Sometimes you want a little fun, sometimes a little maturity and sophistication. Luckily, the team behind Hanoi Hannah and Saigon Sally are very good at pairing the two together in the one dining experience. Their newest venture, Tokyo Tina, is placing itself right between the Vietnamese sisters: slightly more sophisticated than the playful Hannah, but a little on the cheaper side when compared to Sally. We're not going to lie, we love them all. But there is something about eating Port Lincoln kingfish ceviche while staring at an Astro Boy figurine that really sold us on Tokyo Tina.
The subtle entrance, signed only by graphics, is a nice hint at what's to come when you enter. A busy but well-designed space, you'll feel part of the street food culture of Japan, but like you have an area all of your own.
The food is not what you'll find on your garden-variety Japanese restaurant. The team tasted their way around the streets of Japan to make sure they were bringing us something unique, but relevant to what's happening over there at the moment. Port Lincoln kingfish is served with wasabi and apple, and placed in a bite sized charcoal cone offering beautiful crunch ($6), while the open Californian roll with WA spanner crab ($8) highlights the natural sweetness of crab meat without going overboard.
Share plates range from the perfectly balanced poached chicken salad with edamame, mizuna and wombok ($15), to the sticky beef rib bulgogi DIY baos served with pickles ($12 for 2 pieces). For larger dishes you can opt for the grill with a whole chicken served with gocujang and coleslaw ($39), or try the ever-popular bowls. The tempura sweet potato, tataki beef, and kale served over sold soba noodles ($17) is beautifully prepared with the most tender beef, while the salt and pepper tofu with crispy eggplant, mushroom XO, poached egg and spicy ginger soy ($17) is a perfect pairing of textures.
The cocktails keep things mainly traditional with a martini (served how you like it, $18) and a Manhattan made with Bulleit rye whisky ($20). But they also have fun with Japanese ingredients, like the Thundercat Martini of Belvedere Unfiltered, sake, plum, orange blossom, and pickled ginger ($18). The wine list sees locals like the Ten Minutes by Tractor 'TenX' Pinot Noir ($70 bottle), as well as European drops like the Ress Hattenheimer Schutzenhaus Kabinett Riesling from Germany ($70 bottle). Beers see a lot of imported Japanese brews with a few locals — Mountain Goat, Melbourne Bitter and Cascade — making the list.
Tokyo Tina is the kind of chick you'd want to hang out with. And by the looks of the lines at 6.30pm during week two of service, Melbourne seems to agree.