Operator 25 (Autumn Menu Launch)
Autumn is the season where all we want to do is just tug comfortably in knit sweaters and faux fur scarves. Every season our palate changes and Operator 25 had adjusted and launched its new menu to suit the fall. I was fortunate enough to be invited by Randy Dhamanhuri, one of the owners of the cafe, to sample specific meal courses and share it with you guys today. We were extremely fortunate to skip an hour long wait of queue that was outside, which explains the extreme popularity of this particular cafe. Operator 25 just renovated its premises, and it now exudes a more homely vibe. The interiors have been revitalised but its heritage stays with a little fun installed, telephone cords tangling on its ceiling, and glossy white subway-tiled walls. Operator 25 got its name from the building that it was before, a site of one of the original telephone exchanges. Today, Operator 25 still stays connected (pun intended) for friends and families to have social gatherings over a good meal.
Head Barista Mikael Jasin who was also Australian Coffee In Good Spirits Runner Up 2015 experimented many of the drinks on the menu and he was also the one who attended to us throughout the whole meal. The autumn menu brings new flavours to the table, but include its two signature favourites of the Balinese Pulled Pork Burger, and the Coconut Sago.
We started off with a Colombian filtered coffee that was recommended to go with our starter plates. The coffee beans are called the Colombian Finca Las Nubes Gesha from Code Black Coffee. The coffee had sweet hints of orange blossom, honey and sugar cane notes, subtly bittersweet.
Balinese Pulled Pork Slider
Constantly changing its menu seasonally, the Balinese Pulled Pork Slider remains stationary on the menu as one of Operator 25’s best selling choices. We were served with the sliders, but the main pulled pork dish you will see on a normal menu comes in a huge burger sized form with crisp sweet potato fries on the side. First initial thought after having a bite was, ‘Hm, very Balinese..’. Both our expressions enlightened as we acknowledge and affirmed the scrumptiousness of these sliders. The pulled pork was sweetened with chili mayonnaise. Its not wholesomely savoury, cabbage and carrot slaw were added for a fresher and more piquant result.
Follow up is bruschetta styled Smoked Sardines on grilled rye. The sardines are sandwiched between pickled cucumbers, manchego cheese, sour cherries, parsley, rocket and dill. The cherry sweetens the salty sardine and it was a good complement to the overall dish. It definitely was a great starter plate that was beautifully presented.
Ras El Hanout Polenta
Ras El Hanout is absolutely fantastic and it was my favourite dish for the day. We both had no idea what ras el hanout meant until we googled it. Ras el hanout is a type of spice mix originally introduced from North Africa, but really its just garam masala we all know used in Indian cuisines. On a bed of polenta lie sliced chorizo and grilled octopus. There were also three coloured seasonal peppers in red, brown and yellow. I find these minis to taste similar as the large peppers, just more adorable now that they are downsized.
Spiced Chickpea Fritters
Jan picked the Spiced Chickpea Fritters for his main dish. It was served with, crispy flatbread and thick streaky cut bacon. Five different sauce I reckon came with the fritters. They were herb tahini sauce, tomato sauce, cucumber salsa, cottage cheese and chipotle sauce. I mean, who am I kidding? Burst of flavours at one go.
House Brewed Iced Tea + Spritzer
Two recommended drinks above went well with our mains. The House Brewed Iced Tea smelled full of fragrance infused from hibiscus and chamomile flowers. There was eucalypt honey served with mint to sweeten and freshen. The drink came with nata de coco inside, what a nice surprise.
The Spritzer on the other hand was a more bitter option. Think cold brewed coffee! There were hints of maple syrup and lemon, and tonic water. There was lychee fruit in it too. I drank it sweet but it left a bitter aftertaste. Such a manly drink I thought.
Ginger & Date Bread
For our final degustation stage, we were served with two different desserts. The first, Jan and I shared a stacked ginger and date bread served with banana mascarpone and milk crumbs. We poured over some pomegranate sauce and it was more than divine. Thing is, I am not a fan of either ginger or dates, and I wasn’t looking forward to this dish at first. But man Operator 25 proved me wrong and this was an exception. I finished three quarters of it leaving Jan the rest. Um, what can I say.. women have separate stomachs for desserts right?
For a healthier you, the Elderflower Sago is your option. Not your usual chia seed pudding, this time its sago, infused with rhubarb, unexpanded chia seeds, and some strawberry compote. Its topped with a white chocolate mousse and freeze dried mangoes. It was overall a sweet and sour combo, with a tinge of soft and crispy.
Thank you Operator 25 for the wonderful brunch degustation invite, for the fresh roasted beans and other knick knacks you have kindly prepared for us. We had a pleasant time and I cannot emphasise further how far ahead Operator 25 is over many of its competitors. I respect their creative flair for menu creation and gorgeous plating capabilities. Operator 25 have certainly improved since the last time I came here. They have taken the brunch scene in Melbourne to a whole new level. Bravo guys!