A large part of the menu at Japanese-style brunch spot Hibiki is based on owner Reiji Honour’s mum’s cooking.
“Still to this day I call randomly at lunchtime and be like, ‘Mum, how do I cook this chicken to perfection?’” he says, laughing.
The okonomiyaki is one of those dishes. The cabbage and spring onion pancake is topped with Bull-Dog sauce, Kewpie mayo, bonito flakes, nori and – optional – bacon.
Another standout is the milk toast (“very famous in Japan”), a soft, thick slice of white bread not quite as sweet as brioche. Order it plain with a cube of cold butter, or with matcha custard cream and black-sesame ice-cream. Yuzu porridge made up of organic oats soaked in almond milk, with pear and apple compote, yuzu mascarpone, toasted buckwheat, fresh raspberries and sliced orange.
A tuna tataki bowl comes with fresh avocado, shredded daikon and carrot, pickled ginger and edamame. It sits on a bed of brown rice and quinoa, or sub the tuna out for a chicken-karaage (fried chicken) version. Sweet strips of tamagoyaki (a rolled and layered omelette) add texture, and sesame and roasted seaweed provide some crunch.
A take on chai blends cinnamon and cardamom with Japanese green tea and black sugar syrup. “It’s [nuttier], and it’s vegan as well,” Honour says.
Coffee comes from Industry Beans, and there’ll always be a rotating selection of Japanese beans on offer. Most recently, LiLo Coffee Roasters from Osaka made a guest appearance.
“The idea was to create a perfectly curated space where it’s not too crowded, not too cramped [and] not too awkward,” Honour says. “[I’m] trying to create that night-life energetic vibe that you get when you go out for dinner and [have] a few drinks … in a lunch scene without alcohol; so that was a real challenge.”
The interior of the former Thai restaurant is simple and fresh, with blonde timber, hints of greenery and concrete finishes. “Japan’s really renowned for … minimalism, [but] I still wanted to maintain homeliness,” Honour says. Background music is important to Honour, too. Each day he pulls a different playlist – Japanese funk, “throwback”, disco, house – from Hibiki’s extensive Spotify account to play over the air.
1161 Toorak Road, Camberwell
Mon to Sat 8am–3pm
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on January 11, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.