Originally I was sent to Admiral Cheng-ho on the second day it opened to cover it for an online guide to Melbourne that I help write for, but it turned out that the editors had accidentally put two writers on the case, so to avoid any potential argey-bargey I bowed out of the piece. But that’s okay, because it means that I get to write about it here instead! And my editors probably wouldn’t have allowed me to say things like HOLY SHITS ADMIRAL CHENG-HO IS FUCKING VEGAN SHANGRI-LA or write a review that was just transcriptions of drooling sounds, so it’s probably for the best.
Why is Admiral Cheng-Ho so amazing? Well, for one they’re run by the same folks who do Monk Bodhi Dharma, grand high poobah of quality Melburnian vegan and coffee dining. For another, it is in Abbotsford, which means northsiders don’t have to tramp all the way to Balaclava now to feast on Monk’s particular seam of foodie goodness. It’s a much bigger space than Monk too, although it still errs on the modest side of things.
But what you really want to know about is the FOOD. And the fact that everything on the menu, EVERYTHING, is either vegan or vegan-adaptable. You can’t hack gluten? Neither can half the menu here. It’s a goddamn specialty diet wonderland. You can eat ALL THE THINGS! And it’s all FREAKIN’ DELECTABLE.
As everything looks delicious, I was wracked with indecision trying to choose what to have, but in the end chose what looked like would yield me the most food – The Admiral, comprising three zucchini fritters with sauteed kale, pine nuts, seasonal vegetables (in my case roasted white carrots and tiny baby spears of asparagus) with a big mound of beetroot relish with dill sprigs, and basil cashew cream.
This was a big, generous plate of food and I dove in with gusto. All the components just complemented each other so nicely, I kept making little bitefuls, using pieces of fritter as anchors, and loading them up with tiny bites of everything. Special mention to the crispy salty kale and the teeny tiny asparagus spears that were just ever so sweet. My only quibbles were that the fritters had a higher dough to vegetable ratio, which was okay but threatened to be slightly stodgy, and the fact that the basil profile in the cashew cream wasn’t terribly noticeable, to the point that I forgot about the menu description and thought for a while it was actually some kind of emulsified avocado. But these are miniscule concerns in the face of mostly overwhelming hearty deliciousness.
For coffee nuts they have six blends on the go each day, as well as single origin and filter coffee and whatever else it is rings coffee people’s jollies. I had a flat white using the standard house blend and it was nicely strong and slightly smoky. FAR MORE IMPORTANT though is the tea menu, and the fact that like Monk, the Admiral has proper respect for appropriate brewing times and will steep your tea for you and serve it to you all ready to go. There’s a nice selection of FANCY teas too – I finished my meal off with a Korean persimmon tea that was simultaneously tart with tiny sweet, fruity notes, and had this lovely rough back up to it – sounds weird, but I assure you that it was a very comforting beverage, even on a hot afternoon.
Do you honestly need me to tell you to get your butt to Admiral Cheng-Ho right now? WHY AREN’T YOU ALREADY THERE?
325 Johnston Street, Abbotsford
Ph: 9534 7250