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Something for Jess, Chippendale

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Some of the best cafes are those stumbled upon. My col­league, M, had men­tioned see­ing a prom­ising cafe on Abercrombie St dur­ing a stroll from Redfern to Ultimo in June, and I had mis­takenly thought he meant Something for Jess. It’s a small cafe on the corner behind the devel­op­ment at Central Park and next to the small art gal­ler­ies dotting Chippendale. Seating is on a hand­ful of com­mun­al tables with mis­matched chairs. Its menu changes weekly depend­ing on the pro­duce sourced from the loc­al mar­ket.

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On my first vis­it with N, I go for the Free Range Double Smoked Ham Bruschetta ($17) with roas­ted jer­u­s­alem artichoke pur­ee, con­fit ox heart tomato, hand grated gruy­ere cheese, baby cauli­flower, braised pine brown mush­room, organ­ic poached egg, salsa verde.

Now that is one piled high bruschetta! Before I dig in, I’m hit with a strong whiff of cheese as the gruy­ere melts atop the freshly poached egg, and it’s yummy with all the oth­er ingredi­ents. What is evid­ent with the first bite (and every bite after) is the fresh­ness of the pro­duce — everything is super sweet and crisp and juicy. I’m not sure I’ve had sweeter mush­rooms, and while I could’ve lived without the cauli­flower, that was also super crisp and white. There’s a lot of dif­fer­ent ingredi­ents on this bruschetta, and the tex­tures and fla­vours all bal­ance beau­ti­fully.

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N opted for the Beetroot-Corn Rosti ($16) with roas­ted yam-zuc­chini flower pur­ee, blistered vein tomato, fresh fig, car­a­mel­ised wal­nut, house­made labne, fresh avo­cado.

I don’t ordin­ar­ily talk about dishes that I haven’t eaten myself, and this was just too gor­geous! After a small taste, I was com­pletely in food envy of N’s corn rosti — the corn ker­nels were so super sweet and juicy that I’ve nev­er tasted corn ker­nels quite like it! With N’s dish I also tried figs for the first time — they taste some­thing like a more tex­tur­al and sub­stan­tial water­mel­on. Quite yummy.

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On my next vis­it with col­leagues, I order the Smoked Chicken Sandwich ($10) with spiced hum­mus, braised egg­plant, roas­ted turnips, and pro­volone cheese.

One of my favour­ite Middle Eastern dishes is a mashed egg­plant dip (baba ghanoush/​muttabal). So, I’m keen on any­thing that includes hum­mus and egg­plant, and this was one tasty sand­wich — the hum­mus and egg­plant were quite soft as expec­ted, and that went well with the juicy chick­en breast. And the cheese? Well, in mod­er­a­tion, cheese just makes everything taste bet­ter. I could’ve done without the roas­ted turnips and their usu­al strange sweet­ness. Overall, it was a filling and tasty sand­wich.

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Their affogato changes weekly. I tried their affogato with hojicha ice cream ($6).

I’ve seen hojicha ice cream very rarely in Japan and when I tried it in Japan, I enjoyed it immensely and wished it was more widely avail­able. So when I spot­ted it, I needed to try it! Nevermind that it was at a non-Japanese cafe or even a Japanese neigh­bor­hood.

The hojicha in the ice cream was abso­lutely deli­cious — the shop describes hojicha as a ‘smoked’ Japanese tea even though ‘roas­ted’ green tea is more accur­ate. It’s a dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent smell and taste to your ordin­ary green tea — its refined com­fort­ing and homey aroma — and it’s hap­pily evid­ent in the hojicha ice cream. As for the espresso shot in the affogato? That was a miss for me — the shot was sour. Regardless, the fla­vour of cof­fee over­whelemed the subtle hojicha fla­vours in the ice cream when eaten togeth­er. Having wanted to try the item solely for the hojicha ice cream, I ended eat­ing the ice cream and drink­ing the espresso shot sep­ar­ately.

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M assured me that, des­pite the sour­ness of the shot in my affogato, they served good cof­fee. So the second time, I order an iced latte ($3.50). This was a def­in­ite improve­ment from the affogato — the sour­ness was gone, replaced with some cit­rus notes that (accord­ing to M) is a res­ult of the Ethiopian beans used. It’s not my favour­ite cof­fee, although it was decent.

While I’m not too keen on their cof­fees, Something for Jess serves up deli­cious dishes — I’ll be back!

Something for Jess is loc­ated at the corner of Abercrombie St and O’Connor Street, Chippendale NSW 2008.