Japan is full of options for healthy and convenient takeaway. Mitsuhiro Yashio, chef and owner at Yachiyo Japanese Bistro in Darlinghurst, knew Australia still had a way to go on that front, so he set out to create a place where families could go for a healthy, fast and affordable meal. To that end his Ultimo eatery, Otogo, specialises in premium onigiri (rice balls) and soba noodles at sharp price points.

Despite being a seasoned chef, who was trained in Kyoto’s Michelin-starred Akai, Yashio has invested heavily in cutting-edge technology to keep prices low. Otogo’s onigiri machine crafts one rice ball every six seconds, and was developed in Japan using AI technology, collecting data from more than 1000 people making onigiri. Meanwhile, the kitchen team crafts fillings such as miso-grilled salmon, tuna kewpie mayo, spicy pork, chicken karaage, edamame and prawn tempura. Fillings are rolled in premium Haenuki rice, imported from Yamagata prefecture in Japan.

On the other hand, 95 per cent Australian buckwheat flour is used to make fresh soba noodles every morning on-site. They’re paired with a Kansai-style soup (a light kelp-based broth) with toppings such as Kyoto duck, tempura or spicy pork to choose from.

If you want to add something a little heavier to your meal, the Maryland chicken karaage is a must-try. And for dessert there’s house-made vanilla and Calpico (a Japanese soft drink) soft serve.

Like at a fast food outlet, you punch in your order at a touch-screen self-service kiosk. But the meal itself – which is served in person – and the zen decor are far removed from the world of fast food.

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Updated: October 6th, 2023

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