A couple of weeks ago, I had a message on my Facebook page from Shu, the owner and chef at Shu Restaurant. Shu Restaurant is a relatively new (three years old?) restaurant in Collingwood specialising in Sichuan fusion cuisine, and Shu wanted to invite me to a twelve course Christmas in August vegan degustation that he was organising for a group of Melbourne vegetarian food bloggers.
A vegan Sichuan fusion Christmas in August degustation. I had absolutely no idea what that entailed, but it sounded completely fascinating. I was in.
To really do this review justice, I think it is important to start by noting that I am actually a fairly terrible audience for Sichuan food. I am not good with food that is very spicy – and really, all I knew about Sichuan food was that it was very spicy indeed – and I very rarely eat Chinese food of any stamp. This is because I always disliked Chinese food whenever we ate it when I was growing up, and I have not really explored the cuisine enough to give it a fair try as an adult, mostly because the prevalence of peanuts, soy sauce and chilli has tended to discourage me. (Having said that, on both the occasions on which I have both eaten and enjoyed Chinese food as an adult, that food was vegan, so the omens were not entirely inauspicious.)
The point is that while I was really excited to be asked to this degustation, and I do really want to give new food experiences a chance, I was also a little terrified that I’d walk out with my head on fire from all the chilli.
I didn’t. The food was delicious and delicate and very, very pretty, the spice levels were varied, but had enough gentle dishes among them to keep anyone from combusting, and it was a truly new set of flavours for me. I would definitely go back.
Oh, and two more quick disclaimers / apologies before I start. First, in case I have not made this sufficiently clear, I am horribly ignorant about the flavours and ingredients used in Sichuan cuisine. So I have described everything as well as I can, but I may well have things wrong. Second, I forgot my camera when leaving the house, so the photos were all taken on my phone, and are thus not very good.