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Eat Japanese-style breakfasts and fill your shopping basket with beautiful things at this light-filled Collingwood warehouse
Cibi translates to ‘little one’ from Japanese, but the beloved Collingwood café and concept store of the same name made a big move last October. Originally opened over a decade ago by husband and wife Meg and Zenta Tanaka, Cibi has relocated (albeit next door) to a spacious, light-flooded warehouse – there’s now more room to display its beautiful products and, importantly, ample space for more diners to become devotees of its famed Japanese-style breakfasts.
The Tanakas’ philosophy is to look at life through the eyes of our younger selves. Correspondingly, the compact menu champions simplicity. Fusing Japanese ingredients and cooking methods with Western flavours and seasonal produce results in well-balanced dishes and modest serving sizes, staying true to the Japanese proverb and one of Cibi’s mantras – hara-hachi-bun-me (eating until you are 80 percent full is eating in moderation).
Despite the larger space there’s a short wait for a table on a sunny Sunday morning. The room hums with chatter as people tackle free-range eggs, roasted eggplant and butternut squash caramelised with sweet house-made miso buried under a thick blanket of oozy provolone cheese – it tastes as cosy as it looks. Salmon cured in-house with sake and kombu is served with a soft-boiled egg and pickled daikon with a yuzu pepper dressing adding zest. But the main drawcard is still the Japanese breakfast plate. Based on Meg’s grandmother’s recipe, it comes in three iterations. In the traditional, the small grilled salmon fillet, cloudy rolls of tamagoyaki (omelette), pickled daikon, cherry tomatoes, salad greens, creamy potato salad and furikake-garnished rice are so prettily arranged, you almost hesitate to eat it. The side of hearty, not-too-salty miso soup is given heft with puffed tofu, carrots, peas, beans, seaweed and spring onion – the embodiment of the café’s philosophy of 'warming, wholesome and perfectly balanced'.
No matter what you order, you won’t be stuffed (remember the mantra), meaning there’s room for a sweet treat a like green tea muffins, fig tart or chocolate gateau. The yuzu pound cake, with its dense but moist texture and zingy glaze, is a winner. As is a potent iced green tea, iced yuzu lemonade or a subtly spiced ginger soda – all made in-house. Now that the weather is cooling you might prefer a latte (Cibi makes its own blend in collaboration with Dukes Coffee Roasters) or tea sourced from organic farms in Japan.
Once you’re done eating, take a wander around the store. The meticulously curated collection of clothes, artisanal homewares, stationery, books and specialty Japanese ingredients offers a glimpse into the alleyway boutiques of Tokyo. There's also Cibi’s own merchandise, which includes a cookbook, house-made pantry staples (like the miso from your breakfast) and a tote bag that’s long been a fixture on shoulders in Collingwood.
33–39 Keele Street
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri 7.30am-5pm; Sat, Sun 8am–5pm|