They say the third born child is the most free-spirited, fun loving and outgoing, and in my opinion that’s certainly the case with Windsor’s Tokyo Tina.
Opened in February by the trio behind Hanoi Hannah and Saigon Sally—Simon Blancher, Paul Nguyen and Nic Coulter—the modern Japanese restaurant located on Chapel Street effortlessly combines kitsch and cute with cool and funky.
Walking along the footpath, you can’t miss the double-fronted Tina with its retro Japanese signage and ginormous maneki-neko (beckoning cat in English) in the window, showered in red light reminiscent of a certain district in Amsterdam. A sense of intrigue is further created by the partially drawn timber venetians.
Inside, Tokyo Tina is split in three with dining to the right and up the back, and bar to the left, which offers a range of Japanese beer and sake and a heady list of cocktails inspired by the East Asian country.
But on this occasion, we’re here to eat and opt for the al-fresco option out the front, which is amply heated and enclosed in PVC blinds to block out the chilly Autumn night. My dining companions and I are immediately taken with the multi-coloured chopsticks. It’s the little things.
Their spell is broken with the arrival of the menu devised by Head Chef Adrian Li and there’s not a skerrick of sushi or sashimi in sight. Like all good restaurants these days, the food is designed to share so we order a number of dishes from ‘Plates and Salads’.
First up are the Tonkatsu Croquettes, Coleslaw and Bulldog Sauce. The pulled pork squares are encased in breadcrumbs and drizzled with the Japanese-style BBQ sauce. It’s at this moment we’re also introduced to Yuzu—a Japanese citrus fruit. It’s a very welcome addition to the coleslaw dressing. Coleslaw never tasted so good.
Next up are the House Made Pork and Kim Chi Gyoza influenced by neighbouring Korea. One of my dining companions was reluctant to order a serve, citing you can get them at any Japanese restaurant in Melbourne. But upon first bite he’s eating his words along with the slightly spicy, plump dumplings.
The resounding favourite arrives next—DIY Bao, Beef Rib Bulgogi and Pickles. It may sound predictable but the meat does in fact fall off the bone and into the soft bao pillows slathered in Kewpie mayo. We order the Poached Chicken Salad, Edamame, Mizuna and Wombok on the side.
Our final savoury selection for the evening is the Miso Cobia, White Ginger, Pea and Edamame from the Grill. The white marine fish buoyed by the greens is fresh and even a little bit cleansing.
It’s getting a little chilly outside so we move indoors—we can’t leave without sampling dessert. And if I’d known we’d be dining with Astro Boy I’d have moved a lot sooner. I’m also a fan of the wall sketches depicting bustling inner-city Tokyo, timber finishings, festoon lighting and ‘Paris, New York, Tokyo, Windsor’ feature wall.
Did I say the DIY Bao was the highlight? I hadn’t yet tried the Custard Bun. The menu advises to ask for the weekly special and it’s Nutella. STOP IT. In a classic case of our eyes being much bigger than our stomachs we order two and a Yuzu Meringue Pie: Yuzu Curd, White Chocolate Mousse and Shiso Marshmallow. Seriously, is there anything Yuzu can’t do?
I know you’re not meant to have a favourite child, but as the three sisters of Windsor are not mine, Tina has my heart and my stomach.
Image Credits: Nick West for The Urban List