If you think all Collingwood’s restaurant action in happening on Smith Street, you’re wrong. Take a stroll down Cambridge Street, and you’ll stumble across new Japanese eating spot, Aka Siro.

Owner/chef Masa (ex-Piadina Slow Food and The Grace Darling) has breathed new life into this corner shop, which used to house a design firm. Low ceilings, plenty of timber, and a full view of the kitchen make this 30-seater a very pleasant space indeed. It’s actually a lovely thing to walk into a restaurant and make eye contact with the chefs. The staff are bubbly beyond belief, resulting in a very inclusive atmosphere.

Aka Siro’s menu features 11 Teishoku dishes, all served with a crunchy salad of cabbage, iceberg lettuce and cucumber topped with an unusual but more-ish ‘dressing’ of pureed carrot and vinegar. Each dish arrives with a subtly flavoured miso soup and you can have as much steamed rice as you like. There are also sides which change daily – we were given the choice of either sardines with pickled cucumber, or sautéed slippery jack mushrooms.

Considering Melbourne seems to be having a love affair with pork, there are quite a few options that are sure to please. Try slow-cooked pork belly and daikon in sweet sake sauce, grilled pork in egg and flour with Japanese barbecue sauce and mayonnaise, or the Ton-Katsu, whose description on the menu is straight to the point – “very popular deep fried pork cutlet”.

And for those who enjoy a spot of fusion, there’s the Hamburg – grilled beef and pork mince patty with tomato and Worcester sauce. We loved the sound of the Ni-Zakana (boneless white fish simmered in soy and sweet sake sauce) and the Sake-Mushi (drunken mussels, bok choy, mushrooms with shiso herb). There are also a couple of interesting vegetarian options.

The drinks list is short and sweet and features Karita paper drip coffee, specialty teas and grape juice.

Currently offering lunch from Tuesday to Sunday, it’s rumoured that within a few months there will be izakaya dining and late night sake sessions. Where do we sign up?

This hidden little lunch spot is a very welcome addition to the backstreets of Collingwood. Sometimes it pays to stray from the main drag.

Aka Siro
106 Cambridge Street, Collingwood

Tues to Sun 11am–4pm