Hibiki review

Feel-good space: Hibiki Japanese cafe.
Feel-good space: Hibiki Japanese cafe. Photo: Paul Jeffers

1161 Toorak Rd Camberwell, VIC 3124

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Opening hours Mon-Sat 8am-3pm, Sun 9am-3pm
Features Outdoor seating
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9995 3815

Just as we've borrowed umami from the Japanese to describe the deeply addictive savoury lure of foods such as parmesan, tomato and mushrooms, cafe owner Reiji Honour thinks we need to add another concept to our culinary lexicon. It's encompassed in the name of his new cafe, Hibiki, which is Japanese for "sound" or "echo".

Honour uses music as another texture in the cafe, an aural addition to the decor, drinks and food. Depending on the day, the weather and the general mood, you might hear anything from Japanese funk to house or R&B unspooling from the cafe's Spotify playlists. Hibiki's Spotify address is included on the menu alongside its Facebook and Instagram handles, signalling the soundtrack's importance to the cafe's identity. The playlists are public so even if you get your green smoothie to go, you can press play and keep grooving to those Hibiki beats.

Shibuya-style honey toast with matcha custard, black sesame ice-cream, fruit and flowers.
Shibuya-style honey toast with matcha custard, black sesame ice-cream, fruit and flowers. Photo: Paul Jeffers

But try to eat in – Hibiki is a feel-good place. The bright interior features plywood, plants and paintings by local artists. A rear courtyard deck is an umbrella-shaded, dog-friendly hangout. Coffee is made with devotion; lightly roasted filter blends are imported from Japan. Smoothies are riots of fruity colour with blasts of yuzu and matcha for extra spark. The food is exuberant Japanese fusion with some dish ideas transported from Honour's previous businesses, Dosage in Hawthorn and Second Wife in Box Hill.

"Middle Meets East" is a carryover from Box Hill: poached eggs and potato fritters float on shiso-flavoured labna in a pool of soy and burnt chilli butter. It's rich and luxurious and lets you believe that it's not that far from Tokyo to Tripoli.

Shibuya Honey Toast is a cult dish from Tokyo, relying on fluffy Japanese milk bread, cut thick as a brick, with the interior removed, cubed and fried, then stuffed back into the bread with biscuits, fruit and lollies. Indulgence is the point of this dish, often served to share. The Hibiki version has wow factor but it's not crazily sweet, layered up with matcha custard, black sesame ice-cream, fruit and flowers.

Okonomiyaki (savoury pancake) with bacon and poached egg.
Okonomiyaki (savoury pancake) with bacon and poached egg. Photo: Paul Jeffers

Every cafe needs a signature eggs benedict. Hibiki's "Pork Shoulder Benedicto" sees slow-cooked pulled pork (braised in soy and ginger) piled over a fried rice cake and dosed with yuzu-spiked hollandaise. If a benny is a must, a spin on avocado is compulsory.

The "Smashed in Japan" is a riotous breakfast salad, the avo mashed with feta, mint and yuzu kosho (a fermented green chilli and yuzu relish) and piled on sourdough. Also on the plate, beetroot hummus, lotus root chips and a poached egg. If you find the whole concept a little bit whack for early in the morning, they'll happily do eggs-and-sides to order.

This is a sleepy part of Camberwell; Hibiki has been just the ticket. Even better, plans are afoot for a liquor licence and an izakaya concept a couple of nights a week. I can't wait for the soundtrack that goes with the snacks and sips.

'Smashed in Japan' avocado toast.
'Smashed in Japan' avocado toast. Photo: Paul Jeffers

Rating: Four stars (out of five)