Reviews / Food & Drink

Review: Day and night, this restaurant serves up the goods 

Meals are prepared with subtle efficiency at this newish addition to Brunswick’s Japanese dining choices

Ima has a stark, functional interior design softened by strategically placed artworks and cloth bunting.

Mark Phillips

IF first impressions count for anything, then the interior decor of Japanese restaurant Ima Asa Yoru sets high expectations from the moment a new customer walks in. 

Minimalist yet tasteful, the interior design matches the food the restaurant serves so it comes as no surprise to find that the co-owners of Ima are an architect and a chef. 

The restaurant opened on the ground floor of the Nightingale Skye House building last year after relocating from Carlton, where it had been known as Ima Project since 2018. The owners have also launched a new second business, Ima Pantry, which is a few doors away underneath the Leftfield building also in Duckett Street 

Ima has been an immediate hit as a brunch and lunch spot and is also open several days a week for dinner. 

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Japanese-born architect Asako Miura is responsible for the interior design, which takes advantage of Nightingale’s signature exposed concrete, softening its austerity with wall hangings, bright blue bunting, pale wooden furnishings and warm lighting from the large windows. 

The kitchen is open view, and there is a row of seats directly facing the meal preparation area where diners can watch the staff in action. The space is divided into two rooms, with a large communal table dominating the main room, and a sprinkling of smaller tables in both rooms. There are also window seats for couples or singles. In total, there is seating for about 60. 

Miura’s partner James Spinks oversees the food, which is prepared with subtle efficiency and takes advantage of fresh ingredients. Spinks’ background includes the Asian influenced Supernormal in the city.  

The restaurant’s name derives from the Japanese words for day (asa) and night (yoru). Drawing from its name, it has a split personality, serving traditional Japanese breakfast/lunch until 3pm and modern izakaya dishes coupled with sake, beer and cocktails from 5.30pm most nights. 

On the day this reviewer visited, the lunchtime menu consisted of six teishoku individual set meals, each coming with rice, miso soup and a main dish and side dishes which vary from day to day. 

Seafood is a staple of several of the dishes, including the Japanese Breakfast Teishoku which comes with grilled market fish. 

The Onigiri Teishoku is highlighted by two delicious rice balls filled with fish and umebashi (a type of pickled plum). 

For vegetarians, choices include Agedashi Tofu Teishoku (lightly fried tofu in dashi broth) and Hiyashi Chu-ka (cold ramen noodle salad with soy sesame dressing). 

There are additional side dishes available which are perfect for sharing including an oyster with tosazu dressing, marinated deep fried chicken with tartar sauce, and crispy fried eggplant. 

The food is beautifully presented as well as tasty. 

There is a wine list, tap beers and a range of teas that can be matched with meals. Coffee is supplied by Wide Open Road in Barkly Street. 

The set meals are priced from $27 to $35 while the side dishes cost up to $10, meaning a couple can enjoy a filling meal (without alcohol) for about $90. 

At night, the restaurant becomes a contemporary izakaya, again serving seasonal ingredients with the menu typically including seafood dishes and steak which take advantage of a charcoal grill. Warning: sushi and sashimi are not on the menu. 

The staff at Ima are friendly and knowledgeable, although one does get the feeling they have been told to churn through customers during the day to free up table space.  

The restaurant’s sibling, Ima Pantry, is a grocery store and sake shop with a small takeaway menu. It is located on the corner of Duckett Street and the Upfield shared path.

Overall, Ima Asa Yoru does not only make a strong first impression – it leaves an equally memorable final one. 

Ima Asa Yoru, 1 Duckett Street, Brunswick. Open Tuesday to Friday 11am-3pm, 5.30pm-late; Saturday 10am-3pm, 5.30pm-late; Sunday 8.30am-3pm. Closed Monday.  Phone: 9989 2309 

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