Sunday, June 6, 2010

the dust barrier

sorry i have been absent for a little while.
here are some (mobile phone) pictures of why.

we have recently moved into a new space.
it has taken two weeks to date for them to come and connect the internet:(
we have two houses worth of stuff piled into two rooms,
while we do some patching up work on the other areas.

it is an exciting venture.
the space is super massive,
above a shop in the inner northern 'burbs of melbourne.
it's hard to show the scale of the place,
but believe me when i say the ceilings soar
and there could be flotillas of people scattered about
with high possibility you would not run into each other.

we have some ideas on how to use the space,
and i really hope i can keep you updated on those
as they come about!

in the meantime...
i have plans to document some of our neighbours.
there is an awesome mix of old and new in the area -
traders that have been there forever and a day
and some nice new kids on the block as well.
please stay tuned!


i have just been ringing round to
secure a booking for tonight to eat japanese in our fine old town.
of course, there are many, many options.
but just had to share my experience with yu-u in the cbd.

upon calling, my booking was welcomed.
but when i asked about vegetarian options,
i was told not to bother, or in polite code,
'perhaps another time', as all they have is edamame.


i find this disappointing, and borderline offensive.
although admittedly authentic in terms of the struggle
many vegos encounter when trying to order vego dishes in japan itself.

but come on.

it is especially disappointing as i know from firsthand experience in japan
that whilst vego food is certainly not mainstream,
there is a definite trend on in japan toward slow food and whole food,
with the concurrent broadening of meat-free and fish-free options.
and i also know that japanese cooking lends itself superbly well to fresh,
vegetable seasonal produce and grains.

so, anyway, i felt like a bit of a rant there. i guess my message is:

get with the program yu-u.

in contrast, some recommended vego-friendly japanese places in melbs:

wood spoon kitchen (big kudos for vego options, although the onigiri is disappointing)

wabi sabi salon (in smith street, collingwood. i first thought this place over-priced.
but upon investigation of other options,
i think their menu is inventive - giving really good vego options,
a good looking vego bento lunch and is
probably priced ok in relation to other places.)

shoya (very expensive and decor way too urbane,
but pretty amazing all vegetarian degustation menu -
taxi restaurant also used to do an amazing vegetarian japanese platter -
the best i have had in melbourne. not sure if they still do. also expensive.)

kappaya soul food (i belive their focus is more on sushi and sashimi,
just is a nice-looking place with a nice attitude)

cibi for breakfast.

otsumami in northcote also receives good reviews.
i have been there once and found the okonomiyaki a wee bit disappointing.
but again, kudos for a very strong range of vego options,
and for the nice tatami seating arrangements out the back.

very, very keen to get to ocha soon again as well.
this place used to be authenticity at its best. i hope it still is.

the ornate plaster work in hallway,
and the best monstera plant ever inherited- huge and propped up with various sticks and ties
(it came with the place:)

the roses

another inherited plant and brass planter.
the fireplaces are exciting - we need a chimney sweep.
and obviously a good coat of paint
(architraves and fireplace surrounds are victims of an eighties assault)

the skylight will be playing a big part in the future,

two houses of stuff, two usable rooms - the art of stacking
(note sofa arm has been utilised as cat scratching post)

linen press the cat finds his perch in the stacks

the kitchen is currently functional. but waaaay too beige.
last priority but some kind of fix up on zero budget will be hopefully forthcoming.

this window is a winner. almost holy:)


  1. exciting stuff!! it looks great from what I can see.
    disappointing about yu-u, we should do kappaya again soon - well, when you get a break ;)

  2. That is a shame about yu-u... I've heard such great things... but inflexibility is not a quality that is needed during an eating experience! When staying in a Koya-san monastery all we ate was vegetarian breakfast noon and night... I loved it (despite not being a vegetarian myself).

    Good luck with your exciting renovations!


  3. hi marie and emma! thanks for the encouragement - the photos don't really do anything justice - but thought it might be nice to try and document the um, transformation in some way...

    and totally a shame about yu-u. i have always been curious about this uber-cool hidden doorway, classic alleyway melbourne place. their lunches sounded great. but dinner - forget it if you are vego. i asked (nicely) multiple times - please tell me what you have and i will decide if it will be sufficient for me (in the face of - no we don't have much, no we don't have much, just edamame), and so just gave up. actually quite a a japan experience:) not being super negative, but anyone who has faced (unstated or alluded to) barriers of any kind in japan can maybe relate...don't get me wrong, i of course love the place to bits, but like any long term relationship - have to acknowledge the non-perfect bits too:)

    emma, thanks for that comment - koya-san is so brilliant - the chance to enjoy shojin-ryori in those serene surrounds is unforgettable don't you think?

    yep marie - lets try out kappaya again as soon as the study/reno tsunami has passed!

