In Japan, it's believed soulmates are connected by akai ito, the red thread of fate. According to legend, the gods tie a red thread around the little fingers (or ankles) of two people who are destined to meet.
This idea of connection is made literal at modern Japanese restaurant Akaiito, the first Melbourne hospitality venture for Christine Chen, who has other hospitality businesses in her native China.
Looping over two floors in the former Bluestone Restaurant, a very large, very visible red thread connects the ground-floor restaurant and 18-seat omakase bar with the basement-level bar and cellar. It's a striking contrast to the rest of the HBA-designed interior, made up of soft grey banquettes, dark wooden beams, black marble tabletops and granite floor tiles.
Its location at the corporate end of Flinders Lane means high-end bento boxes are on for lunch – six options including one with a selection of nigiri and sashimi with otoshi, pickles and miso, another with Kurobata tonkatsu and another with an assortment of tempura.
But much of the evening menu comes off the robatayaki grill. Dishes such as tsukune (Bannockburn chicken meatball with a sweet soy dipping sauce and egg yolk), Takeda Farm wagyu tri-tip, marron with shio kombu butter, and Western Australian octopus with pickled button onions all feel the heat of the coals, although there's a decent selection of sushi and sashimi, too.
There's a separate eight-course list in the private 12-seat dining room, where projections shine down on the table, creating an "interactive visual journey". Downstairs, the red thread leads to a huge bar with room for about 140 guests plus a small wine cellar and a private booth that can be booked for dining or drinks.
Open Mon-Fri noon-3pm; daily 6pm-late; bar 3pm-late.
349-351 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 03 9620 1343