Wabi Sabi is a Japanese term used to describe the beauty of imperfection. Knowing this, it’s an extremely apt name for St Kilda’s Wabi Sabi Garden, not because it’s flawed, but rather that there is beauty in all the authentic, imperfect touches.
One of the things that truly sets Wabi Sabi Garden apart from your average dining experience is the understanding that it’s about more than the food. It’s service, atmosphere and a holistic approach to food production (there are no chemicals used anywhere in the restaurant, weather it be cooking, preserving or cleaning). It’s that fantastic traditional Japanese service and embracement of wabi sabi.
Tucked down Wellington Street, it might not be quite where you’d expect to find a top-notch Japanese restaurant and garden, but the location and venue work perfectly together. Think zen-like garden, intricate details, and design that comes from the heart. One of Wabi Sabi Garden’s waitresses has crafted each of the intricate paper carving artworks that are scattered around the walls and a few of the head chefs got together to paint the mural that adds some serious life to the outdoor garden and dining space.
We learnt a thing or two about everyone’s favourite Japanese drink, Sake. Or to be more accurate, jizake. It turns out that just as we have an insatiable love for boutique spirits and craft beers, the Japanese have their own version. Jizake is the term for localised, family owned and crafted boutique sakes, often created using a family recipe that’s been refined over hundreds of years. Wabi Sabi Garden exclusively stocks Jizake, some of it from brands that are over 800 years old.
While the Jizake is epic, and we highly recommend you order some, the drinks list doesn’t stop there. The cocktail menu is both delicious and extensive, balancing fresh tradition flavours with spirits that we’re more familiar with. If you’re a fan of espresso martinis (let’s be honest, who isn’t?!) then you need to treat yourself to Wabi Sabi Garden’s version—it is off the charts.
The menu offers a huge range of flavours, textures and dishes, some of them traditional, while some have embraced modern twists on old favourites. Open for lunch and dinner, the menu for each is quite different, though equally extensive.
On the lunch front, you can expect bento boxes, sushi and sashimi, Japanese curries, Japanese style burgers (it’s a thing) and gourmet lunch salads. There are plenty of vegetarian options, as well as seafood, duck, wagyu, and chicken. Better order a little of everything to be on the safe side!
Come dinner time, the menu is slightly more refined, though still centred around sharing. There’s an impressive selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes (hallelujah!) and the remainder of the menu is a glorious selection if meat dishes, sashimi, gyoza, seafood, rice dishes, and finger lickin’ starters.
Image credit: Michelle Jarni for The Urban List