward to visiting Discobeans again and perhaps exploring the art space further on a quieter day.
Discobeans has been blogged rarely but usually enthusiastically: In The Mood For Noodles (twice), i like you, and Vegan About Town (twice).
238 High St, Northcote
unlicensed (downstairs, at least)
veg snacks and mains $3.50-$13.50
Accessibility: This is a terrace-style retail space with a narrow door. Stairs and narrow passages lead to the art space/bar and toilets. Orders are taken and paid for at a high counter. Typical table spacing was unclear, since we were present for a crowded special event.