The beautiful Mica Chen looks a little flustered. Her fledgling foray into the café world is lacking both head chef and head barista on the Tuesday I visit. This year’s flu season has been especially brutal. Every table in her eponymous Surry Hills café – Meet Mica – is full, with a queue of people waiting.
Mica, who has a Cantonese background, has chosen a largely Japanese aesthetic for this venture. She explained it's because she’s “very impressed by the way Japanese people treat their food (dedication and freshness).” Mica has left the finer details in the hands of Chef Lee Li. Lee is Le Cordon Bleu trained, with work experience stints in famous kitchens including InterContinental Sydney, Tetsuya's and Kensington Street Social. His resulting café menu certainly represents one of Sydney’s more interesting brunch offerings.
While we wait for our food, we take in the surroundings. Markco Studio have created a very stylish space, despite it being situated on the edge of a fairly daggy, brown brick housing complex. Tiny round tiles provide a monochrome backdrop for shiny exposed copper piping and gold accents that extend all the way to a custom-finished La Marzocco coffee machine. White-painted fixtures add height to the bright and airy space, and show off the antler-like, gold light fittings. A few leafy green hanging plants and wood’n’weave chairs throw in something organic, keeping it all from feeling too sterile.
Opened at the table, a red and black bento box called Lite Sammies Bento ($14.50) arrives packed with dainty white-bread sandwiches, all with their crusts removed. It’s made visually interesting with edible flowers, and rounded out with crisp lotus chips and edamame. It’s level-up Australian café fare not only in the aesthetics, but also in terms of variety, because each of the three sandwiches has a different filling. There’s smoked salmon, pickled fennel and mixed greens accentuated by a piquant dill mustard cream; a vegetarian antipasto-style filling with grilled zucchini, roasted capsicum and basil pesto; and my favourite – a pliable Japanese egg roll with lettuce.
Flowers also make an appearance on Porridge ($14.50), where creamy, comforting oat porridge is brightened up with orange and yuzu, toasted almonds and clouds of coconut foam.
Matcha French Lava Toast ($18) has obviously been designed with a view to Instagram. The matcha-dusted toast is supposed to cut open to reveal an oozing matcha core.
My French toast was sadly ooze-free. Regardless, I was impressed with the flavour profile of the dish, which combined smokiness from blow torching, nicely bitter matcha, and condensed milk passed separately so you could sweeten it (or not) to your palate’s content.
With Chef Lee not in the kitchen, execution and timing during my visit to Meet Mica was not perfect. However it's early days, and I’m intrigued enough about lobster congee to give it another shot…
Shop 5, 492-500 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 8018 7370