After 14 years, Smith Street's Japanese hero Wabi Sabi has had a modernising nip, tuck and a total ousting of land beasts, relaunching as a vegan-pescatarian restaurant with late-night ramen coming in September.
The update brings Wabi Sabi into line with owners Saori and Tomoya Kawasaki's Gertrude Street bolthole Neko Neko.
Like the canteen, Wabi Sabi's new menu offers vegan ramens, and teishoku platters, which frame a protein such as teriyaki salmon or agedashi tofu with onigiri, fried lotus root, myriad pickles and salads.
The menu here, cooked by Shingo Tochimoto, expands the offering with snacks like roasted fennel with walnut miso, corn fritters with plum chilli relish, big sashimi platters dressed in greens, Japanese curries, poke bowls and a $45 feed-me option matched with sakes.
The wine, sake and beer list are also larger than Neko Neko's, as is the space, which, thanks to a renovation by Japanese designers and carpenters the de Keyzers (brothers Shaun and Neil de Keyser), has transformed from a den of dark, curious nooks into an open, clean room of turquoise walls and brushed concrete, dominated by a large communal table with squat little stools. The large courtyard out back for big groups remains.
A large part of the new hook is the promise of the space's use as a late-night sake bar and ramen joint, with DJs playing sets on the loft level. A disco ball is hung in anticipation. But due to family commitments back in Japan, that will now kick off in September.
Open Mon-Sat noon-3pm, 5.30pm-11pm.
94 Smith Street, Collingwood, wabisabisalon.com.au