Walking through the door at Chotto Motto is like stepping through a time tunnel. An incredible space that looks like it is straight out of Tokyo in the Showa Era, maybe circa 1975? There is Ultra-man, Godzilla and retro pop-culture everywhere you look. So many Peko-chan and Anpanman, a haven for lovers of Japanese collectables. Japanese music from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s fills the vibrant and always interesting space. Pink walls and oversized boxes of Pocky, as well as so many retro advertisements, vinyls and posters. You will not run out of things to muse over, it is super fun and has a relaxed atmosphere that is sure to make your night one to remember.
Chotto Motto means ‘a little more’ in Japanese, and no matter how many gyoza you eat, you will undoubtably wish you could have more because they are so delicious. The gyoza here are different than you will find in other Japanese restaurants. They are thin skinned and steamed in chilli oil or pan-fried in a ring of 10 or 20 gyoza, then topped with melted cheese (if you desire). This is in the Hamamatsu style. The flavours are innovative, and include prawn with shiitake mushroom and ginger, chicken and coriander or spicy kimchi miso pork. There are also regular classic pork gyoza and tofu with lotus root, kale, quinoa and cabbage as a vegetarian/vegan option. There are many other options on the menu, and to be honest, last night I think we tried nearly all of them. I couldn’t have squeezed ‘a little more’ in if I had tried. The curry cauliflower tempura has a slight kick and is deliciously crunchy and the stuffed mushroom tempura with sweet potato and teriyaki balsamic is deliciously rich with umami and counterbalanced beautifully by the sweetness in the sauce. The Godzilla fries (a secret menu item) are like a Japanese version of Canada’s national dish of poutine. French fries with melted cheese, aonori, chicken karaage, miso mayo and green curry mayo. Epic and a big hit with the teenagers!!!! The truffle soy tuna sashimi with broccolini and creamy wasabi sauce was delicate and fresh, with a not so delicate, but very delicious punch of wasabi. Seriously yummy eating. A great selection of Japanese drinks is available from an authentic Japanese vending machine. Lots of non-alcoholic choices and a large range of Japanese beers, including Super Sake Boy’s number one favourite, Niigata. (I also love Niigata, but Coedo Shiro is my fave). There is also a large natural wine selection, a couple of house sakes and several beers on tap.
Chotto Motto is a joint venture between Tomoya Kawasaki, who also owns Wabi Sabi Salon and Neko Neko with his lovely wife Saori, and Dylan Jones, who is Instafamously the dad of Tofu Pudding Jones. Tofu chan is the motivational, inspirational Shiba inu with a wholesome attitude and love for bread with almost a quarter of a million followers on Instagram. He is funny and so cute and adored around the world. He is also voiced by Tomoya. The combination is incredibly entertaining. (Check him out here if you haven’t seen him before). I met Tomoya a number of years ago at Wabi Sabi Salon, his excellent restaurant in Smith Street, Collingwood. My first experience of really excellent Japanese food and my very favourite place to eat in Melbourne. He is so friendly and welcoming, and his success in restaurants is undoubtably due to his very personable hospitality. Tomoya works very well with others, collaboratively. He has several collaborations, including Yuzu Yakuza Ale, with Temple Brewing and Shohei Otomo which is delicious and you can read about here. He has worked on Yuzu sodas, he has helped develop menus for various restaurants around Melbourne, and he jokes about petitioning the Yarra City Council to put a giant red Torii gate at the end of Smith Street. He is an excellent entrepreneur and a great host.
Mya and Abby, the aforementioned teenagers, are big fans of Chotto Motto, Japanese food, Japanese culture and also very big fans of Tofu chan. As we were trying to extricate them from the restaurant last night, minimising the amount of Pocky we were taking as souvenirs and getting them to get off the “Tofu Phone”, an old school phone with recorded advice from the famous Shiba himself, Dylan asked Super Sake Boy and I if we and the girls would like to meet Tofu? I was surprised and excited and keeping it to ourselves while Dylan retrieved Tofu from his place was not an easy task. I knew how excited the girls would be. So, as we moved outside and they started complaining about leaving, the arrival of Tofu chan was met with much excitement, some happy tears and a lot of photos. Tofu chan is soooo super cute, a little smaller than I anticipated, which is always the case with anyone famous, right, and totally deserving of his fame. A smiling, lovely little guy, we were all a little star struck and immediately loved Tofu chan. It was seriously the most awesome icing on the cake of a great night of excellent food, an excellent atmosphere and lots of fun and laughter. If you haven’t checked out Chotto Motto yet, do yourself a favour. You may be lucky enough to meet Tofu chan, too.
(Just for transparency, I did not receive any remuneration, monetary or otherwise, for writing this blog. It is, as all my blogs are, just me writing about the things I love).
Here are the links to http://www.chottomotto.com.au/ and http://wabisabisalon.com.au/ Here is a link to Tofu chan’s Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDnLCQmz9ZX2vz3NVptvfyQ