Top tasty cafes with a Japanese tang

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The Usual Joint, 32 Furlong Road, Sunshine.
Coracle Cafe Restaurant, 63-65 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9315 1411

We just love The Usual Joint.

The Sunshine cafe is far enough away from our home base to miss out on being subject to weekly – or even monthly – visits by us.

But we’ve had some cracking meals there so have no hesitation in heading that way for the first day of a new menu.

While our previous meals at The Usual Joint have been of a Vietnamese persuasion, the new list takes quite a different tack – with the usual capable crew taking a poke at the currently very “in” rice bowl fad and a likewise Japanese-influenced noodle salad.

We reckon they’ll be pretty darn good at it.

They are.

My salmon soba noodle salad ($17.50, top photo) is lovely and bursting with fresh, clean flavours.

The luscious cubes of chargrilled salmon are assisted by similarly configured tofu, enoki mushrooms and seaweed salad, the rice and greens quite heavily dressed in a sesame concoction. Not that I mind!

 

 

Bennie’s katsu chicken curry rice bowl ($16.50) looks just as sweet and tastes the same.

Here the potato and carrot pieces are swimming in the curry gravy while the crumbed, crunchy chicken is adjacent.

Rice, pickles and a big, fat dollop of may0 complete the picture.

 

 

Savoury offerings aside, what The Usual Joint prides itself on are its cream puffs and crepe layer cakes.

We’re big fans of the latter so indulge this time out in a ridiculously delicious wedge of their pandan and coconut ($10).

Swoon we do!

 

 

Coracle of Yarraville IS a local for us, one we should perhaps visit more often.

Though it is a very busy place!

Nevertheless, we are happy to heed a suggestion from a friend who knows her stuff and rates the current cooking here as terrific (Hi, Deb!).

She’s right; we enjoy some smashing food on our return visit.

 

 

The lunch offerings here evince a similar Japanese, fusiony outlook as at The Usual Joint – a little flashier and more elaborate, a few bucks more.

And well worth it.

My mapo tofu rice bowl ($20) is a dream.

The pork mince and tofu with Szechuan peppercorn and green peppercorn is a funky, earthy flavour bomb – and something quite different from the slick, glazed and glib versions often found in Chinese line-ups.

It is pungently wow.

Accompanying are choy sum, pumpkin in mirin, pickle carrot; and housemade soy sauce with Chinese pickles and cucumber.

And – to finish – perfumed iced tea gently clinking with ice cubes.

 

 

Bennie’s brothless kakuni ramen ($21) doesn’t quite have the same immediate knockout appeal, but he enjoys it nonetheless.

Kabuki, we’re told, means slow-braised pork belly in master stock.

That porky stuff is served with Japanese ramen eggs, light wabasi dressing, beancurd skin, charred baby corn and spinach ohitashi.

 

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