Ototo is a Japanese word meaning “little brother,” which makes it a fitting name for the new izakaya-style bar in the basement of Akaiito, a fine Japanese restaurant with an omakase-style show on Flinders Lane. Previously it was an extension of the upstairs space – known as the Akaito Underground – but it has reopened with a refreshing menu of Asian-inspired snacks and cocktails.
“We wanted to offer a more casual, relaxed environment with a new name and a new dining concept,” says the team’s executive chef, Winston Zhang.
Here, sharing dishes is the theme – with a mostly Japanese menu but meandering through multiple cuisines, including Chinese, Korean, Malay, and more. Follow the luminous red string installation in the upstairs restaurant to the moody basement bar, where you can expect entrées like Sydney rock oyster served with ponzu and ikora (salmon roe), crispy mantou (Chinese cake), pork and shrimp “cigar” with the optional addition of hedgehog. Seafood, Hervey Bay Scallops With Seaweed Butter.
Larger sharing plates start at $18 and include sumptuous sashimi, Korean-style steak rice with egg yolk, lamb masala ribs, and king sambal prawns. Or, get the full experience by going for the chef’s choice of $68 a head.
In terms of drinks, “the focus will be on delicious cocktails and umami,” says consultant George Leung. “A lot of places focus on sweet drinks, but they don’t always complement the food.” This is not the case here. Try the Japanese-inspired nori martini or the sake-based spritz with homemade gin and butter.
The bar also focuses on sustainability, using Ecospirits, a low-carbon, low-waste spirit distribution service. In addition, the pulp of the fruit is made into a puree, while the peel and pulp are ground to make a flavored syrup. Any remaining ingredients are recycled and taken back to the kitchen and applied to cooking where possible.
The space’s elegant design hasn’t changed significantly with the rebranding and still features exposed blue walls, a black stone bar, and space for up to 60 people. But the new high tables and extra bar stools make you feel more relaxed. The historic elements of the heritage-listed building can also be seen through the original ceiling beams, restored wooden beams, and heritage iron grilles.
Underground 349-351 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
(03) 9620 1343