You won’t struggle for conversation starters at Chotto Motto. The vibrant new venue from Tomoya Kawasaki (Neko Neko, Wabi Sabi) and Dylan Jones is packed with pieces of Japanese junk shop treasure, such as instructional children's Sega video games and ’80s pop records. And then there are the loud and busy murals by local artists Chehehe and Mitch Walder inside and out.
“There's nothing worse than going on a date to a fancy restaurant and having nothing to talk about. Here you've got distractions,” says Jones of his new spot.
Chotto Motto specialises in the Hamamatsu regional style of cooking gyoza. The dumplings are arranged in rings of 10 or 20 pieces, pan fried, flipped and fried again until crispy. Then they’re topped with cheese (if you like) and served in a pizza box. Spicy kimchi and miso pork, chickpea and ginger, and shiitake and cabbage make for punchy fillings. It’s beer food, first and foremost, and you can nab yourself one (in typically Japanese fashion) from a refurbished Japanese vending machine stocked with a selection of local independents (Stomping Ground, Temple Brewing), Japanese craft beers from Hitachino Nest, and some adventurous picks such as matcha IPA and miso lager. The machine also pops out Japanese cola, umeshu, shochu and a sparkling peach jelly sake. No coins are required, just push the button and pay at the counter.
From behind the bar there’s also a small selection of cocktails including a Matcha Sour with Japanese whisky and white chocolate, and a Yuzu Margarita rimmed with shiso salt. A small selection of five minimal-intervention wines rotates monthly.
Besides the main-event gyoza there’s a selection of katsu sandwiches: chicken, prawn, pork, or edamame and shiitake croquette on white bread with cabbage slaw and tonkatsu sauce. The katsu selection will soon be available for lunchtime takeaway from a sliding service window on the side of the building. Sides include snacks such as karaage – chicken or cauliflower – and fries topped with classic furikake rice seasoning. For dessert there’s one vegan soft serve flavour rotated monthly. Currently you’ll find salted-caramel miso topped with matcha powder. Look out for charcoal and coconut, and soy sauce in the coming months.
Kawasaki and Jones also run the hit Instagram account @tofupupper – the “talking” shiba inu voiced by Kawasaki. It's indicative of the fun and irreverent dining experience at Chotto Motto that Kawasaki and Jones intend to use to spread their love of Japanese art and culture. And to extend that even further there will be regular junk markets, record sales and gyoza making workshops on Sundays.