It is a brave venture that sets up shop just across the road from a powerhouse cafe and roaster of the calibre of Reuben Hills. White Taro though, offers a point of differentiation that is spreading throughout cafes in the inner city, and it’s an Asian theme. The team at White Taro injects Vietnamese flavours into breakfast and lunch offerings with an impressive and imaginative approach.
Sitting on the corner of Albion and Belmore streets in Surry Hills, the cafe’s distinct white facade is hard to miss. There’s seating on the inside, outside and even a smaller area to the back of the cafe that can squeeze in a dozen people. On a summer’s morning, we choose to chill outside and take in the leafy surrounds. The vibe is super relaxed and the service staff circulate ensuring that our every need is attended to.
Being relatively early in the morning, I yearn for a strong cappuccino and the White Taro barista works the Pablo and Rusty blend nicely to deliver a strong coffee with cacao notes and a decent punch. There is a nice aroma and texture to the coffee. Its temperature lends itself to quick consumption. Coffee gets my tick of approval.
White Taro will do your traditional brekkie favourites but we’ve come to see what they do with their Vietnamese offerings. I am blown away with their deconstructed Banh Mi. The presentation is stunning! Each element is arranged meticulously. There is no letdown when the knife cuts through the crusty, yet soft baguette. I spread some of the spicy kumquat butter onto the bread. There’s a nice richness to the butter yet a distinct sweet and bitter citrus flavour of the kumquats and gentle spice. I then combine orange chicken pate and again I’m impressed with the texture and conistency of the pate. Liver is not my best friend but I can’t detect that strong iron flavour that some pates are prone to deliver, my kind of pate! There’s kimchi, which adds heat and pickled veggies that elevates this banh mi above the $5 offerings that are common place in bakeries throughout Sydney. The pièce de résistance is the pork belly. Two perfect slabs of pork belly with a nice crackle and tender morsels of tasty pork. Combine it with the above ingredients and White Taro delivers a spectacular banh mi.
If you are after a traditional soup offering, White Taro delivers a Chook in Broth. My initial reaction when I saw this dish on the menu was: “hmmm that does not sound like a lot of food! Would I be served a bowl of chicken broth with chicken, mushroom and egg? If only I had some noodles to go with the dish. That would have been perfect! Much to my relief, White Taro again impressed. The Chook in Broth is a huge steaming bowl of colour! Firstly, there was the green from the vegetable and fresh herbs, red from the small rings of cut chilli, orange from the oozy yolk of the soft boiled egg and pickled ribbons of carrot, and brown from the lemon grass chargrilled chicken and mushroom, all bathed together in a clear, glistening chicken broth. The biggest surprise for me came from the bottom of the bowl, when I spied the familiar strands of yellow peering from beneath all the other ingredients! Lo and behold, there was the thin yellow egg noodles that I was so longing for in this dish, cooked to Al Dente perfection. Yup, the chef and me are in sync on this dish!
The clear broth was a revelation, as it was packed with a rich chicken flavour, just like the traditional Chinese chicken stock made with garlic and ginger. The broth was further enhanced by the Vietnamese style chargrilled spicy chicken. You get the smoky flavours from the charring process and the traditional lemon grass infused Vietnamese marinade. Even the mushroom looked plump and juicy as did the pickled cucumber and carrots which gave the dish a sweet vinegar kick.
The chicken was tender and cooked perfectly. There’s seemingly half a chook in my broth, so there’s enough for you and your kin! All in all, this is a nutritionally balanced meal with all the food groups and comforting, homey flavours to make this a perfect dish for when you are feeling hung-over, under the weather or just craving for some simple comfort food.
My hope is that a cafe like White Taro goes from strength to strength for a few reasons. Their Asian flavours are spot on, their generosity of servings provides amazing value for money and their service is exceptional. If you want to inject some flavour of Indochina into your breakfast, just walk up the street from Central Station and drop into White Taro.