Karma Cafe

Nestled behind a child minding centre, in the forgotten back corner of a recently completed unit complex development in Parap, if you can find it the Karma Cafe promises food, fitness, and prepared meals. Regular readers to these pages will recall me discussing those cafe’s who try to appeal to the health-conscious lifestylers with their pulled-this, smashed-that, wholegrain macro and plant based menu options. Usually these are mere token offerings to appease the widest possible audience.

But here, the Karma Cafe appear to actually live the lifestyle. And I must say convincingly so. However a recent visit one morning left me a bit disappointed. Bad Karma?, I hear you say….

How do I paint a picture for you of the decor and environment? Think…Bali. As you approach the cafe you are at first greeted with an external seating area with Asian influences, and other cues inspired from Bhuddism. Walk inside and the cafe is pretty rustic in an Asian inspired way. It is a pleasant ambiance, and rather other-worldly.

The usual cafe process is adopted here; grab a menu, find a seat, return to the counter to order and pay, and return to your seat praying no-one has taken your table. The frontline and serving staff are decked out in their gym gear – reinforcing the healthy lifestyle image – and rather pleasant to interact with. The kitchen is open to the main seating area and exposes a couple of guys decked out in the chef strip beavering away in what appears to be an insanely hot kitchen.

The menu is not all vegan or vegetarian, but what meat protein there is, is limited to very lean meats – kangaroo, chicken, lean steak, etc. There are options of egg-white omelettes; smoothie bowls; roast pumpkin, poached eggs and quinoa; lentil patties; burritos and salads; breakfast wraps; etc. The pricing is a few dollars more than what you would expect elsewhere for comparable meals – and for that sort of money you would be expecting value here, or otherwise we’ll call in the Karma Police.

On this visit I ordered the corn fritter stack (with the cashier responding with ‘…of course!’ in a manner that suggested that the meal was too hard to prepare), and a small skinny flat white coffee. The coffee was promptly served and was amazing! Full flavoured, rich, dark and robust with caramel overtones… the coffee hit my taste buds like a screaming alarm hits the ears.

Then I waited. And waited… for the corn fritter stack. My Beloved’s meal came, and went, and still I waited. The servers swept by and charmingly cleared away my Beloved’s bowls and asked if we were waiting on anything else. I mentioned the corn fritter stack. And waited…

Little did I realise that the cashiers exclamation had been some sort of foreboding omen.

While I wait let me describe the meal – the menu promised me a corn fritter stack with a poached egg on top, tomato relish, smashed avocado, and a balsamic glaze. Then I played with the salt and pepper pots carved from coconut wood and tried to figure out how they worked (they were apparently empty – the plastic salt and pepper ontainers were on another table).

I was at the point of deciding whether I should cancel the order for a refund and leave, and was then advised by another server that my meal wouldn’t be long. So I waited some more. Other diners had arrived, ordered, eaten and left in the time I had waited. And then the plate arrived.

And left me puzzled. That length of time waiting suggested a couple of hypotheses to me. Either the fritters were pre-prepared and I had been waiting for them to be thawed and cooked; or the fritters had just been made and would be ultra fresh. I really don’t know which idea held more merit, but I doubt the former hypothesis. Two generous fritters constituted the ‘stack’ and were – sadly – cold. Warm on the outside, almost a pleasant temperature if it had been consistent throughout, but the centre was just plain batter; soft soggy and lukewarm at best. Let’s just say ‘raw’. I doubt they were microwaved as the telltale steam-from-the-centre sign wasn’t there. No, dear reader, the fritters had been freshly made and not cooked through. Such a shame.

The poached egg had been cooked perfectly – at one stage. But alas, the egg too was now cold: soft white and runny yolk – but without heat. In my mind the tasty avocado was perfectly textured – not pureed, and not just crushed slightly with the back of a fork – just perfect. The relish was lovely and tangy, with a hint of chilli to it, and the balsamic glaze was also a hit. I can’t think the last time someone served up balsamic glaze on a plate, let alone artfully circled around the perimeter.

I can’t fault the presentation – which was simply vibrant and stunning – it was so attractive it simply begged you to tear into the meal and try a little bit of everything together.

Did I say something to the staff? Yes, but not at the time. I had waited so long and was at the stage of being so hungry I was prepared to leave aside the doughey-est portion of the fritters. I told myself that everything in the fritter stack could have been eaten raw anyway, so a lack of heat wouldn’t matter. As soon as I had finished my meal a server called by to collect the plate and enquired about my thoughts on the meal as they cleared the table. I took the opportunity to simply mention that the fritters had been served up lukewarm and not cooked through – doughey in the centre – and that the egg had simply lost it’s heat. The server just simply told me that they would tell chef…

So – in summary, a cafe whose whole philosophy to life results in a healthy options menu, and great coffee – what a wonderful way to start the day.

However, while the meal was edible and looked like a winner, unfortunately the hero of the dish was served raw and the accompanying element was served up cold. If crispy golden fritters had been served up and hot all through, this would have been – in my mind – a great value for money meal.

And the wait. The wait simply wasn’t worth it and was the real disappointment on this visit.

(And if you’re reading this and aged over 40, I just know you’ve been waiting for me to make a pun about Instant Karma….

…haven’t you?)

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