Wabi Sabi is quite hidden away from the busy shopping district near Chapel St. It is located just off of Princess Highway on Wellington St, a side road everyone needs to take if they want to drive through St Kilda Rd to the city. The street is completely surrounded lined up with mainly apartments and a few building offices where only handful of shops, cafes and restaurants exist. Its brightly and colourfully painted exterior of a bird’s feather tail with earthy wooden feature accents made it stand out from the tree lined street.

2014-12-11 Wabi Sabi Garden (2)

2014-12-11 Wabi Sabi Garden (3-6)

Wabi Sabi has quite some funky interior decor and pieces of artwork on display. There are tributes to classic prints to anime masterpieces as well such as Akira.

2014-12-11 Wabi Sabi Garden (7)Vegetarian sushi platter $16.00

From left to right, we have …

1. Kale, carrot, capsicum with some sort of sesame miso sauce
2. Eggplant with sweet potato chip
3. Avocado with pickled vegetables
4. Teriyaki mushrooms with mashed potato

I love the idea of having the filling on top of the sushi instead of rolled up inside it. It’s something different and it get to taste the filling ingredients in it’s full capacity before tasting the rice and nori seaweed. The eggplant surprised me the most with it’s taste as I’m not a big fan of it, however in this case the way it was prepared, either a combination of roasting and sauteeing help disguise any bitter aftertaste I usually experience when eating eggplants.

My friend was not sure how he felt about eating sushi this way, but I didn’t mind at all. If there was anything that I would fault with it was that the rice was a bit too sticky or overcooked for my liking. Also the sweet potato chip garnishes were quite soggy. We had both expected it to be quite crispy like a chip.

2014-12-11 Wabi Sabi Garden (8)Steamed vegetable gyoza $9.00

Nice consistency and chew, the vegetable filling wasn’t too dry either. And the sweet soy dipping sauce made for a nice combination.

2014-12-11 Wabi Sabi Garden (9)Grilled black cod marinated with Kyoto Saikyo Miso $31.00

I must give you a little back story to why we ordered this dish. After tasting Nobu’s black cod miso, I couldn’t get the taste out of my mouth. I kept wondering why all these years of eating Japanese food had I never come across anything like it at all, so I decided to look to see if any other restaurants were serving up their own versions of black cod miso. And that is when I saw this dish on Wabi Sabi’s menu. There was no question that I had to try it. I had to know if there was any way I could satisfy my cravings for Nobu’s black cod miso dish with a similar version elsewhere.

As it stands, I can’t say that this one comes at all close. The fish in this case seemed a bit dry and not as fresh at Nobu’s. The miso marinade although similar in taste was too overpowering for the small pieces of fish as if one large piece would be more suitable. Only a fraction of it’s taste resembled Nobu’s black cod miso and for its price at Wabi Sabi, I was a bit disappointed in this dish. The beans seemed like they were just thrown together and the potatoes tasted quite ordinary.

2014-12-11 Wabi Sabi Garden (10a)

Another potentially great dish fallen short due to lack of attention to detail. The idea is good and using rice flour as a batter for deep frying the mushrooms was an excellent idea. I even enjoyed the soy cream pumpkin on it’s own, but when eaten together the whole thing tasted a bit plain and the sweet potato chip was again soggy. Initially my friend and I thought it was soggy because we took too long to eat it during the first time when it was served with the vegetarian sushi, but this wasn’t the case. As soon as this plate arrived, I took a bite out of the sweet potato chip and found it to be just as soggy.

2014-12-11 Wabi Sabi Garden (10b)Rice flour mushroom stuffed with soy cream pumpkin gratin and teriyaki balsami sauce $25.00

The one thing that would have tied the stuff mushroom together would have been the strong teriyaki balsamic sauce, however it was served smeared more on the plate than in or on the stuff mushroom. My friend and I had to wipe the plate clean with the mushrooms to get right flavours where it was supposed to be, which was such a shame as well since the dish looked really nice.

2014-12-11 Wabi Sabi Garden (11a)Pear creme brulee (left) $12.00 with black sesame ice cream and Frozen Yuzu lime pudding (right) $12.00 with red bean ice cream.

I liked everything about these desserts. The pear made the creme brulee not too heavy and the berry garnish provided a nice tartness in contrast to the set custard. The yuzu lime pudding really refreshing. It had a strong citrus scent and a nice tartness to it. It reminded me of a more gelatin like lemon tart. I really enjoyed the yuzu pudding.

Both ice creams were nice. The black sesame ice cream reminded me of the Chinese black sesame dessert soup. It had a strong taste to it which suited me perfect. The red bean was really good as well, as they incorporated some red beans into the ice cream. It was however held back chunks of ice in it, as if it was emulsified properly.

2014-12-11 Wabi Sabi Garden (1a)

I can see what Wabi Sabi aims to create with their dinner menu with their presentation and flavour combinations. However I get the feeling that  there was just something lacking in general. There was always a slight something that fell short with almost every dish and that turn affected how we felt about the food at Wabi Sabi as a whole. My friend who recently is learning quite quickly about the cooking agrees with me. The food was nice enough that I would consider coming back to try some of their other dishes. For Wabi Sabi the food innovation is there, but the execution could be improved upon a little more especially when it comes to the finer details.

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