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By Julia Gaw
June 18, 2014


A picture of perfect design, balance and Japanese cafe fare.
By Julia Gaw
June 18, 2014

If your day is a bit much, if you need shelter from the storm, if your body craves a wholesome feed and your mind a calming atmosphere, then you need the warm embrace of Cibi — a slice of Japanese serenity in the backstreets of Collingwood.

A cafe and homewares store in one, Cibi is a lesson in good living. With a philosophy of "head, heart, hands", the space sets out to spark creativity and thought, offer beautiful things you'll want to reach out and touch and feed you soul-warming food that is straight from the heart of owners Meg and Zenta Tanaka. In a vast but welcoming warehouse space on Keele Street, an experience that is rich in culture and calm vibes awaits. This is never truer than on a weekend morning, when a traditional Japanese breakfast delights the brunch crowds. Grilled salmon, tamago egg (traditional Japanese folded omelette), rice and potato salad with a bowl of miso ($14.50) will set you up for whatever the day may throw at you.

Lunch offerings include a soba salad with avocado, cherry tomatoes and Japanese bean curd with dashi dressing ($13.50), tofu and quinoa rice with teriyaki sauce served on daikon and wakame (seaweed) salad and rice ($15), and a chicken soboro with miso and ginger, seasonal vegetable, edamame and quinoa rice ($15). Of course everything is presented beautifully and packs a flavour punch. Not only is the food authentically Japanese — many of the recipes having been passed down from Meg's grandmother — it is also healthy, tasty and very reasonably priced.

And if you're just passing by, you might be better served with a well-brewed coffee and a green tea muffin.

After a nourishing meal, you can peruse Cibi's beautifully curated collection of Japanese homewares. Hakusan ceramics from the south of Japan sit alongside cochae (an origami design brand), traditional Japanese hand towels and Noda Horo enamelware as well as stationery, glassware and other curios.

It's a well-considered space that remains true to the cultural homeland of its owners, while bringing a bit of the Melbourne cafe culture into the mix. The Japanese food and retail space fits seamlessly into its inner-northern landscape and offers a unique cafe experience that just feels so right.

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