  4. Love high ceilings!

    The Victorians were pretty hilarious, but loveable- the way the facade is always so grand, then the building gradually gets less and less so as you make your way to the back, whereupon you invariably find yourself in some shabby lean-to! :-)
    House Warmth to you

  5. I love the place! Really beautiful and so many posibilities! I am sorry about your encounter with no vegetarian food. I can totally relate being a vegetarian myself.

  6. hi david, thank so much for your kind house warmth message:) is actually pretty chilly at the moment - high victorian ceilings and small fan heater are not easy bedfellows...becaue it is all 2nd floor, not classic shabby lean-to (although i have certainly had my fair share of those) - a magnificent stair case at the back leads down to back door, i like that - grand style on a grand scale where no one will see:)

    and thanks so much yoli! as always, your comments always really buoy my frame of mind - thank you.

  7. momo18:39

    hi bree.
    Sorry about yu-u. I have experienced similar things many times and such a shame.
    Last time when we were in Melbourne, we had lunch at Kappaya in convent(collingwood) and it was pretty good. If it had non-fish stock miso soup, would have been perfect meal for me)
    We have sort of giving up eating out here. Sad but I am tired of eating same things in vegetarian places and lately what I want to eat is simple Japanese food which is not that difficult to make them vegetarian/vegan.
    Still feel the same in Japan too. Slow food, macrobiotic and eating seasonal products etc etc does not nessesary mean free of animal products. At least I know few great places here and there so I just stick to those ones and cook at my parents usually.

    Your place looks pretty amazing! Love the big window and fire place!
    Place we are moving in soon has one too but probably not going to work..

  8. hi momo! yes, the fish-stock issue...i totally agree with your point that "natural" doesn't equate to vegetarian - especially when fish stock permeates basically all standard japanese cooking. although we did experience some amazing all vegan/all vego restaurants/food in japan - especially kyoto.

    in melbourne, that is why shoya (listed above) was really impressive - they asked beforehand regarding all dietary requirements - and specifically about fish stock. they presented a degustation menu (which is in effect the normal japanese dining experience;) with zero animal content and it was great. but have to pay through the nose...

    and TOTALLY agree that vego japanese food is best achieved at home, making simple things:) i am always inspired by your home cooking posts.

    and thanks for the nice comment son the new house! and finally, we have started watching some of the episodes of tatemono tango - it is really great to see these interiors - thanks so much! as soon as we gt through them i will pop it back in mail to you!

  9. sorry, one more thing - i also totally agree momo about your comment of "Sad but I am tired of eating same things in vegetarian places and lately what I want to eat is simple Japanese food which is not that difficult to make them vegetarian/vegan."

    All japanese places present the same options for non-meat eaters. i am thinking: spinach ohitashi, nasu dengaku, wakame salad, agedashi (minus katsu on request) etc etc. Whilst these are delicious when done well (after we have enquired robustly as to the fish content), the selection does get monotonous - especially as you say when it not hard to adapt simple recipes to make them vego-friendly.

    sorry to meat-eating readers and commenters, it has turned into a bit of whinge fest on my part here! but i actually hold quite deep beliefs concerning vegetarianism for all kinds or reasons - from humane and just treatment of animals through to global suistainability and just eating our fair share. so i guess the genie is out of the bottle on this issue for me a wee bit, i shouldn;t just be whingeing about how hard it is to eat out in my precious little inner urban life - but more broadly commenting on increasing access and profile of vegtariansim in one of the world's best cuisines!


    end rant. :)

    thanks again for all comments - as you can see they always cause me to reflect and think further, for that i can;t thank you enough!

  10. Bree.

    Wish we could visit each other and try each other's food. In that way, we do not need to feel "left out" and still could try somebody else's cooking and get inspired.

    Take your time to watch Tatemono tanbou(探訪) :)
    Me and little O are going to be in Japan from following weekend for a month. So please do not rush. And just let me know when you finish so I can give you my new address.

  11. I've eaten at Yu-u about 4 times and really loved it so it's a pity about the vego thing. It's funny too because I think I recall them having a vego option last time I was there. But it was lunch time, not dinner so maybe that was why?

    I also like Peko Peko on Smith St, Collingwood and Iku on Sydney Rd Brunswick is not bad either.

  12. hi momo - have a wonderful trip!!! (and thanks for the title correction:)

    hi kylie - the lunches might be a much better option? it appears thay have a sort of obanzai arrangement? or is it a set deal...i have not totally removed them from my world, i might try a lunch pop in and see what the story is! and my friend worked at peko peko - they do have some really nice options! iku is an interesting one to hear! i live on sydney road and have gone past it many many times. on your recommendation i might just have to try it out!

  13. bree, that new apartment looks so fabulous! wishing you lots of energy and ideas to turn it into your home. doing something like that on a budget is not easy, but totally doable. and you will attach so many memories to every wall you painted, wooden panel you sanded and every bit of plaster you fix.

    i envy you a little... :)