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83-85 Kingsway Glen Waverley, VIC 3150
My score: 4/5
Glen Waverley is a phenomenon, a little Hong Kong 20 kilometres east of Melbourne, with bustling footpaths and crowded restaurants even on drizzly weeknights. If you’ve never been, or not for a while, it’s worth a food jaunt and not just because the Myki fare is cheaper than a Cathay Pacific ticket.
White Mojo Plus+ is a marvel too, bringing specialty coffee and photogenic food to the neighbourhood. It’s the third in the White Mojo group, following Hardware Street in the city and a cinema-handy branch in Balwyn. A sweet-centric White Mojo is on the cards, too. The cafes are characterised by lavish and theatrical dishes: a croissant “burger” stuffed with soft-shelled crab, salmon under a smoke-filled glass dome that’s removed at the table with a magician’s flourish. People queue, Instagram is flooded, people queue some more.
In fact, White Mojo’s Ben Luo and Samsky Yeung are quietly becoming some of Melbourne’s most successful hospitality operators, which is even more impressive because they’re doing it backwards. They started in the central business district and are moving ever further out. Where many restaurateurs diffuse with a casual offering, these guys have upgraded by opening their Glen Waverley cafe for dinner. Usually, fine dining techniques and trends filter down to cafes. That’s been reverse engineered, too: the exuberance of White Mojo’s daytime dishes has been applied to the night-time comfort food roster.
The dinner menu is a little bit stoner, somewhat Mexican and shows an easy facility with Asian flavours. Prawns are fried to a golden crisp and served with a spiced coconut sambal and DIY lettuce wraps. Bowl-shaped tacos are filled with quinoa and corn salsa, grilled haloumi and jalapeno-spiked mayo. A wagyu slider is layered with bubblegum-cured bacon (maple-cured bacon flavoured with bubblegum extract – it tastes sweet and somehow pink).
Cauliflower mac and cheese uses parmesan, emmenthal and American cheese for maximum bite, stretch and ooze; a scattering of Doritos adds crunch. It’s guilty pleasure in a brimful bowl. Desserts include Forest floor, a pretty tableau of chocolate “soil” and mousse, torn green-tea sponge cake and raspberry sorbet. Only a few years ago, such a dish would wow at the top end of town. Food that’s better in the photo than the mouth doesn’t inspire revisits. Chef Yannick Shiepping is savvy enough to back up presentation with good flavours: it’s not subtle but it’s tasty.
Even though the food is crucial and careful, White Mojo’s number one passion is coffee. A gleaming onsite roastery supplies all three cafes and a burgeoning Asian export business. Given that, it’s not surprising that coffee sneaks into the food. At Balwyn, it’s the French brioche toast with espresso cream cheese. Here, it’s coffee-cured salmon. Single-origin beans are ground and mixed with sugar, salt, dill and lemon zest; this cure does its work on the salmon for two days. After it’s rinsed away, the salmon is glazed with an espresso reduction. The fish tastes perky and rich and it’s nicely set off by pickled vegetables and sesame dressing.
White Mojo Plus+ is big and bright, somewhere between modern mansion and garden pavilion. There’s an indoor-outdoor feel, with hanging greenery, marble tables at left and a roller-roofed terrace on the right. It does feel more cafe than restaurant, partly because staff are more familiar with ferrying espresso than pouring prosecco, but it’s a terrific addition to the neighbourhood and an exciting step for Luo and Yeung who obviously have mojo to spare.
Website : White Mojo
First published in Good Food, 1st December 2017.