94 Smith Street
Collingwood, VIC 3066
Call me Peanut Butter and Disappointed. I had attempted to visit Aka Siro just shy of 3 weeks into the new year, but after salivating over the prospect of delicious home-styled Japanese cooking for the entire day, I showed up only to realise that Aka Siro was still closed for the holidays! Luckily I was in the Collingwood/Fitzroy area, and within 5 minutes I had found myself a passable replacement.
Wabi Sabi Salon is one of those places that I had walked past, come across, and heard of dozens of times, but have never really bothered to visit. This unassuming little Japanese restaurant has been around for quite a while, and it does show in the interior, which looks a little dingy and tired. Head through past the kitchen and down a set of stairs however, you’ll find the quaintest little courtyard, complete with a mini Japanese garden, as well as an elevated seating area that can be fully enclosed on days of inclement weather. The staff all spoke fluent Japanese, and they even had natto on the menu (though I wasn’t game enough to try).
We went the bento route, and I have to admit that the Wagyu Meatballs ($28) bento was one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. Laid across the lacquered black box was a selection of cold goodies that spanned an impressive range. There was everything from pickled burdock root to a salad of seaweed and sweet egg omelette, as well as a variety of pickles and a dish of fried tofu with dark miso. Unfortunately the quality was a bit hit and miss, but I felt that the variety, as well as the delicious piece of sushi – stuffed with eggplant, pickles, and a peppery shiso leaf – redeemed it.
The actual meatballs themselves were A-plus. They were wonderfully chunky and hearty, with a rich beefy flavour. The sauce was a lovely miso-based glaze with a fruity undertone. It was just the thing to have with a fluffy bowl of rice.
My Grilled Black Cod ($28) bento was exactly the same as the meatball one, except for, well, the black cod. This was once again stellar; the pieces of cod were delicate and glossy, and practically melted in the mouth. The savoury earthiness of the miso sauce brought out the natural sweetness of the fish, and I absolutely loved the slight stickiness you get with cod that makes it such a good accompaniment to rice.
Despite being a bit aged and very overpriced, I actually had a surprisingly good time at Wabi Sabi Salon. Although most of the bento box wasn’t anything spectacular, I enjoyed the variety on offer. Plus, both ‘main’ dishes were spectacular, which definitely helped their cause. I still wish Aka Siro had been open, but I definitely don’t regret trying out Wabi Sabi Salon.
Rating: 13/20 – wabi sabi salmon (my fingers wanted to type that every time)
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.