Japanese. Jazz. Tea. Pottery.

Who would have thought all those elements could work together so successfully in one place.

Cocoro is first and foremost a lovely restaurant which serves high quality Japanese food. The prime position is the leather couch by the bay window, but if you’re dining it’s probably better to sit upright in the small dining area which features a wall displaying ceramic dishes and teapots for sale. The background jazz is soothing rather than obstrusive and gives the whole place a warm and cosy vibe. I want to move in.

The menu is extensive – covering entrees, soup, salads, sashimi, sushi, fish, meat, chicken, vegetable, tofu and noodles – and the focus is on providing healthy and fresh options. I think the choices we made were perfect and highly recommended.

First up, edamame ($7) – but not as you know them. Rather than salty pops of unpodded beans, Cocoro‘s version is boiled soybeans served in a chilled dashi stock and soy sauce marinade. You  scoop out three or four at a time with a pretty carved wooden spoon which holds just a dash of stock. Really delicious and unusual.

We then tried the tuna and salmon sashimi selection ($28). This was some of the best sashimi I’ve had in Melbourne – really fatty and silken pieces of very fresh fish, beautifully presented in a crescent dish.

For mains we shared a huge sun-dried hokke fish fillet (mackerel), grilled butterfly style and topped with a radish and citrus ponzu sauce ($27), a superbly warming winter dish of diced beef and tofu stew simmered in soy sauce, sake and miring broth ($16) and agedashi tofu in a soy, mirin and wasabi sauce ($15), all served with white rice. They were homely yet sophisticated dishes at the same time and certainly a move away from chicken teriyaki (which does appear on the menu).

As you’d expect, everything was beautifully presented in Japanese pottery dishes of varying colours, sizes and textures.

Cocoro is the kind of place that you just want to cuddle up to on an autumn day, and with such fabulous food I will definitely be returning to try out the rest of the menu.

Smith Street has so many Japanese restaurants and I’m working through them one by one. Check out my reviews of Wabi Sabi Salon , Peko Peko and Wood  Spoon Kitchen.

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