I have always tried to eat healthily at lunch. I think it stems from my time living at home with my parents. Dinner every night consisted of a plate of pasta variously tossed with broccoli and lashings of olive oil or fragrant bolognese sauce made from our home-made passata. The pasta was followed by a dish of chicken cotolette, polpette or fish. I couldn’t escape it and I certainly couldn’t resist all that Italian home cooking. A healthy and light lunch was my way of balancing it all out.
My attempts to find delicious and healthy lunch meals have often led me to Japanese eateries. So much of Japanese cuisine is fresh, light and super tasty. Brim CC is one of my regular work lunch spots. It’s a Japanese cafe stepping it up with whole foods, organic produce and loads of vegetarian and gluten-free options. The menu consists of the usual Japanese café fare and a list of soups rotated daily, some of which definitely aren’t Japanese – Hungarian goulash anyone? It’s one of those lively eateries with lines of hungry office workers snaking out the door between one and two pm. Get in early to nab yourself an inside seat or a spot outdoors on the not so picturesque Spencer Street end of Little Collins.
All the lunch options sound divine but I can’t ever go past the range of soups. All the soups are offered in a set with your choice of salad for $9.50 (and come with a slice of white bread). On my first visit to Brim CC I opted for the ginger and carrot soup with a mix of the tofu and potato salads. The carrot soup was smooth with a good dash of ginger that wasn’t too overpowering. Very comforting on a mild Melbourne day and super healthy.
Perhaps my favourite dish at Brim CC is the meatball miso soup. This miso is not your usual side dish or starter variety. The soup is super hearty, filled with big chunks of organic carrot, silky tofu, glorious shiitake mushrooms and deliciously juicy home-made meat balls. The slightly salty soy broth coupled with the meatball is truly a revelation, lifting the flavours and transforming the humble miso into a healthy, nourishing meal. They also do a salmon miso variety which I haven’t tried yet (but I will).
The tofu salad I had this day was delightfully fresh and crunchy with crispy cos lettuce and chunks of cumber, tomato and firm tofu. The sesame dressing was divine, almost creamy in texture with a hint of sweetness and a strong sesame flavour. It was served on the side so you can drizzle as much or as little as you like – I absolutely had to have it all.
I had managed to convince my dad to come along on this day and he opted for the yakitori don – a bowl filled with wild rice, three or four beautifully grilled chicken thigh fillets, enoki mushroom and fresh baby spinach. What I loved about this dish were the simple flavours. The chicken isn’t drowned in oil or heavy marinades. Instead, the focus is on the chicken’s own flavour and juices with only a slightly sweet seasoning. Rich in texture the rice was creamy, almost glutinous. Eating this you just feel that it’s healthy and nutritious.
Borscht also does the rounds on the soup menu at Brim CC. Whilst admittedly I’m no borscht expert, this one was lighter in colour than I have seen before. The hallmark sweet and sour flavour was very subtle and I was thankful for the dollop of sour cream which added some much-needed luxury and depth. The generous chunks of beef, carrot and potato were the stars of this dish and gave it that wholesome, homemade feel – very weekday lunch friendly. But I thought the beetroot could have been sweeter and the flavours a little more intense.
With a motto like “we’d like your smile to be brimming with health” it’s clear what Brim CC is trying to achieve here. With their home style cooking, whole ingredients and simple flavours I do think they succeed. For those working overtime in the immediate area (listen up all you commercial lawyers out there) Brim CC also offers a dinner delivery service. You can check out their delivery menu and locations here. A fantastic option in the heart of the CBD.