Friday, October 21, 2011

Ajitoya - Japanese in Seddon

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Hara hachi bu is a Japanese saying that advises one to eat until "80% full".  This mild form of calorie restriction is said to be one of the secrets of the particularly long-lived residents of the Okinawan archipelago in southern Japan.  Similarly, there is an Islamic teaching which advises that the best diet is 1/3 food, 1/3 liquid and 1/3 air.  Whatever the health benefits, it is also simply pleasurable to eat mindfully, and there's something in particular about Japanese food that just gets you in the zen zone.

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Ajitoya ("secret shop") has just opened in Seddon where the old Mareenie deli used to be and I foresee a rosy future for this bright and bubbly little place.  They have a great Facebook page where they share their meals of the day and respond to requests and comments with genuine hospitality and infectious delight.

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There's also a colourful, well-ordered, tempting Japanese grocery range with sweet little hints for buying and cooking.

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Sushi rolls ($2.80) are unreal, served on gorgeous earthenware.  The brown rice avocado rolls on the left were a bit of a revelation - the brown rice was surprisingly soft and faintly nutty, not at all what I would have expected.  The nori is springy and tender and the salmon spanking fresh, rolled with just a tingle of homemade wasabi.

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Now, the rolls here are smaller than the ones at Highpoint, but you can't argue with the quality and besides, this way you get to try more flavours!  Crispy chicken was good and the inari, sushi rice stuffed into sweet beancurd skin pockets, was a kid hit.

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Many of the sit-down meals come as a "set" with your choice of "osozai" deli salads from the cabinet.  They are just so pretty, like little rockpools filled with colourful sea creatures.  We loved these soba noodles, perfectly al dente with a little vegetable, Japanese mayo and teasing sprinkle of chilli.  Salmon tataki was delicious, cooling and centring - sashimi-grade salmon seared momentarily before being accented with sesame and soy.

A set comes with your choice of dish (tempura, karaage fried chicken, agedashi tofu and so on), rice, miso and osozai salad.  The miso was perfect, little soybean paste swirls billowing up from the bottom of the bowls, concealing tender tofu squares.

Ajitoya tempura

This tempura was excellent.  Traditionally it is served on paper as here to demonstrate the chef's skill in making it almost totally non-oily.  We got super-fresh fish, calamari, long green beans and a delicate wafer of pumpkin.  Loved the green dipping salt!

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Everything here is very authentic, so it is very possible our so-so verdict on the agedashi tofu was our overseasoned palates craving salt and sugar, rather than a failing of Ajitoya's.  The squares of tofu were soft and the seasoning was very mild and subtle.  Freshly grated ginger on top lifted the dish.

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I was feeling the Ajitoya love so very much, I wanted to carry on the Japanese theme at home.  The grocers in Footscray do have Japanese product sections but they only have the standards and you have to watch the use-by dates.  At Ajitoya, I found this fantastic specialist flour for okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), all-natural and seasoned with dried seafood and vegetables.  With fruity okonomiyaki BBQ sauce and Kewpie mayo, we had the fixings for a great dinner to match our lovely lunch.

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Winner dinner - took less than 30 minutes to make, was easy peasy, packed with vegies, kids loved it and it used up the half-head of co-op supplied cabbage that has been languishing in the crisper, accusingly haunting my dreams.  If you want the recipe, tell me :)  Salad was gorgeous with creamy, sweet sesame dressing, also from Ajitoya.

Well, this is yet another day I didn't eat til 80% full, but I sure did enjoy the extra 30%.

Ajitoya on Urbanspoon

Ajitoya (Facebook page)
82 Charles Street, Seddon
Phone:  9687 1027
Hours:  See Ajitoya website (link above) - now open for dinner and breakfast by arrangement

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  1. As usual, thanks for the post! It all looks yummy and I have been craving Japanese--just may have to check it out for lunch today.... Nice job on the dinner, as well--it looks like more shots from the restaurant! :-) Arigato!!

  2. Recipe please! I think Andy would like it. I also absolutely cannot wait to be back in Melbourne for a whole month this December - how am I going to fit into my clothes at the end ;) I should clarify that I'm Elissa since my username is snugglepot ant...!

  3. Yet another reason to spend more time in Seddon. Everything looks super fresh - the salmon tataki is just what I could go for right now. And yes - please share the okonomiyaki recipe!

  4. Looks great! What food co-op are you part of?

  5. The rockin' WOC! I'm hoping to do a post on our food co-ops and all the other wonderful community food security initiatives we have in the West like food swaps. :)

  6. 'Secret shop'?! Now how can I NOT go? ;) Nice job on the okonomiyaki, and I love the sound of the deli salads. Especially because I've never actually seen 'rockpools filled with colourful sea creatures'. ;)

  7. I look forward to that post! I live in Maribyrnong/Maidstone and was just thinking the other day that it would be cool if there was something like a co-op around the inner west. I just don't know a lot about whats involved or how to join!

  8. Japanese meals are so tricky to make, but they are soo yummy! I'm so tempted to taste that agedashi tofu to see whether it's a palate difference or not. :p Seeing you make okonomiyaki makes me wanna try making sushi!!

  9. Shannon, email me on and I will tell you some more. :)

    Bryan, sushi is not hard! I make nori rolls and they are actually really easy. Oh oh, I foresee mooncake's sibling in the works!!

  10. I can't even begin to tell you how much I LOVE soba noodles. Hot or cold, I'm in. And everything else looks so healthy and balanced, I love it. Hey hey I also bought the same dashi stock from South Melbourne market but I haven't used them yet! Let me know what you use them for because I don't really have much ideas with them at the moment! Haha... Good discovery on your part, this place =)

  11. They were such great noodles Winston - mine are always claggy. That dashi is the only one IMO - all the others, even authentic Japanese brands are full of additives and MSG. Mostly I use to make soups - separate a packet of udon noodles in boiling water, make up dashi stock with powder, cook vegies, prawns, tofu etc in dashi, then put noodles and toppings in bowl and pour over dashi. Fast healthy lunch :)

  12. A word of caution to those taking children to Japanese restaurants - have discovered my kids are allergic to buckwheat as well as the ubiquitous nut. Discovered the hard way with some noodles!Seems to be on increase

  13. I just had take away, chicken curry, tasty, but the vegetables and chicken were in very very very small quantities, very disappointing.


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