I’ve never actually made it to the much loved cafe Monk Bodhi Dharma. I don’t have much of an excuse except for it being South of the river and I live North. Which seems to be precisely the sort of lazy attitude the Monk Bodhi Dharma team has sought to take advantage of by opening up Northside, namely in Abbotsford at the very bottom end of Johnson street.
I tried a few times to go to Admiral Cheng-Ho but the cafe is tiny and there is certainly no space for prams on a weekend. Weekdays are a lot more chilled out so I headed there with my friend Jamsin and her baby Stella. The name comes from explorer and diplomat Admiral Cheng Ho who was appointed by the Emperor of China to lead a series of naval expeditions during the Ming Dynasty. When he reached foreign lands the Admiral offered gifts, such as China’s finest teas. Now Admiral Chen-Ho serves up not only teas but also seasonal, single estate coffee to Northside dwellers.
The menu is all vegetarian with a lot of vegan dishes thrown in and name checks a lot of unusual and “foraged” ingredients. Unfortunately it was better on paper than in practice with a long wait for our meals and then problems with each of them. The cafe’s namesake dish is “the Admiral” which features zucchini fritters on sauteed kale with tangy beetroot relish and basil cashew cream. It all sounded and looked good but the fritters which were soggy and flaccid.
The umami mushrooms packed a flavour punch with slow roasted king oyster, shitake and swiss brown mushrooms topped with goats cheese, thyme and a drizzle of red chilli oil. But the mushrooms were let down by the dry and almost inedible house made pumpkin, spinach and sun dried tomato polenta bread. I love the idea behind Admiral Cheng-Ho but the food failed to impress.