I have two friends who are a couple. J is Asian and would like nothing better than a bowl of rice or noodles for breakfast. B is Anglo and in the morning the most substantial thing he can deal with is eggs and toast.
I think I’ve just found the perfect place for them to have their breakfast dates. At Japanese-styled cafe Cibi, those who sit in B’s camp can order a Western style breakfast of the eggs and toast variety. On Saturday mornings those who lean towards more of J’s style can be served a traditional Japanese breakfast. For $14.50 you receive a substantial feed of rice, a piece of grilled salmon (they also have a vegetarian option), slices of egg omelette, pickled vegetables, Japanese potato salad and a large bowl of miso soup complete with hand hewn wooden soup ladle. Paired with a pot of Japanese green tea, it’s a healthy and hearty start to the day.
The Western/Eastern pairings continue with the delicious baked goods made by the owner’s wife. On one side of the counter, beautiful frangipani tarts laden with juicy berries. On the other side, green tea (matcha) muffins hiding a smear of red bean paste inside ($3.50). These unusual muffins were so moist and moreish – I had one straight out of the oven and then took another one home.
The space’s simple and refined aesthetic is also a combination of Japanese elegance and Western warehouse chic. There’s a general friendliness and ease about the place. A large blackboard rests on one wall where customers scrawl their notes to Cibi and each other, and across it the Cibi staff have said ‘Thank you for everyone for hanging out at Cibi‘. Awww.
Each of the mismatched mid-century chairs has been restored by the owner Zenta, a trained architect, and sourced from a combination of junk shops and Zenta’s contacts in Denmark. I love the organic shape of the communal table which takes centre stage in the light-filled room and the way in which it echoes the waves of the traditional Japanese wood block print hanging on the white-washed wall.
For the curious observer there are many nooks and crannies filled with interesting objects like vases and old books, and a whole section of Cibi is devoted to the display and sale of goods imported from Japan, from ceramics to fabrics to kitchenware. I particularly loved the pastel porcelain of the rice bowls by Masahiro Mori.
Finally, I also had an interesting chat with one of the waiters, Leo Greenfield. When he’s not working at Cibi, Leo is a recent VCA visual arts graduate who majored in sculpture and has a side project publishing his sketches of Australian street fashion at The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. Go check it out!