There’s little more than tables and chairs on the restaurant floor at Mr Joe, but that only adds to its charm.
Owners Martin and Yang Sun (also of Brunswick’s Steam Junkies) wanted their new spot to embrace the laid-back familiarity of Tokyo’s izakayas, with a minimalist design (by Fitzroy's Figureground Architecture) that sees the food take centre stage.
Textured concrete walls and plywood tables create a stripped-back aesthetic. Grey curtains, navy-blue tiling and a handful of lunar-eclipse wall lights stop the space from feeling sterile. Loud music adds an inner-city buzz.
On the Japanese-inspired brunch menu you’ll find fluffy soufflé pancakes with sweet red-bean paste, verjuice-pickled peach, matcha syrup and citrus mascarpone; crabmeat croquettes with avocado, yuzu miso cream and salmon roe; and a five-seed cracker with oyster mushroom, black fungus, and blue-cheese dressing.
The night-time menu is much larger and moves beyond Japanese fare, bringing in elements of Chinese and Thai. Start with the miso-glazed eggplant and the tuna carpaccio – pan-seared, flecked with salmon roe and fanned out on a bed of green vegetables – then try gyumeshi (a rice bowl topped with beef and onion in a slightly sweet sauce), or Szechuan fried chicken.
Grab a Suntory beer, or for the less hop-inclined, a wine list comprises exclusively Australian and New Zealand drops. There’s also an approachable, fruit-heavy cocktail menu, and a small selection of Japanese whisky and sake.