106 Cambridge St
Collingwood, VIC 3066
03 9417 0886
There’s something about Collingwood that seems to suit the Japanese subculture in Melbourne. I can’t pinpoint it… but there’s this urban soul to the area that fits them very well, which could be why we’ve seen places like CIBI, Mina No Ie and a few other fabulous Japanese style shops taking residence there.
A kind-hearted friend of mine, Castletime, hasn’t been featured in this blog for years… our last catch-up was at Von Haus two years ago. Back then, I was sad seeing a good friend leave Melbourne. But he’s back now… and it shows me how quickly the years pass by and how, sometimes, good things can come back into your life.
Neither of us are Japanese, but we’re fans of its culture and cuisine. So when I suggested we catch up at Aka Siro, Castletime got as excited as I was. I stumbled past this Japanese eatery about a year ago after brunching at Mina No Ie from across the road. It took me a year, but I’m finally here! Part of the reason for the delay is the prohibitively expensive car parking in Collingwood during the daytime.
We both loved the detailed little touches in the Japanese cafe… from the rustic wooden benches, to the patterned blue cushions that we sat on, the minimalistic wood-framed windows, and the simple but appealing tableware and knick knacks on the shelves and display cabinets. And as customers, we instinctively added to the decorative touches here by placing, on our spacious white table, our much-loved geeky gadgets and my “Korean gangster” sunglasses.
Gen Mai Cha (Roast Brown Rice) 3,00 | Akasiro Home Made Lemonade 6,00
The lunch menu consists of a small selection of affordably priced Teishoku (定食), which is essentially a bento-like set meal (minus the bento box), where you get a main dish with miso soup, salad and rice. For drinks, Castletime got a fragrant roast brown rice green tea, while I had a sweet cup of homemade warm lemonade.
ATSU-AGE TEISHOKU 16,00
fried tofu w sweet potato, eggplant, shimeji mushrooms, simmer w spicy miso & dashi stock
Both Castletime and myself gravitated towards this dish on the menu… what’s there to not like about eggplants, shimeji mushrooms and dashi stock? But I ended up choosing something else so that we could share and sample more things. This dish came with a tangy, slightly spicy sauce. And in a way… I was glad I ended up not getting it because the sauce was on the gooey side.
The miso soups that came with our teishoku lunch sets were very good though, served hot and flavoursome with supple squares of wakame seaweed and delicious pieces of good quality tofu. The salad was great too… simple, healthy and tangy. We really liked the sweet-vinegary (grated carrot?) dressing.
TONKATSU TEISHOKU 18,00
Our lovely waitress mentioned they had tonkatsu (deep-fried crumbed pork) on their menu as a special for 5 days only, so naturally I picked that. It was pretty enjoyable… crispy with good flavour. Of course it doesn’t compare with Gypsy & Pig’s kurobuta (Berkshire pork) offerings, but it came pretty close to it. I liked how very generous they were with my serve of pork… Castletime had to help me finish.
I had a very enjoyable lunch here. It is a comfortable place with lovely staff, a bright and peaceful ambience, and a thoughtful menu with portion sizes that don’t make you leave the place still hungry.
Piccolo & Latte 3.50ea (Angel Wings Blend)
As you know, I seem to have a mental map of coffee hotspots around all of Melbourne. In Collingwood, it’d have to be Proud Mary. We walked there from Aka Siro to have a cup…
The cafe was as cramped, noisy and grindingly busy as usual during lunch time on a Wednesday… I still maintain that it isn’t a comfortable place to brunch at. However, WHOA MY GOD do they make an amazing cup there. My favourite blend “Angel Wings” was on the blackboard that day, and it tasted as beautiful and fruity as ever. The best cup of coffee that I’ve tasted for the month of September, and probably for a long long while!
As we left, I got myself a bag of beans. Unfortunately Angel Wings wasn’t available to take home, so I picked a new blend (called ‘Honeysuckle’) recommended by them. After a few extractions, I managed to pull out the fruitiness from my shots. Delicious!