We had a really great meal at St Kai, a Japanese-inspired cafe with great food, but not that many Japanese people on its staff.
The tantanmen ramen with miso pork ($22) was a really good bowl of ramen. The broth was incredibly thick and rich, heavy on the umami and heavy on the creaminess, with the perfect amount of spice from Mama Liu’s chilli oil (thinking about this now, I might actually pick up a jar for home). The noodles were very jīndao 筋道 (a term which I think is being slowly eroded by the increasingly popular “Q” of Taiwanese origin) in texture, with great chewability and springiness. I enjoyed the included greenery (seaweed and bok choy), and there was plenty of meat in the bowl for neither of our two adult humans to not feel like we missed out. An additional thoughtful touch to our experience included the provision of a pre-warmed share bowl, which I have a photo of but will only post on request because that’s not why you’re here. Overall a great bowl, quite elaborate for a breakfast, but actually somewhat breakfasty in its flavour.
Next, the first of two breads. The folded dashi eggs on soft milk toast ($21), allegedly with flying salmon roe as per the menu but thankfully with non-flying salmon roe in reality was a treat. The eggs were perfectly cooked, just a little bit runny but still with some of its own structure. The dashi and bonito powder added a high degree of umami to the meal, whilst the generous serving of ikura, juicy and salty, was perfect to flavour the dish. I don’t know if the shokupan is made in house or if it’s from elsewhere, but found it to be nice and sweet with a good toasting around the outside but still soft on the inside. Very good.
Next, a sweet dish. The french toast with black sesame butter & miso caramel ($18) was at its base essentially the same as the dashi eggs on toast, with what is probably bread cut from the same loaf. Where it differs is in its taste and execution, a real testament to how versatile bread as a vessel is. This was a sweet dish, highly buttery and decadent from the mass of butter served. The black sesame itself wasn’t particularly sweet, if at all, and indeed they also add some of it to the tantanmen for extra sesame-ness. Most of the sweetness of this dish came from the miso caramel, which all added up was just the right amount of sweetness (ie. not too sweet) for my mood that day. My partner actually got bored of all the bread, but I did not. Very good. Love bread.
The Ichigo Tokyo Milk ($4.50) tastes like steamed Big M and I have regrets.
STRAY THOUGHTS I don’t know who Peggy Gou is or why she features so prominently on St Kai’s promotional material. Do they have a commercial arrangement in place, or are they just fans? Another stray observation I will make is that during our one our stay at the restaurant, all tables inckluding our own were inhabited by Asians, but none of the locals who were just dropping by for a quick coffee were. Does this say something about Asian-Australian yuppies (another dead word) as a social group? Who knows.
ACTUAL THOUGHTS We enjoyed our meal and recommended St Kai to our friend and colleague BJCHC. Who would’ve thought such a place would exist in a small side street of Mortdale?
38 Balmoral Rd, Mortdale NSW 2223