Haiku Melbourne

Haiku is a hugely popular, multi-faceted temple to casual Japanese dining and food. With a bustling day-time cafe that transforms into a cosy izakaya after dark at weekends, and a sleek provision stores next door.

Haiku

Location: 1161 Toorak Rd, Camberwell, VIC 3124 Ph: (02) 9995 3815

There’s a lot going on at Haiku Camberwell – previously Hibiki.

Whilst the website describes itself humbly as ‘a Japanese infused Camberwell cafe’, that is only a small part of the mini Haiku empire. In fact, the enterprise is a place of 4 inter-connected parts.

Firstly, there’s Haiku Cafe, which serves drinks and food throughout the day. After sundown this becomes Haiku Kuro from Thurs to Sat and the menu switches to Izakaya-style dishes. Meanwhile, Haiku Future sits right next door. This arm of the business is a smart little Japanese Grocer selling items such as Miso Pastes, Matcha Salt, Japanese Knives and Haiku Merchandise.

And finally, the team also overseas Haiku Sushi and Catering. This includes both Sushi to go and allows pre-ordering of this and other items for events.

Busy, hey?

But whether you pop in for the wonderfully authentic Haiku Okonomiyaki ($22) for lunch, the Agedashi Tofu (2pc/$12) for dinner or simply a packet of Green Tea, 2 things stay the same. The strong Japanese influence and the quality of the produce.

For the purpose of this article, we are focusing on Haiku Cafe and the day time trade. We will review the night time izakaya at a later date.

The Space

Not big enough!

But we say this purely as this dinky cafe could easily fit in double the number of diners most lunchtimes. In fact, if you don’t book, you’ll probably have to wait for a table.

However, the wee dimensions of Haiku undoubtedly add to its charms.

Tucked in just before the railway bridge over Toorak Road bordering Hartwell, it’s a neat, clean space. Minimalist banquettes hug the left wall whilst a bar and service counter frame the right. Soft cream paint-work backgrounds pale wooden shelving and chair-backs giving a subtle Japanese feel to the room. Additional natural warmth comes from trailing ivy dangling from numerous pots.

Fortunately, Haiku also has a teeny, tiny courtyard out the back. Alternatively, there are a few tables on the street out the front.

Although bordering on cramped during busy times, amazingly, the ambience at this very popular eatery is always surprisingly serene. Staff are polite, efficient and slide from the backyard to the kitchen and over to the counter with admirable calm. It’s effortlessly zen.

For a great, friendly venue serving superb izakaya food, see our piece on LiHO Shokudo

The Food

The menu is helpfully divided into All Day Breakfast, All Day Jaffle (Yay!), Snack, Lunch (from 11) and a Kids Selection

When we dine, it’s around midday. However, as a group of unashamed gluttons – sorry – foodies, we eat from across the various sections. With that in mind, let me tell you what we think…

I’m ecstatic to tell you that one of our party dives straight in with the Teishoku.

Haiku cafe Camberwell - Teishoku with Salmon

If you don’t know, this is a traditional Japanese breakfast set. It’s culinary delights include Furikake on White Rice, Braised Tofu, Yuzu Oriental Salad and the protein of your choice. My companion plumps for the Shozake Salmon ($27.0) and raves about the dish as a whole.

At this point, let me say that I’m not a Haiku virgin. On one of my previous visits I ordered the Tokyo Roll ($19.0) and it was fab. This is like the best take on a Japanese breakfast burger that you’ll ever have. Teriyaki Haloumi, Romesco Pepper Potato Korokke, Tomato, Bacon, Fried Egg, Kewpie and Sriracha are all piled up in a Haiku Brioche Bun. It’s a belter.

But I digress. Continuing with our current meal, another of our party tries for the intriguingly named Middle Meets East ($22.0).

Haiku - Middle Meets East

This is as interesting as the moniker implies. A Romesco Pepper Potato Korokke is accompanied by Poached Egg, Fried Leeks, Garlic Shiso Labne, Sage Aleppo Butter, Cranberry and Seeded Sourdough. It looks stunning. And I’m assured, tastes just as good.

In a town awash with Eggs Benedict, it’s tough to come up with something different. Not at Haiku, where their version is a Japanese BBQ Pork Benedict ($23.0). And it’s a brilliant Asian fusion combination. House BBQ Tonkatsu Jus, Slow Braised Pork Neck with Yaki Onigiri Rice, Roasted Garlic Puree, Garlic Shoot, Chilli Jam, Pickled Radish, Poached Eggs AND Kaffir Lime Hollandaise. Exciting, or what?

And it looks as appealing as it reads.

My friend is a fan. Especially of the Kkakudugi Radish Pickles which cut the richness of the fragrant Pork and oozing Egg Yolk.

As for me, I’m in the mood for a Jaffle. I almost order the Classic Mortadella ($12.0) – Mortadella, Mozzarella, Tomato & Shichimi Spice – as I’ve had some awesome Mortadella sandwiches recently. But, at the last minute, I swerve to the Chicken Teriyaki ($16.0). At Haiku, it’s a concoction of Grilled CHicken, Caramelised Onion, Baby Spinach, Herbed Mozzarella & Kewpie, all toasted to golden perfection.

On the side, there’s a portion of the ever delicious Lotus Root Chips.

The Drinks

As ever, the Coffee is great. After all, we’re in Melbourne.

But Haiku Camberwell is one of the few cafes where I frequently dip into their other beverages – because they are always intriguing.

For example, my daughter would sell her soul for the Konomi Spiced Chai ($5.0) and her bestie crosses suburbs for the Sakura ‘Cherry Blossom’ Latte ($5.50). From the juices, I can vouch for the refreshing zing of the Ninjin Orange ($8.50) with Orange, Carrot, Celery and a decent smack of Ginger. Whilst the Shiro Yuzu Smoothie ($10.0) – Coconut Milk, Natural Coco Yoghurt, Pineapple, Banana, Condensed Milk, Peeled Lime, Yuzu & Mint – is fabulous on a hot day.

In keeping with the Japanese theme, the Beeru on tap is Asahi Super Dry ($10.0/14.0). And if you fancy a Highballu, the Orange Sour ($16.0) with Kinmiya Shochu, Orange & Soda is extremely quaffable.

Overall

It say that Haiku cafe is Japanese infused is to sell it short.

This wonderful little eatery is utterly unique – from is innovative Japanese influenced menu to its chilled vibe.

It’s also the very definition of a hidden gem. Well, hidden from the great population of eastern Melbourne, that is. The locals are totally onto it – as the line for a table most lunchtimes proves.

Whether you pop in for a Jaffle or something more complex, you’ll be blown away by the flavours.

Faye Keenan
Latest posts by Faye Keenan (see all)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *