Edit 07/06/2012: We heard last week that Soulmama is closed again!
Soulmama disappeared from the St Kilda Baths sometime last year and mysteriously reappeared later on Fitzroy St. While the ornamental dragon has moved with them, I gather that the owners have changed. The menu has shifted from mostly buffet to all a la carte and remains all vegetarian. Vegan options are well marked but gluten-free pointers are less consistent.
We visited with the Moody Noodles, and started out by sharing a bowl of fries ($9.50) and the Japanese gyoza ($11).
Both of these were solid renditions and turned up promptly.
Toby and Michael shared on, divvying up hot smoked tofu ($22) marinated in soy, plum and roselle then served with bok choy, peanut sauce, cucumber, red onion, coconut vinegar and jaggary. This was an odd combination of flavours presented oddly on the plate and it didn't win over either of them.
They enjoyed the soul burger ($20.50) more - the patty was well composed with black beans, pumpkin and chipotle, then complemented with caramelised onions and guacamole, and served with more fries.
I ordered again from the Starters section, hoping that the $16.50 price tag hinted at a decent portion. This really paid off - the soy-valaki boasts some excellent mock meat, which is stuffed into a wrap with more caramelised onions and salad. It's a lovely light meal if you're fond of faux meat.
K's fajitas ($24) attracted the most attention of all - their gluten status was questionable and seemed to come up clear in the end (K's bloat-o-meter scored low overnight), and they just looked damn tasty. There's more of those tender soy strips up front, as well as guacamole, fresh salsa, some green leaves and a couple of tortillas.
We found room for dessert - the vanilla panna cotta ($12) is coconut-based and vegan-friendly, topped with tart raspberries and coconut. Michael's serve seemed to disappear in seconds.
I plodded more slowly through the triple chocolate cake ($14.50), another vegan victory. The chocolates three are a dry cake base, impressive mousse mound and syrupy drizzle. If you're not up for the dessert and sorbet tasting plate ($29), this is a completely shareable half-price alternative.
Our waiter was friendly and attentive though she struggled a little to safely serve our resident coeliac. I've never quite worked out what Soulmama is pitching at; the fit-out is smart casual with new-agey Asia-inspired accents yet it serves fries, pizza and dumplings, and charges quite a lot for the package. Our dishes were more successes than failures but felt overpriced. Maybe we're just not the target demographic - we seemed surrounded by families happy to pony up and share a vegetarian meal in this setting.
We reviewed the previous incarnation of Soulmama here and here. The only blog post I can find about the Fitzroy St restaurant appears on Megan & Melbourne.
79-81 Fitzroy St, St Kilda
starters $9.50-19.50, mains $16.50-26.00, desserts $3.50-29.00
Accessibility: Soulmama may have a small step on entry, and has moderately spaced tables inside. We received full table service and didn't visit the toilets.