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Shu Restaurant Joyous Degustation in Collingwood

Shu restaurant is one of the best vegan restaurants in Melbourne and is a hub of innovation and eclectic style, as well as joyous dining. We were invited to experience the degustation (choose vegan or meat and fish) and were highly impressed.

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Shu Liu is a hospitable and generous host having opened Shu Restaurant seven years ago on Johnston St in Collingwood. This is the first restaurant for Liu who previously worked in fashion and the evidence of this is for all to see, with Shu displaying a unique colourful and stylish interior. A pink glow is distinctive with the advent of neon and not being a style master I would label this venue as pop art overdrive - but it's hard to define. There's an upbeat feel that connects perfectly to the dining experience. A famous film was projecting on the wall as we dined.

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We hit the ground running with Ice cream cone with smoked tofu, avocado, black beans and sesame. Smoked tofu was exceptional and the whole dish was wonderfully playful. We were kids again!

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Eclectic and joyous dining. Check out the old records on the wall.

The story goes that Shu hosted dinner parties for his friends who with the positive rave reviews, inspired him to open a restaurant.  Early reviews were exceptional for someone who didn't begin the journey as a trained chef, and excellent reviews have continued throughout. Shu now features a 10-course vegan degustation as it's trademark, one of exceptional value. We had the meat and fish option which is similar to the vegetarian option but with a few exceptions. 

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It felt we were in the NGV with the stunning presentation of the acclaimed "RAW" selection. Give a ROAR for the RAW. Hokkaido scallop with green chilli salsa and Australian finger lime was a highlight. Silken tofu steeped in beet juiv=ce with pickled baby daikon and beetroot cheese was eclectic overdrive and the feature was as much the texture as the big flavours. Another highlight was the Daikon roll with Asian herbs and chilli oil infused in soy sauce. This last dish I picked up with my hands and it was magical - with texture agin a highlight with a raw crunch and salty bliss. While the waiter wasn't watching I raised the plate and drank the sauce. A trio of triumph.

Shu brings the Sichuan love to his dishes, having hailed from the Sichuan province in China. We were told by the waiter Shu learned his cooking skills from his mother and Grandmother. The sichuan spices are not overwhelming - more subtle than mouth numbing.

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The only chanllenge was that my chopsticks skills were found wanting with the Silken tofu beet dish in struggling to be able to pick it up with the chopsticks - first world problems.

Shu also elevates quality local produce, and while much effort and technique goes into each dish, the main ingredients are "heroed". You are here for a journey not a quick bite. I enjoyed the pace of the degustation, and it's refreshing to dine somewhere where you are not rushed.

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Turmeric sticky rice bun with preserved mustard greens (left) was a fascinating dish. I wondered whether you could find this in Sichuan province? I was also fascinated with the way Shu pairs its dishes together. Bringing together contrasts of textures and tastes. You often found dishes in pairs of trios, sparking conversations in themselves.

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One of my favourite dishes was the Pan fried potato pancake, topped with tossed Asian mushrooms and burnt chilli mayo. An exceptional seasonal dish and a generous one with delightfully thick potato pancake and ample mushrooms on top of the pancake. And once again the Sichuan influence was subtle in the use of chilli. 

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The fit out is like nothing else in Melbourne. While some venues spend a million dollars plus on a fit out they may not be able to create the style of Shu restaurant. Shu has its own unique style formed with an array of apparent mis match collectibles, textures and quirky objects, that comes together to provide a joyous atmosphere.

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Bold colours of the dishes speak as loudly as the bold colours of the restaurant. A study in green, the Spinach jelly salad sang with crunchy soy beans, edamame beans and coriander. Who thinks of spinach jelly? A stunning twist on a garden salad? Refreshing and fun, with excellent flavours and textures. 

We understand that Collingwood has a high percentage of vegan customers and Shu has been a popular vegan destination for locals as well as those travelling from across the city.

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Another highlight of the degustation was the Home made pork dumplings with sesame cream and chilli oil. Excellent delicate dumplings and the sauce was contained in the bowl (I had to drink it at the end once again).

Shu accesses the local markets for his dishes and we are told that dishes are often determined by what is seasonal and attractive at the markets. We love this philosophy, with the menu evolving and changing. Presentation is top notch with each dish carefully put together and served as an artistic and well as culinary statement.

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When I pause to reflect there were many highlights and talking points from the degustation. None more so than Charcoal noodles with black sesame sauce, Australian Tiger Prawn grilled with burnt chilli and garlic sauce. A melt in your mouth large Tiger prawn was perfectly complimented with charcoal noodles - I wondered if this style of noodles was commonplace in Sichuan province and I loved it. Top notch dish.

The wine list was impressive and we settled on a Yarra Valley Pinot Noir, perfect across the menu. You can sense a buzz and excitement at Shu with a large group dining next to us and tables of couples nearby.

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Passionfruit cheesecake with fresh passionfruit was a joyful way to finish the meal. The texture was fascinating and I expected a creamier cheesecake but enjoyed the more biscuity texture.

Shu restaurant is a quality joyous dining experience that serves up interesting and innovative dishes, and we think whether you're vegan or not you'll love it. Highly recommended.