Aka Siro, Collingwood

Today I’d planned to go to Bayte on the way home because it’s literally one door down from the bus stop at Wellington St/Johnston St and therefore incredibly convenient. To my dismay, Bayte wasn’t open for lunch today and only opens for lunch Friday to Sunday. A few seconds after I arrived at the door, a group of girls also came, only to be disappointed by the changed opening hours (apparently not for the first time). I thought I’d go home for lunch instead, but upon checking the bus times I found out that the next one wouldn’t be coming for 20 minutes so I may as well eat somewhere there.

My first thought went to Huxtaburger, which was about a 10 minute walk down Smith St. As I was walking I changed my mind and decided to visit Rockwell & Sons instead. There’s a Huxtaburger in the CBD, which I could pop into during a uni break, whereas there’s only one Rockwell & Sons. It felt like I was walking forever; fortunately today there very pleasant walking weather. I remembered reading that Rockwell & Sons was only a few stores up from Huxtaburger so I kept going down towards Victoria Parade before actually checking the address. It turned out that Huxtaburger, number 108, is not that close to Rockwell & Sons, which was 288 and therefore almost at Johnston St – where I started from. Lamenting my stupidity, I started my trek back towards Johnston St when I recalled there being a Japanese cafe somewhere in Collingwood that was on my ‘to try’ list. As it happens, it was just down Peel St, which was on the way back.

So. That was the long-winded story of how I ended up at Aka Siro for lunch.

This small café situated on the corner of Peel St and Cambridge St was staffed by Japanese. Half its seating capacity was dedicated to bar seats, and the other half to spacious tables. The lunch menu consisted mainly of teishoku, but there were also two daily side specials, cutely written on a pot lid, as well as daily drink specials.

I ordered the chan-chan-yaki teishoku – grilled salmon, Chinese cabbage, beanshoots and pumpkin w. sake & organic hatcho miso sauce ($18). On initial inspection of the menu I thought this would be one of those expensive-but-with-small-serves cafés, but thankfully the serving size was quite generous. The most popular dish ordered by those around me was the kara-age, which came with maybe 8-10 chicken pieces. My salmon teishoku contained 5 slices of salmon as well as some long beans and basil leaves. Although basil doesn’t seem very Japanese, I overlooked it because it added some freshness to the salty sauces. The more watery, lighter sauce had more of a miso taste, whilst the very dark, thick sauce was saltier and imparted another level of complexity to the overall flavour of the dish. I’m guessing the deeper-coloured sauce was the one with sake and hatcho miso (hatcho miso is the darkest of the miso varieties). Again, I don’t have much experience with sake so I couldn’t really pick it. The fish was not overcooked and the veggies were all soft, which is how I like them. I thought the flavour combinations worked well and it was quite a light, yet very satisfying meal.

So my ‘convenient lunch’ gradually evolved into a rather long and not-so-convenient lunch, but I’m glad the whole debacle had a happy ending; I’d take good Japanese over a good burger any day!

Aka Siro
106 Cambridge St
Collingwood, VIC, 3066
(03) 9417 0886

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