Melbourne brunch fans were surprised when Carlton’s beloved Ima Project Cafe – the city’s standard-bearer for Japanese breakfast – closed at what seemed to be the peak of its popularity. Thankfully, it wasn’t the end of the Ima story.

Now operating out of a much more spacious home in Brunswick’s Nightingale Village, Ima Project has been reborn as Ima Asa Yoru, and continues to serve breakfast and lunch by day and izakaya classics with sake by night.

Fans of the old site will be glad to know that, by day, you can still get the signature teishoku (a Japanese set meal of rice, miso soup, pickles and your choice of either fish or eggplant), alongside a host of new dishes. One of those could be chirashi, a bowl of seasoned sushi rice topped with kingfish, tamagoyaki (rolled omelette) and rice puffs; or mazesoba, a dry noodle dish with minced pork, vegetables and an onsen egg.

To drink, there’s coffee from Wide Open Road and single-origin matcha and hojicha (roasted green tea) lattes, plus Mork hot chocolate and house-made juices.

Instead of trying to replicate the homey vibe of the original cafe, owners Asako Miura and James Spinks have gone with a more sophisticated design this time around. Think sleek lines, contrasting colours, and warm lighting courtesy of hanging spherical paper lanterns.

A few doors down is Ima Pantry, a grocer selling fresh produce, specialty food items and household supplies. Plus, Japanese condiments like soy sauce, mirin and sake vinegar in bulk. Attached is a tiny cafe with a handful of seats – stop by for onigiri, Japanese toasties and a roll with chicken nanban and tartare sauce.

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Updated: October 20th, 2023

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