Located in the Miami Village Shopping Centre (the same complex that houses popular cafe Hide n Seek Espresso, Italian restaurant That’s Amore and The Good Wolf), Little Itoshin adopts a more casual direction and convivial vibe than its Mermaid Beach counterpart. Diners are presented with a seasonal menu that puts a contemporary lean on traditional Japanese comfort food, whilst retaining the level of quality that Itoshin has become renowned for. A lot of personality is packed into this tiny space – it’s dotted with second-hand vintage furniture, chequered flooring (courtesy of its hairdresser predecessor), colour-popping wall art from local outfit Art-Work agency, and an interactive open-plan kitchen that houses knife-wielding chefs ready to create your plate. The menu, which is heavily influenced by Hibiki’s mother’s age-old recipes, remains true to authentic Japanese flavours and tastes. While the dishes are essentially what Hibiki grew up eating, he has reimagined them with a lighter, more wholesome approach that incorporates more fresh vegetables – an element that Hibiki feels his native cuisine lacks. For instance, a traditional katsu curry, which generally consists of only crumbed pork, curry sauce and rice, is given a lighter spin at Little Itoshin by using local panko-crumbed prawns and serving it with edamame, fried eggplant, green beans, capsicum, prawn oil and hemp seeds.
Sashimi lovers are in good hands here, with eye-catching arrangements of trawler-fresh catches on offer, alongside vibrant salmon caviar bowls, where raw Yarra Valley ikura and Tasmanian ocean trout are served atop steamed rice with edamame, avocado, shiso mint and wasabi. There’s also deliciously crisp chicken karaage and the more delicate agedashi tofu, which are both gluten free (as are Hibiki’s house-made soy and ponzu sauces), as well as heartier eats like okonomiyaki and pan-fried yakisoba noodles with thinly sliced pork belly. Sushi also gets a look in, with the usual rolled variety subbed out for open ‘temaki’ hand rolls, offering a range of toppings like unagi (eel) with cucumber, Kewpie and shichimi, served within your choice of nori or lettuce. Want to sip? You’ll find a selection of Japanese sake, whisky and gin pouring, as well as beer, wine and mocktails.
Little Itoshin softly opened last week, and will officially open to the public this Wednesday May 8. For details, location and opening hours, head to our Stumble Guide.