Tuesday, August 26, 2008

August 22, 2008: Tofu Shop

This eatery's true identity has eluded us for some time. "Tofu Shop International" registered early interest in Michael and I when we first moved to Melbourne and spotted it in our 2006 Cheap Eats guide. Now I'm not even sure that that's quite its name - the sign more accurately reads "TOFU SHOP international fine foods". Let's just push on with the simpler moniker "Tofu Shop", shall we?

A couple of attempted visits were foiled by the fact that the Tofu Shop is closed on Sundays. As I read about their tofu soft serve ice cream in exotic flavours like rosewater, and coconut-pandan, I became increasingly keen to visit. Then there was Kristy's post about one particular staff member hassling vegans. At an all-vegetarian shop featuring tofu. What the...?

There was no sign of this person, or any other unfriendly folk, when we finally tried the Tofu Shop for dinner. Instead we encountered a bench full of vegetarian dishes and a friendly girl who offered to run us through the drill. Like Soulmama, the main approach is to choose a bowl size (small $8, medium $15, large $17) and then pick which dishes you'd like to eat; there's some plain rice and a few sauces on offer too.

I was determined to retain room for ice cream, so limited myself to the small bowl - this still proved to be a solid meal for my small appetite. Michael, meanwhile, was getting a medium bowl piled with a taste of every dish on offer: beetroot and adzuki beans, pumpkin and fresh herbs, fennel, miso ginger tofu, shitake tofu, pickled Chinese cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. There wasn't a dud among them! Most notable of all is their feature ingredient, exceedingly fresh and delicate tofu. It was when I returned to the counter later that I noticed a few other foods available as set plates (not part of the pick'n'mix set up) - 'soyvlaki', soy falafel, vege balls, pastry triangles, salads and dips. It'll be this part of the menu I sample on my next visit.

Though the Tofu Shop was without any customers when we arrived, it rapidly filled with takeaway and eat-in customers as we enjoyed our own meals. It seems that on a Friday night (and presumably any other night), the staff are equipped with the finite amount of food on display and once that's gone, dinner's over. Though the official closing time is 9pm, supplies were running low by 8:15.

Thankfully the ice cream machine was still running! Flavour of the day was cafe latte, and Michael surprised me by wanting a serve of his own ($4). We should have shared, 'cause $4 gets you a lot of icecream! It didn't taste at all beany, and had a distinctive but difficult-to-describe texture - creamy but firm, perhaps like a frozen custard. The first mouthful was perfect sweetened coffee, though my taste buds dulled as I progressed through dessert.

This small cafe is not a place for lingering long over meals and soaking up the ambiance - while it's light and clean, the fit-out is only a half-step up from your local takeaway. But it boasts a huge variety of vegetarian dishes and reasonable prices; it's an ideal stop for a nourishing snack, reliable meal or even a soy-based sweet treat.

Address: 78 Bridge Rd, Richmond
Ph: 9429 6204
Price: veg mains $8-17


  1. I love their ice cream but won't be back.

    You linked to my pro-tofu shop post as opposed to my anti-tofu shop post :-)

  2. I been going there for over 20 years and it hasn't changed a bit. Never had the icecream though. Just wish it was a little closer to home!

  3. I love the tofu shop. I used to live around the corner and grab takeaway all the time but now I live in the hills, we occasionally drop by for dinner after yoga. We get there 815, so, often they are out of rice, but i dont care, I am always happy with the food and the tofu dip, chilli and ginger is always my topper!

    they used to have cooking classes but dont at the moment. i would love to watch them make tofu

  4. I love Tofu Shop!

    I haven't been for ages though. I love their soyvlakis. Keeps you full all day long.

    Also enjoy the peanut sauce.. brown rice... the dishes... yum yum

    I had banana tofu ice-cream once there; absolutely delicious.

    xox Sarah

  5. Kristy, I chose that post because it was the most detailed about the food and did also mention the anti-vegan feller. Thanks for chiming in and making your overall position clearer. :-)

    AOF, I think I'd be visiting a lot more often if I lived closer to it! Mind you, vege2go hasn't received as much of my business as I had planned as it is.

    Cooking classes, eh, Ran? I'll have to keep an eye out in case they come back. Thanks!

    Sarah, I'll go for the soyvlaki next time I reckon. I doubt Michael's going to deviate from the mixed bowl so I'll take on the terrible task of sampling the rest of the menu. ;-)