In Short: Meet Mica features a Japanese inspired menu with an emphasis on seasonal produce. Lobster Congee is outstanding, as is their Matcha French Lava Toast.
We sat down with Mica Chen who recently opened Meet Mica to learn a little about her, and what brought her to open a cafe. At the end of the conversation, what became apparent was that you could take prescribed paths that parents and family “encourage”, but ultimately what you choose to do is going to come from your own passion. After all, when you’re passionate about your work, there’s an extra push to succeed.
As I glance around Meet Mica, I can see the thought and effort that has gone into the details of the cafe. A big kitchen for the chefs to create, a bright welcoming interior and highlights like copper piping contrasting against the black walls, and gold insets on the long white coffee bar. Speaking of coffee, the La Marzocco machine is custom finished with gold accents and American oak.
As we get comfortable, Mica starts a pour over filter coffee to start off our experience. Like our visit to Frankie’s Beans Specialty Coffee, it’s interesting to see the boss getting involved in the process, creating great coffee for their customers. Mica sources coffee from guest roasters each month.
On our visit I sampled an Ethiopian Wenago from Duke Roasters Melbourne. It’s a relaxed coffee with floral notes and a refreshing mouth feel. There’s a citrus acidity, but it’s subtle. As I rush around and take photos, the coffee cools, and as it cools there’s extra layering of sweetness that develops. That’s the joy of pour over, the multi-dimensional flavour profile as the temperature changes.
Over on the other side of the table, fellow Coco and Viner Steven pauses his video work to take a few sips of the Red Chai from Tippity Teas. When one thinks of chai, automatically there’s an association with a spicy tea of cardamon and cinnamon. This red chai though, has floral characteristics and fruity notes, balanced with delicate spicing.
On the food front, Meet Mica adopts the east-meets-west inspiration that is sweeping through cafes across the city. It reflects the diversity of our city and also showcases regional favourites of Asia re-imagined. Chef Lee Ki has quite a pedigree, having spent time in the kitchens of the Intercontinental, Kensington Street Social and the venerable Tetsuya’s. He brings together a Japanese and pan-Asian inspired menu. My eyes were drawn to the lobster congee. I will be honest first-up and say congee has never been my first choice of breakfast when in Asia. The irony is, both my wife and daughter place congee at the top of their list of favourite foods! In fact, fellow Coco and Viner Mavis, ensures she has her fill of congee at least two to three times a week. Imagine her envy then when I send her a picture of my lobster congee. It’s a beautiful looking bowl, with the orange of perfectly cooked lobster. Mica explains that a whole lobster tail is used in its creation. Part of the tail is diced and cooked with the rice, the other half is grilled. It’s a luxurious dish of lobster flavour and textures. Smoky flavours of the shell fish combine perfectly with a slow cooked egg, katsuboshi and green shallot. It’s a divine dish, and takes congee to unparalleled heights! Meet Mica’s lobster congee has me converted!
In keeping with the beautifully presented food, is a dainty box of finger sandwiches, known as Lite Sammies Bento. Smoked salmon, pickled fennel and mixed greens is delicious, with a mustard dill cream acting as a type of wasabi with it’s injection of heat. Avocado, grilled zucchini, roasted pepper, spinach and pesto is a vegetarian’s delight. Finally, a Japanese egg roll and lettuce is as light and soft as a sandwich can get. Completing the bento box are lotus crisps and edamame. It reminds me of sitting in the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka and delighting in the bento boxes that are are procured at Tokyo station before dashing off at 250km/h!
For an Instagram worthy dish, there’s no going past the Matcha French Lava Toast. Cutting into the toast, as Mica does for us, unleashes a flow of a green sauce filled with bold matcha flavours. Condensed foamed milk is rich and sweet. There’s dusting of dehydrated strawberry powder that’s sharp, and fresh seasonal fruits including an exotic dragon fruit freshens the palate. While there is a trend to dress the plate with floss, Chef Lee resists, to ensure there’s a harmony of flavours and the dish isn’t overly sweet; wise choice I say!
One last coffee for the road and a chance to taste the output from the La Marzocco. Meet Mica use beans from local roaster Little Marionette. The latte work is exceptional and cuteness factor to the max! The flavours are of chocolate and it’s a silky smooth coffee that makes it so easy to take in. The milk temperature is spot on, and the double shot is not drowned out. A cohesive and well made cup of milk coffee.
We depart, knowing that it won’t be long before we return. The warmth of our welcome, a Japanese inspired menu that also pays homage to Mica’s Cantonese heritage, and a seasonal focus means that Meet Mica will continue to evolve.
* Coco and Vine dined as guests of Meet Mica.