Otōto: Melbourne’s new subterranean Japanese bar in a former bank vault

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Otōto: Melbourne’s new subterranean Japanese bar in a former bank vault

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In a subterranean space below the bustle of Flinders Lane, Otōto – meaning younger brother in Japanese – is an underground Izakaya-style dining experience from the team behind Akaiito restaurant. 

Otōto’s menu has been created by head chef Winston Zhang – known for his award-winning Kojin degustation offering at Akaiito upstairs. It tales a more relaxed approach combining Melbourne’s favourite grazing plates with concepts and ingredients inspired by dishes from China, Korea, Malaysia and Japan.

”As people return to the city we wanted our downstairs space to evolve into its own independent venue and offering. As a literal Otōto [to Akaiito], we see it being an informal place to meet friends and share a bite to eat, or to gather for an afterwork drink or weekend celebration,” says Zhang. Sharing plates will showcase Zhang’s favourite off-the-grill smokey Robata specialities, as well as larger dishes that underpin flavour profiles with a mix of traditional Asian techniques and presentation.

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Highlights include:

  • Mussel Escabeche, Wagyu Bresaola, Pickled Jalapeno, Toast
  • Kingfish Sashimi on Salt Rock, Grapefruit, Daikon, Ponzu
  • Cured Salmon, Apple Dust, Finger Lime, Ikura, Shiso Vinaigrette
  • Robata Grilled Miso Chicken, Yuzu Kosho, Robata Lime
  • Black Angus Short Rib, Kimchi, Pickled Radish, Bo Ssam Sauce
  • Vegetarian Gyoza

A bespoke list of Asian-inspired cocktails created by the pair will include:

  • A signature Nori martini
  • Sparkling sake-based spritz with butter fat-washed gin
  • Thai-style savoury concoctions
  • Chinese tea-infused craft cocktails with floral notes and aromas

Small bites are priced from $6-$13; sides from $9; larger sharing plates from $14 -$36; and there is a ‘Feed Me’ offering for $68pp. Behind the bar, a sustainability focus will see bartender Lionel Ong (previously Gogo bar) along with consultant George Leung (previously Maha) limit product-wastage, while also utilising ecoSPIRITs in order to significantly reduce their consumption of single-use bottles.

“Everything in the bar will be repurposed to limit wastage. For example, a single piece of fruit will be used in its entirety: pulp for puree; skins and cores macerated to create flavoured syrups, sodas and bases; and the remainder submerged in house-flavoured spirits. Cocktails will be topped with creative garnishes, and anything not used behind the bar will be handed back to the kitchen to be integrated into dishes,” says Leung.

In addition to a minimal waste cocktail program, the beverage list will have an extensive range of local and international wine varietals, craft beers, sake and Japanese whisky. Otōto’s interiors take cues from the site’s history as a colonial-era bank vault, which sees its design by Hirsh Bedner Associates incorporate its exposed bluestone walls, heritage iron grating, large restored wooden columns and original ceiling beams.

Contemporary plush grey banquets face a long black stone-topped bar and vintage pop culture posters and lantern lights adorn the walls, while at the end of the bar a ruby red private dining booth draws the eye. Overhead a sculptural red thread of fate – symbolising the connection between two soulmates destined to find one another – winds its way through both Akaiito and Otōto.

Seating up to 60 guests, Otōto officially opened its doors on Friday, 3 June, offering dinner from 5pm til late, Tuesday–Sunday. For more info, head here.