Melbourne Corporate Lunch Spot: Purple Peanuts

Purple Peanuts. A slightly off centre name for a slightly off centre Melbourne lunchery. PP is the cool hipster kid of the corporate luncher’s world. Teeny tiny with 5 or 6 sought after tables inside and a few rickety little tables down the alleyway on the side. Always packed with lines out the door, always pumping with noisy customers.  Between 12 and 2, the young and hip of the corporate world cram themselves into this tiny space and stake their indoor table territory with brightly coloured scarves and iphones, while they order their curry chicken with rice and side of miso soup.

This little Japanese café’ seems to have a heartbeat all its own and a cult, almost religious following. It is one of my go to lunch spots. I feel a burst of proprietary pride when introducing it to my friends- as if I rolled the nori around the brown rice and raw tuna with my own bare hands.

The menu is eclectic. Japanese café faves with an edge. You won’t find a bowl of traditional udon noodle soup with tempura at this happy hipster joint. What you will find is crispy deep fried tuna onigiri rice balls, colourful potato salad, plump pink sashimi and braised pork belly.

Akio Sashimi
Akio Sashimi

My favourite dish at PP (of those that I have tried so far of course) is the Akio salmon sashimi. A full lunch set of 8 slices of salmon sashimi with a good sized side of fluffy plump rice and salad consisting of green leaves and various pickled veggies. The sashimi is topped with slivers of apple, onion and what is described as a ponzu citrus style dressing. The dressing has a bit of a sweet zing to it and works remarkably well with the fresh sashimi. I only have one criticism. Last time I ordered this dish the sashimi came out topped with a thick layer of oil (see photo above). Perhaps they got the ratios wrong this time, it wasn’t pleasant. Salmon is a naturally oily fish, the extra fat just wasn’t required. I had to mop up all the slipperiness with the rice. I have to admit it was pretty tasty, but probably not good for my poor heart’s health.

photo 3

The last time I visited PP I thought I would try something different. I became pink with anticipation when this festival of colour landed in front me. Beautiful plump morsels of salmon sashimi, crunchy bits of carrot and various pickled veggies on a bed of plump white rice. I couldn’t ask for anything more for a mid week lunch.

The fish and veggies are topped with a slight sweet soy dressing that doesn’t dominate the fresh flavour of the fish. The beautiful dollop of spicy wasabi was a welcome addition and I eagerly smeared it onto bits of salmon before popping the gorgeous morsels into my mouth.

I loved this dish except for one thing, the oniony taste that lingered in my mouth when I was finished. I suspect there were some bits of pickled onion amongst the party on my plate. Or perhaps it was the vinegar that the vegetables are pickled in. Either way I ducked down to the 7 11 on the corner and sucked on 3 eclipses during the walk back to the office. My poor colleagues don’t need the waft of my breath to describe to them in detail what I ate for lunch that day.

For me, the beauty of this place is its offering of a light, fresh lunch that is interesting, different and tasty. I don’t want to have to worry about loosening the belt around my peplum skirt during my 2 pm teleconference. I need something light and healthy but substantial enough that it will keep me going all afternoon. This place has all that and more, including some fantastic take away options. I will come back time and time again. Maybe next time though, I will ask them to hold the onion.

Purple Peanuts Japanese Cafe on Urbanspoon


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