Purple Peanuts Cafe, CBD
Purple Peanuts Cafe is one of my favourite places for contemporary japanese food in the CBD, located on Collins St right near Spencer St and Southern Cross Station. It's contemporary in that the dishes don't just consist of your typical ramen, udon and donburi. Instead, it uses the flavours from such dishes, puts a modern spin on it, and adds a western touch to it.
The menu of Purple Peanuts is mainly rice based dishes, though there are also a few soba (buckwheat noodles) dishes, as well as sushi rolls and a range of japanese sweet desserts. The cafe is great for both lunch and dinner, though there aren't very many seats, so if you go during a busier time you might have to wait a while for a table. The service is quite quick, and you usually get your order within about 5 minutes.
The dishes we ordered today included the Chicken Curry Soba ($9.50) and the Kakuni Pork ($9.50). The chicken curry soba consists of hot buckwheat soba noodles in a mild Japanese curry with vegetables and flame grilled chicken. For a quick meal, it was pretty decent, with a good amount of chicken in the dish. You could really taste that the chicken had been flame grilled, but not too the point where it was too smoky or overpowering, and the chicken itself was very tender, which was good. However, the noodle to chicken ratio felt a bit less than expected, and the soba noodles were all quite choppy and small, which was disappointing as we expected them to be longer pieces. There was good curry flavour, though it became quite salty and left you feeling very thirsty by the end. Another small let down was the fact that even though the menu said it consisted of vegetables, there were only carrots in the dish, and it didn't really go well with the chicken and noodles. It would've been nice to have some other vegetables in the dish.
The Kakuni Pork dish consisted of slow cooked braised pork belly, served with rice and salad with a hint of Korean chilli. The pork belly was mostly tender, though some pieces were a little dry, and there was quite a lot of fat. The portion of meat to rice and salad was perfect, though it would've been nice to have a few more pieces of the braised radish. In particular, the small salad went well with the meat and rice to make sure the dish didn't feel too heavy too soon, and the chilli sauce on the side gave it that heat kick for extra flavour.
Most dishes come with the small salad on the side, thus giving it the western element I mentioned earlier. It goes surprisingly well with the rest of the dish, and gives it that light, refreshing feel. There's also the option to add miso soup to your meal for an extra $2 for most of the dishes, something I'd definitely suggest you do if you haven't had japanese before, or to cleanse your palette during the meal.
I would most definitely recommend this place for anyone interested in trying out japanese cuisine with a new take on the more traditional flavours and typical dishes. It's particularly good for having a quick meal, but if you're looking for a more sit down, proper meal, this might not be the place for you.