ajitoya

Posted on July 13, 2012

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For someone who tries to feign creativity in my eating and cooking, I can be utterly dull at times. Case in point; sushi is my goto lunch. My besties know my default lunch is nearly always sushi if I haven’t identified a specific craving and/or they don’t have a suggestion in mind. So quite obviously, I find ajitoya (82 Charles Street, Seddon VIC) a welcome addition to Seddon, and the inner West more generally. Because until recently, there has been a real lack of Japanese cuisine in this neck of the woods.

The shop front is simple and like many local cafes these days, they boast a small selection of grocery items to fill your pantry with, the focus being Japanese of course. There are a couple of tables on the pavement for outdoor dining and the actual shop will seat up to 20 guests. Please note that the store layout has changed since my last visit (admittedly about 2 months ago, sorry about the delayed post!). In the background are the 2 lovely owners/operators Adam and Maya.

You should be happy to hear that the night I visited ajitoya was one of those days I’ve coined ‘my bottomless pit days’. Meaning it was one of those strange days where I just can’t seem to get full regardless of how much I eat. This is both a blessing and curse; good because I was able to sample quite a large selection of ajitoya’s menu, bad because it might mislead you into thinking their portions were too small and also, it hurt my wallet quite a bit. Objectively speaking, their serving sizes were a touch smaller than some establishments, but it should be enough at the very least, take you to 80% fullness.

To start, what better than with a warming maccha latte (~$4). Maccha is sometimes also romanised as matcha, which is a finely ground form of high quality green tea leaves. Genuine maccha has quite a potent taste, quite distinct from regular powdered green tea. Traditionally maccha is brewed with water only, maccha latte adds a modern western twist and incorporates the use of steamed milk. It’s much like a regular cafe latte, but with maccha instead of coffee beans. Delish and you can feel ultra virtuous with all those antioxidants green tea is said to give you. And how adorable is that little wooden stirrer? Love the little extra touch of oriental charm.

Then the mission to fill my belly begins. First up, takoyaki ($10). Crisp balls of batter with delicious bits of chopped up octopus and preserved ginger inside, topped with a plum sauce and kewpie mayo. This is a beloved hawker stall snack popularised in Osaka. I was fortunate enough to sample a number of takoyaki from different street vendors in Osaka and can say that ajitoya’s version was as good as those from Japan.

The salmon sashimi ($15) was as fresh as promised. Not too much to explain about this dish, you’re either going to be one of those people who like raw fish or not.

The tempura ($13) really deserves a mention. This was the real deal, none of that stodgy faux tempura you can sometimes get. This batter was both light and crisp. Presented on a sheet of thin paper, they aren’t afraid to show you just how little oil this tempura has. The serving comes with a prawn, piece of fish, assorted vegetables and a sprinkling of home made green tea salt. So delicious I completely forgot about taking a photo (sorry!).

The karaage bento ($16) is a set meal that comes with miso soup, small side salad (we chose the chicken sesame), rice and deep fried chicken. All elements were as tasty as it looked and seriously, what is there not to like about deep fried chicken with mayo? The salad also had a nice, albeit little unexpected, wasabi kick to it.

Last up was the curry beef donburi ($14). Little morsels of meat encased in a rich lightly spicy sauce, this was a much needed winter warmer, and it was the dish that finally filled me up. Ok, so I did order that extra bowl of rice ($3) to soak up all the sauce.

It is with a little embarrassment that I admit all that food was for 2 people, and yes I confess, I ate 75% of what was on the table. I told you I was hungry! The service on the night was friendly and efficient. I couldn’t really fault ajitoya on anything. The final bill for my meal ended up being a bit pricier than I had expected ($70+ for a very causal local dinner can raise a few eyebrows, including the owner/operator’s! He seemed to find my appetite quite amusing and obviously good for business.), but in all fairness I did order enough to potentially feed 4 people. I have seen some criticisms of ajitoya being overpriced, however I respectfully disagree. I think the quality of food they serve is in line with their pricing. But in having said that, I don’t necessarily think of it as a cheap eat either, especially considering the neighbourhood it’s in. We are only a couple of streets away from Footscray, where for under $15, you can get a very big feed. So I have to say although I don’t agree, I can understand where some of the critics are coming from.

My final verdict? This is a good venue that produces great and authentic Japanese food for a reasonable fare. Don’t let the simple deli style interior or small menu deter you, ajitoya is destined to rank high on any foodie’s list.

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