At some point, good mates who hang out a lot inevitably have a conversation that goes a bit like this: "Hey, one day, we should open a bar!"
Though few have the chops to pull it off, Melbourne restaurateur Tomoya Kawasaki and designer Dylan Jones seem to have this idea in the bag - or in their case, pizza box.
Their dream to open a gyoza bar is their second collaboration, the first being the insanely successful Instagram meme page @tofupupper about a Shiba Inu who delivers motivational encouragement to his 142k followers in both English and Japanese.
Taking a leaf from Tofupupper's book 'You can do it!', the pair decided to bring yaki gyoza, a specialty of Japan's Hamamatsu in Shizuoka prefecture, to Melbourne.
The cooking technique for these gyozas are similar to Chinese potsticker dumplings. They are steamed then fried to create an ultra-crisp edge while maintaining the succulent pastry and juicy filling.
The result is an artfully fanned-out cluster of dumplings, connected by a lacy, golden 'wing' of crunch. It's texturally delightful; crunchy, tender and juicy, all in one bite. The process of cooking each order takes around 20 minutes from pan to perfection, so be prepared to wait for something this good.
"I haven't seen much of this style of gyoza in Melbourne, so we wanted to open a shop that specialises in it," says Tomoya-san. "Gyoza is something really popular with everyone in Australia, but I wanted to put some Aussie culture into it and serve it like a pizza," he adds. Melted cheese on a plate of gyoza? Don’t knock it till you've tried it.
"Gyoza is something really popular with everyone in Australia, but I wanted to put some Aussie culture into it and serve it like a pizza."
It's a fusion of styles, but that's what Japanese culture does so well. Japan's interpretation of western culture has resulted in everything from world-class baseball to katsu sandwiches, and the world is better for it.
Tomoya-san's contribution to the Melbourne food scene spans over 16 years, starting with his first Collingwood eatery Wabi Sabi Salon and then Fitzroy's Neko Neko, home of some of Melbourne's best vegan ramen. Tomoya-san's cuisine doesn’t exactly adhere to an authentic approach to Japanese food, rather, what makes it so special is that each venue, including Chotto Motto, takes its creative inspiration from its Melbourne roots as well.
"I was born in Japan, and I grew up in Singapore and Malaysia for a few years before going back to Japan for school," he shares.
"When I was in Japan, all I could do was think about getting out. I didn't appreciate my culture as much while living there. But when I moved to Australia, something changed. I moved here to finish my dream of learning English, but when I got here, I couldn't stop expressing my culture in another country."
Chotto Motto continues that passionate expression of Japanese culture in spades.
Part super kawaii bar, dumpling restaurant, museum of kitsch Japanese vintage objects – it's a whole lot of fun wrapped up in one neat little dumpling. The menu naturally showcases gyoza (go with a group and order a 20-piece extravaganza), including fillings that run the gamut from classic juicy pork to cheese-topped fusions.
There are also cartoon-perfect soft serves, icy-cold beers and veggie heroes like crunchy vegan cauliflower karage with Thai basil mayo, which are geared thoughtfully towards the Collingwood-Fitzroy crowd.
No matter which way you look at it, Chotto Motto is, just like its gyoza: delightfully cute, expertly executed, thoroughly unique and totally delicious.
287 Wellington Street, Collingwood, Melbourne
5pm - 10:30pm | Mon - Fri
3pm - 11pm | Sat
Photographs supplied by Chotto Motto, by Josef Gatti