“Chotto means ‘a little’ or ‘for a short time’,” says co-owner Caryn Liew. “Because we’re a pop-up, we thought it was a cute name that ties into the nature of the space and how long we’ll be around for.”
Liew and her husband, Brendan, opened Chotto at the city-end of Smith Street at the beginning of August. It’s running as a pop-up for now – they’re undecided as to whether it’ll be for six or 12 months. They own the space and have plans to transform it into something more permanent afterwards.
The food is authentically Japanese and mostly based on what you’d be served in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). The only two permanent items are the breakfast sets – one vegetarian and one with fish. Each comes with a few pieces of maki tamago (rolled omelette with dashi), miso soup, steamed rice, pickles and lightly fried tofu.
The rest of the menu is based on available ingredients, and the sorts of things you can find in Japan generally, such as donburi (rice bowls) with charcoal-grilled meat. There is also a sweet option.
The tea is imported from Kyoto and Hiroshima and includes ceremonial-grade matcha whisked to order and served in a chawan (tea bowl). Coffee is from Monk Bodhi Dharma, and chai from Chai Walli. There’s also amazake available – a Japanese drink made from fermented sweet rice.
“We couldn’t find anything like what we’re doing in Melbourne,” says Caryn. “It’s the result of our love for Japan, its food philosophy and delicate flavours.”
35 Smith Street, Fitzroy
Tue to Sun 8am–3pm