Aka SiroJune 13, 2013
If you’re on the look out for authentic Japanese food in Melbourne, look no further than a quiet, unassuming corner in the backstreets of Collingwood to Aka Siro, a new-ish Japanese eatery. No salmon sushi or chicken terriyaki here (sushi being something of a special dish in Japan) – step through the red and white cloth guarding the entrance and embrace the wholesome and subtle goodness of real Japanese food.
Stepping through the door, you are warmly welcomed by the chef and waitress with cries of ‘Irasshaimase’! The place is small and homely; Japanese cushions line blonde wood benches, large jars of spices sit above the open kitchen’s stove, and quirky little Japanese bric-a-brac are dotted around the place.
The open kitchen sits in the centre of the room, and, perched at the bench, we were able to see our dishes prepared, watching the chef taste the master stock, gently poach glistening pieces of white fish and pick out pieces of produce from the boxes on the front counter. The place is wholesome and soulful: you feel good about yourself just walking in.
They offer a daily special side-dish, on the day we visited it was takoyaki, or fried octopus balls made with flour, egg, yam and pieces of seafood. They’re cooked on a sort of waffle-type iron that locks shut and forms the dough mixture into little steaming spheres. Made fresh to order, they’re topped with a sweet sauce, kewpie mayonnaise and bonito flakes that quiver and curl in the heat.
The main menu is largely composed of Teishoku, or meal sets, with about eight options available. S ordered the Buta Kakuni Teishoku, slow cooked pork belly in a soy and sweet sake sauce, with the sake cutting through the fattiness of the meat. All meals come with some rice, a bowl of miso and, in some cases, a cabbage salad with pureed carrot.
I ordered the Ni Zakana Teishoku, white market fish simmered in soy and mirin with steamed greens. When it all arrived, what started out as ‘try some of this – it’s great’ turned into a fully shared meal, in keeping with the homely and familial theme of the place. Dishes clean, belly full, I was replete.
Eating at Aka Siro makes you feel rested, wholesome and nourished. They take care of you. So next time you’re in Collingwood and you’re thinking about a burger or a stack of fried eggs, take a trip down Cambridge Street and pay a visit to this quiet Japanese haven. Trust me, it’ll do you the world of good.
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