Monk Bodhi Dharma

rear 202 Carlisle St
Balaclava, VIC 3183
03 9534 7250

The day before my visit to Monk Bodhi Dharma, Lachlan had told me the coffees there is an 8 out of 10 in the scale of amazingness. But the first whiff I’d ever got about this place was through fakegf, who also gave their coffees a big stamp of approval. Yay, to good coffees!
And you know what’s my silly reason for not visiting sooner? It’s the name! Alongside with Brother Baba Budan, Monk Bodhi Dharma sits neatly in my mind as another of those weirdly named places. It just sounds so clunky and not brunchy to me, so it never sat on in the forefront of my radar. Badbooo for pre-judging a place just by its name.
I-Hua and I originally planned to catch up at Las Chicas, but I suggested the Monk and she instantly agreed. Because of where it’s located, the rear of a carpark, I’d always envisioned the venue to be dark, narrow, full of draperies and multi-storeyed. But the brunch place is actually a smallish space that’s comfortably lit with a woody bricky feel.
… I’d expected it to feel more rastafari, but no, we weren’t greeted with a beatific smile from a mind lost in an alternate reality. The Monk is still very much a serious brunch place, but with a soulful Buddhist view towards eating. If you turn up looking for eggs, bacon or sausages, the staff will hand you a kite.
So what do you do when you brunch with another food blogger? You take your seat, order your coffees and, before any conversation ensues, at least fifty shots have been taken. Food and hot drinks are allowed to go cold while plates and table adornments are moved about into better positions. Sigh, it’s both hilarious and quite ludicrous, if you think about it.
Flat White and Latté $3.80
Monk Bodhi Dharma Zen Blend
El Salvador Santa Barbara Latté $3.80
Zen Blend Magic $3.80
We had two coffees each here. I stuck with the house ‘zen’ blend while I-Hua had a single origin with her second cup. My flat white tasted quite strong and astringent. When I had the zen blend magic, it was of course even stronger and reminded me of a piccolo. But with a teaspoon of sugar added, I could sense the acidity of cherries and hints of dark chocolate. The tasting notes said you might taste figs and caramel… I couldn’t. Haha, tongue fail!

I had a sip of I-Hua’s El Salvador latté. It was less astringent than the zen blend, with a slight hint of grape acidity and a fleeting cherry aftertaste. I-Hua simply sipped it, looked at me and said “the cherry is lost on me…” Lol!
While I wasn’t too keen on the coffees here because they’re somehow not as creamy or full-bodied as I’d like, they do leave a nice aftertaste and I think you will like this place if you enjoy your coffees strong.

Umami Mushrooms $18.50
Slow-roasted king oyster, shiitake, oyster and enoki mushrooms on a housemade pumpkin, spinach and sundried polenta bread. Served w/ goat’s cheese, thyme and chilli oil.

This dish looked impossible to pass up on the menu. I had to have it, what with my absolute love for mushrooms of any kind. And there they sat on my plate, all the Asian varieties that I love, so exciting!
However, I found the sauce on the sweet, rich and creamy side and it sort of overwhelmed the delicate shrooms, making the dish quite heavy and filling. The sweetish and dense polenta bread hiding underneath didn’t help lighten things. I think this dish would have worked better if the sauce was less creamy-sweet and served on the side instead of being slathered over everything.

Marlo Sweetcorn Ricotta Hotcakes $15.50
w/ slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, house made basil pesto and sour cream

We did temporary plate swapsies mid-way, so I had a taste of I-Hua’s hotcakes. They looked amazing. I found the hotcakes somewhat heavy but the cherry tomatoes helped cut through the richness. And how’s this for subjectiveness in taste? I-Hua actually found her hotcakes very light, on the contrary to my ‘dense’ interpretation! Maybe it’s because I still had the rich mouthfeel of my mushroom dish in my mouth. Either way, I think she enjoyed her dish. She liked the pesto but didn’t touch the sprig of fresh basil sitting on top because “unprocessed greens are poisonous”. Ha ha!

Chai Latté $5.50
healing house brewed chai steamed w/ organic milk (or Bonsoy). Spices roasted and ground in-house and blended with honey.
We ended our vegetarian brunch affair with a chai to share. After steeping the leaves for 4-5 minutes, our drinks poured out beautifully. It was nice and freshly spicy, with a good balance of smooth milk and sweetness, and a wonderful zing at the back of the throat. One of the best chais I’ve had in a brunch place by far. Spicy, fresh, zingy.
This is one of I-Hua’s ‘mini-me’ name cards, it’s a Spooky Hollow Hallowe’en Special specially cooked by her boy. Soooo cute! I should create my own blogbooo cards too!
That was a very fun brunch with I-Hua. I expect we will be be eating out together more and ‘violating’ more places with our nosy cameras. The food we ordered here tasted on the rich side for me. And despite Lachy and Fakegf’s endorsement, I found it puzzling that I didn’t exactly warm to the coffees either. On the other hand, the chai was wonderful! Looking at how everyone’s jostling to get a seat in the café for brunch, I’m sure the fare here is very much loved by many. But for pig-headedbooo, maybe he just secretly wanted eggs…! Naughty naughty!
I-Hua finally wrote this place up 3-4 months later. Read her take on this place here. Love how the same visit can bring about such diverse tasting thoughts.
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