Cafe O-Mai

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I've read a few reviews of Cafe O-Mai at Annerley recently and I'd been wanting to try their Vietnamese-style breakfast menu as I love Asian breakfasts. So when nearby on the south side recently, I decided to check it out. Off busy Annerley Rd, Cafe O-Mai is located inconspicuously on the corner of Cracknell Rd and Franklin St. Plenty of street parking is around and when we arrived around 9.30, the place already looked busy and I was concerned we'd have to wait for a table. Luckily there was one left inside so we grabbed it. Inside the cafe has some cute vintage-style touches like milk jugs and glass cake domes, which don't really fit with the Asian-style menu but do make you feel very comfy and at home! Water and menus were brought over and unusually, we were given disposable cups with our bottle of water.

Extensive menu makes decision making difficult...because it all sounds so good!

The breakfast menu, presented on a clipboard like every other menu nowadays, is long. As in about seven pages, with food taking up the first five! There are standard Western-style breakfast options like fruit toast, eggs on toast and muesli and heartier options like sweet corn and zucchini fritters, O-Mai's Phat (big) Breakfast and brioche fruit toast. Then come the distinctly more Vietnamese-inspired items like the famed Aunty Five's Claypot Baked Eggs and a pork and prawn Vietnamese Omelette. Then the Traditional Vietnamese street-style breakfast menu includes five types of Pho (rice noodle soup)and eleven types of Bahn Mi (salad baguette rolls) including a bacon and egg one. To say you are spoilt for choice is an understatement! On the drinks menu is standard coffee options using Toby's Estate Woollomooloo Blend, a small range of teas, fresh juices and milkshakes. Or for a difference you can try traditional Vietnamese Ice Coffee, Vietnamese lemon soda or a fresh coconut in shell. On any usual day, I would have taken at least half an hour to choose but flu symptoms had begun and I was set on trying the Aunty Five's Claypot Baked Eggs with lemongrass pork sausage, mushrooms, tomato and tamarind sauce ($15). It usually comes with sourdough bread but I was able to switch it for gluten-free bread for no additional cost - win! C decided to go for the Pork meatballs in rich tomato sauce with quail eggs served with warm half baguette ($13), which is described as the Vietnamese equivalent of savoury mince. We also ordered our usual coffees - long black for me, espresso for C (both $3.50) .

Long Black with milk in a cute jug on the side and Espresso

Coffees arrived quickly and my long black was smooth without being too bitter or sour. I was pretty hungry by this stage and was jealously watching meals arrive at other tables. A few Bahn Mi and Pho bowls went past and they looked rather delicious. We were seated next to the counter so I was also being tempted by the lovely looking cakes under cake domes such as a Pineapple & Coconut Cake with lemon icing ($5), which was both gluten and dairy free. Luckily it wasn't too long before our meals arrived. My meal arrived in a black claypot with slices of sausage floating in a thick clear brown sauce along with three(!) softly poached eggs and a sprinkle of fried onions and sliced scallions. A slice of gluten-free toast was perched on the side with a large pat of butter sitting on it. C's meal was served as four large meatballs in a bowl, surrounded by a thick tomato sauce and with a small piece of toasted baguette beside it. We wasted not time digging into our meals eagerly! 

Aunty Five's Claypot Baked Eggs with lemongrass pork sausage, mushrooms, tomato and tamarind sauce with GF bread
Pork meatballs in rich tomato sauce with quail eggs served with warm half baguette

The thick sauce was sweeter than I'd expected and I couldn't detect any sourness from tamarind. It was slightly salty and flavoursome but perhaps sweeter than I personally prefer. The sausage was juicy and soft and added some saltiness to counteract the sweet sauce. As I dug in further, I found tomatoes, onions and mushrooms which mixed well with the sauce. The eggs were perfectly poached and gooey. There was a slight hint of chilli but not enough for me, especially given I was coming down with the flu and wanted a strong chilli hit, so was given a generous serve of freshly cut chilli when I asked for it. They were hot chillis so I didn't need much to infuse the dish but suffice to say, it cleared me out! The bread was good for mopping up the sauce but I removed the butter because I didn't think it needed it. Overall, despite finding the sauce overly sweet, I really enjoyed my breakfast and it was incredibly filling despite being a relatively small dish. C's meatballs were juicy and when he cut into them, the quail eggs were inside! It was a delicious combination together with the flavoursome tomato sauce and he really enjoyed it. 

Gluten-free freshly baked cakes

Overally we really enjoyed our meals at Cafe O-Mai and I'm jealous of C as he lives nearby and can easily visit regularly. Meals were incredibly well priced and the serving sizes were generous. The service was excellent and really friendly too.  I'd love to go back and try one of their many Pho options sometime and the Vietnamese omelette sounds like a winner too. It was nice to see how well they cater for vegetarians and those intolerant to dairy and gluten with many menu items have options, plus the majority of the baked goods appeared to be gluten-free. Judging by the high traffic and consistently filled tables, it looks like Cafe O-Mai is definitely a popular spot and I wouldn't be surprised if it were more difficult to get a table later in the day. I definitely hope to be returning soon to try more!

Cafe O-Mai on Urbanspoon

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