I’m not usually a fan of pop up restaurants and cafes. I think it’s a tag that’s overused and tend to avoid pop ups in favour of established venues. But I couldn’t help myself when I heard about Chotto on Smith Street.
It’s a fine dining Japanese cafe from ex Golden fields Brendan Liew and his wife Caryn. The attention to detail at this little cafe is just so Japanese that you almost feel like you’re in Kyoto rather than Fitzroy.
The temporary furnishings are simple plywood stools and tables with the small space dominated by a gorgeous Japanese ikebana arrangement of cherry blossom. It all feels very calming and austure. The menu is also succinct, focusing on doing a few things really well.
The ochazuke set ($18) is dominated by a yaki onigiri (grilled rice ball) filled with soft rice with a crusty exterior. A hot genmaicha broth is poured over and served alongside a very pungent nettle leaf tofu and a rich nasu dengaku which is one of my all time favourite Japanese dishes of eggplant toped with miso.
Forget smashed avo or corn fritters, at Chotto the breakfast set ($25) features sashimi grade lightly grilled fish, dashi maki tamago (rolled omelette), miso soup and Akita rice cooked in a traditional donabe (Japanese clay pot). The cooking method makes the rice fluffy but with a crust.
Chotto takes its tea seriously and there are some great traditional offerings and it also serves up a sweet but smooth matcha latte to satisfy Fitzroy’s hipster crowd. But the thing that won me over was at the end of my meal when it was time to pay, my credit card was presented back to me with a little bow which was oh so Japanese.
Details: Chotto, 35 Smith street, Fitzroy
Kids: It’s a little bit tiny and delicate for children here. I did take my baby in his capsule which the staff were lovely about but there’s not much room for prams.