There are plenty of times where you are directed to a cafe through word of mouth or the print media, but for me, not so many times directly as a result of a website such as urbanspoon (now zomato). To be completely honest, I had never heard of Operator25 other than being on the urbanspoon hottest list for Melbourne. For someone as in to food as me, it was quite disparaging.
Curiosity got the better of me and eventually we made it into the city to give it a try. Placed in a lane close to the markets in the northwest of the city I also realised that it could be very busy on a Saturday, and it certainly was. A nice sunny stroll through the Flagstaff Gardens and thirty minutes later we were seated at one of the many six seater communal tables in a restaurant that has some of that fun décor you see in places like Chin Chin and its sisters.
There is something a bit cold about the straight faced welcome, but that is tempered with friendly and professional waitstaff, and the main element we are here for – the food.
The food is outstanding! Sure, this is based on one brief first visit, but I am still thinking and talking about this dish a week later having eaten out all weekend. The dish is pressed confit duck surrounded by congee, with several other ingredients but most prominent is the soy poached egg, lotus crisps and pickled ginger. The dish is described on the menu as “three rice congee” with a trick in the presentation making it appear as if the duck is the star, but the congee, rich and wonderfully comforting, steals back the show. When combined with a bit of pickled ginger, some of the discrete buckwheat puffs, and some of the yolk of the egg, you have a gorgeous silky mouthful of big flavour. An exceptional combination; full of technique and a terrific example of modern Asian breakfast in Australia.
Catherine’s breakfast was almost as good. The breakfast Reuben is again an innovative take, this time on a classic making a big comeback as American BBQ struts its stuff across Australia. This Reuben features crumpets topped with beautiful pastrami and poached eggs, brought together with a well made hollandaise and a smattering of watercress. There is definite care and focus in the making of the pastrami giving the dish that great peppery punch you expect.
There is a miss here in the greeting and treatment from the maitre’d. As we arrived I had heard some people politely asking how much longer the wait would be (they must had been there a while) and the answer was “we will call your names out” rather than any attempt to build some rapport or offer some advice. However, this is a place that I’ve thought about more than once since we ate here and I’m convinced that I need to go back and try a few more dishes. There might be some pomposity in aspects but Operator25 has the makings to become a favourite for lovers of breakfast that is jumping out of the box.