The Best Japanese Cafes in Melbourne

Updated 1 day ago


Japanese is one of Melbourne’s most popular cuisines – when it comes to lunch and dinner. But breakfast has taken a little longer to get going. In Japan, the morning meal typically involves grilled fish, steamed rice, miso soup, pickles, fermented soybeans, seasonal vegetables and a green salad. It’s an undeniably delicious and healthy dish, but it’s also not typically associated with having a flat white.

In recent years, a number of Japanese cafes have opened, thumbing their noses at that idea. Some, like Cibi and Ima Asa Yoru, serve classic Japanese breakfasts alongside dishes that combine tradition and local tastes. Others specialise in Japan’s snackier foods – such as Le Bajo Milkbar with its katsu sandos or Papirica with its okonomiyaki. Others still focus on sweet baked treats, like the kinds you’d find in a Tokyo subway station.

  • Though the name is Japanese for “little one”, this cafe and homewares store is actually rather large. Set within a light-filled warehouse, its kitchen turns out traditional breakfasts alongside more contemporary dishes. There's also a neat retail section with homewares, ceramics and pantry goods to take home.

  • Carlton’s now-closed Ima Project Cafe was the city’s standard-bearer for Japanese breakfast. Thankfully, it’s been reborn in Brunswick under a new name, and serves all-day dishes such as kingfish chirashi and shokupan slathered in mentaiko (cod roe).

  • Named after Japan’s all-day coffee houses, this cosy suburban cafe does ramen for breakfast, classic dishes such as okonomiyaki and omurice, and house-brewed hojicha (green tea) lattes. The courtyard is where you want to be on sunny days.

  • Japanese-style brunch involving bacon-topped okonomiyaki, a green-tea-chai hybrid and Japanese funk music. Plus, castella cakes make regular appearances. Its sister grocer Haiku Future is also with your time.

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  • Homey Japanese food and good coffee make excellent friends at this tiny corner cafe. Visit for rolls stuffed with chicken sausage, teishoku (all-inclusive set meals) and single-origin espresso drinks.

  • This corner cafe specialises in modern takes on traditional Japanese sandos, musubi (also known as onigiri) and filter coffee. For dessert, grab a Mochinut (a mochi doughnut) or black tea creme brûlée.

  • At this Japanese cafe, just about everything revolves around shokupan, or Japanese milk bread. Grab fluffy, house-baked loaves of the stuff to take away; or settle in for fried-chicken katsu sandos, teriyaki fries and airy sponge cake.

  • It’s not strictly Japanese, but this cuisine-crossing cafe serves a standout breakfast set with fish, rice, pickled vegetables, soup and other rotating sides. And around lunch, there are sashimi bowls and brothless ramen. Pair either with a matcha or hojicha latte.

  • A minimalist, pint-sized shop where you can sip a matcha latte and browse a curated range of bespoke ceramics and glassware from Japan. You’ll also find cakes by Mork, and single-origin coffees imported from Japan.

  • This pocket bakery is from the team behind Little Rogue across the street. It sells whole loaves of shokupan, almond-yuzu croissants and danishes piled high with berries. In a savoury mood? Try a soft bun filled with cream cheese and doused in garlic butter.

  • Blink and you might miss this tiny, light-filled Japanese cafe wedged into the corner of a modern apartment block. Teas and mainly things on white, thick-cut toast are mainstays, but comforting curries and omurice pop up often.

  • Kuu's owners are a Japanese couple who love Melbourne, so you'll see influences from both places on show here, from the design of the space – which is clean and minimalistic – to the menu. Traditional dishes are given a local spin, and there’s a range of salads and sandos to take away, too.

  • The focus here is on okonomiyaki – savoury Japanese pancakes. They come with all kinds of toppings, from pork and kimchi to mushroom. The rest of the menu is rounded out by classics including omurice, shokupan sandos and teriyaki chicken. Enjoy it all in the homey dining room or in the sunny courtyard.

  • This spot serves up Japanese favourites alongside American-leaning spinoffs. Go for its juicy karaage, show-stopping cheeseburger curry udon, or classic katsu sando. The fun drinks list includes peanut-butter lattes, soju-based cocktails, and Japanese beers.

  • Fancy sandos and high-quality coffee are the draws at this sleek, takeaway-driven spot inside Emporium. The main event comes five ways: crustless shokupan filled with either egg, chicken, prawn, Wagyu or Kurobuta pork.

  • At this vegan-friendly bakery, you can get pillow-soft milk bread by the whole or half loaf, as a classic katsu sando, and more. It’s an extension of cafe Fuumi Fuumi, which has locations in West Melbourne and Port Melbourne.

  • The roller door goes up mid-morning at this sun-drenched Japanese eatery – so it’s worth getting in early to secure your picnic-ready bento box and Japanese-inspired gelato. Once you do, take your spoils across the street and enjoy them in Lincoln Square.

  • Come for a Japanese- and Korean-style menu that might include crispy pork katsu sandos, house-made muesli topped with honey cheong (syrup) and the Japanese lunch set of your dreams. Plus, coffees from Primary, and iced lattes laced with condensed milk.

  • Vegan ramen has come a long way in the last decade, and you can get an excellent version of it at this takeaway-centric canteen. Featuring vegetable stock with over 20 ingredients (and liberal amounts of miso), your bowl is loaded with egg-less “egg noodles” and various roasted veg toppings.

  • A cafe by day and izakaya by night. Mornings are for bowls of salmon- or Wagyu-topped rice with an umami-rich broth. And in the evenings, sake cocktails and snacky bites like mirin-dressed oysters come out.

  • Come for pour-over coffee from 10 different Japanese roasters and espresso from local suppliers. Pair your brew with yuzu cheesecake, emoji-perfect chiffon cake and prawn katsu sandos.

  • Opposite the Queen Vic Market you’ll find vegan, pork or slow-braised beef curry, served over rice or stuffed into deep-fried kare pan. The curry shop also has house-made mochi cookies and canelés, as well as specialty-coffee tonics and Japanese craft beers.

  • Sweet tooths luck out at this dessert cafe, which serves cloud-like Japanese soufflé pancakes. Come for fluffy stacks (in flavours like tiramisu or honey) topped with its signature custard-y mascarpone cream and house-made sodas.

  • Move over froyo. This Tokyo-born dessert haven, backed by Le Bajo Milkbar's owner, serves soft kakigori. The cult shaved-ice dessert comes layered with syrup, crumble, foam and diced fruit (and includes a “Rare Cheese” flavour).