13 Aug Chotto, Fitzroy
Chotto means ‘a little’, which is entirely fitting for the minimalistic interior of this pop-up cafe. Despite its simple decor, the cafe doesn’t feel cold with its blond plywood, pops of plantlife and warm lighting.
For milky hot drinks there are matcha lattes and the roasted tea-based houjicha latte. Matcha lattes here are more milky than bitter. The houjicha has stronger flavour due to the tea leaves being roasted, and it’s also slightly sweeter than the matcha hot drink. For a different experience, you can get ceremonial grade matcha from Uji whisked before your eyes in a chawan.
Brendan Liew is working the kitchen. His experience working in Tokyo and also preparing sashimi at Golden Fields means he really knows how to handle his seafood. Traditional Japanese techniques are used: rice is cooked in traditional earthenware donabe; fish is grilled over binchotan, the white Japanese charcoal. The focus here is on high quality ingredients brought to the table. The menu is succinct and seasonal, but you’ll always find a breakfast set that might include spiralling dashimaki tamago, fish, side dishes and a bowl of miso soup. Our breakfast set today includes charcoal-grilled fish, dashi maki tamago, kobachi (chicken and taro ball), spinach, pickles, miso soup and donabe-cooked rice. The kobachi is mostly taro with a thin layer of chicken on the outside. I’m not a fan of dashimaki tamago because of its tendency to be sweet. I’m pleased to find only a touch of sweetness and it’s nicely moist and eggy. The individual items are tasty, but those looking for bold flavours might have to look elsewhere, as it’s easier to find understated Japanese flavours here.
One of today’s specials is the nishoku don. Sashimi ike-jime yellowfin tuna and sawara (Spanish mackerel) comes alongside shredded egg and nori on a bed on Akita Komachi rice. The quality of the wild, line-caught fish, which was just flown in yesterday, is outstanding. The rice has no seasoning, but it’s good quality rice, and with a splash of soy is just delicious.
Chotto is almost a fine-dining sort of cafe. It’s pricey, but they’ve taken great care in sourcing top grade ingredients and staying true to authentic cooking methods. When the pop-up ends, there are hopes to open a omakase-style restaurant.
35 Smith St
Fitzroy, VIC, 3065