Perhaps its the memory of hellish morning drives to UWA in my university days, but Stirling Hwy has long been my least favourite road in Western Australia. That this narrow stretch of road is called a highway is a cruel joke, and with its unwinnable combination of buses pulling over in the left lane and cars turning right without turning lanes in the right, the constant stop-start lurch means there is no street in Perth with a higher chance of rear ending a BMW than Stirling Hwy. I don't have much patience for infuriating road conditions, and as such I seldom make a trip out to the Claremont area since the very worst of the traffic bottleneck occurs there.
Of course I'll make an exception for good food, and this was what found us in Claremont on a rare work free Saturday for Alissa. I'd heard about Typika during the last year, and the mention of duck steamed lotus buns was enough to convince me we had to try this place out. Typika serve lunch every day except Sundays, so since I have work during the week and Alissa usually works Saturdays this was going to be our only chance for a while to try their lunch menu.
Having arrived at 11:30am in case there was a crowd, we were able to be seated immediately upon arrival at one of the tables in the brighter front section of the cafe - my choice since it would be beneficial for photography.
That said, the place had sufficient tables available for us to have sat in the moodier space to the rear of the venue.
As with Bread in Common, interesting lighting concepts abound in this space, the most striking being the conical flask light bulbs hanging over the high chair share tables.
Since we were early for the midday start of the lunch menu, we started with a round of coffee and some snacks. Being artisan roasters, I expected quality and my usual order of topped up long macchiato/strong latte did not let me down as it was a well made coffee at a perfect temperature. Personally, I think I like the bean at Bread in Common better but as Alissa astutely pointed out, its more a matter of a personal preference than once being inherently better than the other. If you like a softer, mellower flavour this will probably be more to your liking.
Being summertime, Alissa went with the 'naked' iced coffee. This was a nice and refreshing iced coffee, its 'nakedness' denoting it was not one of those super sweet monstrosities that are more sugar than caffeine.
Alissa loves a good sweet potato chip, so we had to order a serve of their mixed Chips. The serve may have been small for $6, but it was absolute quality - easily the best fries I've had since the last time I cooked Heston's triple cooked chips. These tasted like they were at least twice cooked, and the difficult task of making sweet potato chips as crispy as regular potato was passed with flying colours. Excellent aioli too.
Our other snack order was a serve of their Onion Rings. I've had better, more flavoursome versions of this dish, but these were excellent nonetheless - far better than the familiar mass produced version found at Hungry Jack's and less oily that the greasy version often sold by fish and chips joints.
12 o'clock came around and it was time for our very pork-centric lunch. The first share plate to arrive was the Pulled Pork Quesadillas. These maintained the high standards set by our snack orders, the pulled pork nicely seasoned and the Quesadilla pockets both crispy and yet still malleable.
The element that really raised it as a cut above was the grilled corn, capsicum and avocado salsa. This was top notch, its refreshing juiciness complementing and enhancing the flavours of the pork and cheese.
The current Typika menu did not have the duck lotus buns. Instead, it went full Momofuku and did their version of the famous David Chang Pork Belly Buns. Here the pork was made in a char siu style as a point of difference, served with (apparently) pickled cucumber and (apparently) chilli jam. If the cucumber was pickled I didn't quite taste it, though I was very happy to find the cucumber thinly sliced. The sauce on top did not taste like chilli jam to me - I could have sworn it was hoisin. Other that these seeming discrepancies between the menu and what was served, I was very satisfied with the results.
The pork belly had a lovely fattiness that bordered on bacony, and the salty-sweet flavour of the sauce combined with the freshness of the cucumber resulted in a dish that was very, very tasty. The buns may not have been as soft as those at Ippudo, but the flavours were bolder. Different, but neither was necessarily better than the other. Alissa was a little disappointed as she was expecting the version I make at home, which is basically banh mi in a steamed bun and thus includes coriander, carrot and mint but she admitted later it was probably a case of having expectations it would be something that it wasn't. Oh well - her being disappointed meant I got to eat two of the three buns so I was definitely happy!
The Verdict: Excellent
When I went up to pay, the woman at the counter looked at what we had ordered and said, 'you guys had a really good lunch'. And she was right - the food we had that day was of a consistent standard in share plate cafe food that was well thought out and executed. Considering our meal and drinks came to under $60, I was satisfied with the price too. I don't know how often I'd be heading out to Typika considering its location and the lunch menu being unavailable on Sundays, but it impressed me enough that I'd brave a drive down Stirling Hwy for a return visit. Recommended.