We noticed Cafe 053 when we happened to go to East Brisbane’s Lemak for a laksa fix. Located in the same complex along busy Lytton Road, this unassuming little eatery specialises in Korean fusion dishes. The posters near the entrance were what caught our eye, with appetising pictures of their dishes, like fusion pastas. This was definitely not to be mistaken for the Cafe 63 chain. As staff explained to us, the name comes from their own origins. 053 is the area code for Daegu, the South Korean city they came from.
We returned another day (we had our hearts set on laksa the other time), and were greeted by staff as we approached the entrance. Staff warned us that it might be a bit of a wait, as they make their dishes to order from scratch (perhaps other people had complained recently?). We told them that we didn’t mind waiting, and were given a couple of table options.
They have some indoor tables, and more in a covered outside area, with astroturf on the ground to make it almost seem like you are at a garden venue. The outdoor area is quite shaded from the elements, and there is a barrier between the seating area and the streaming traffic. We chose to sit at one of the outdoor tables, as it felt that there was a little more room. We found that it was actually a bit below street level, which unfortunately meant that when smokers went by the stink wafted in and stayed.
They had quite casual decor, with polymer wood-look tabletops, and Potter-style chairs. Some seats were fashioned from breeze blocks, with padded cushions on top. Relaxed pop music played over the speakers. It was a chilled out setting.
We were brought menus, which were ring-bound booklets with plenty of photographs of the food to indicate what the dishes were like. There were, as mentioned, Korean fusion pasta dishes, rice dishes, and more typical Western brunch dishes like Eggs Benedict and a Big Breakfast.
We initially wanted to get the Jjampong pasta, but were warned that it was very spicy. Given that the staff were Korean, and we know how fiery spicy Korean food can be, we changed our order to the Kimchi pork belly pasta instead. We also ordered the Korean tacos.
Coffees arrived first. The Flat white had good strength of flavour, and was properly hot.
The Soy iced latte was light and fruity, but without sourness.
The Kimchi pork belly pasta was listed in the menu as having angel hair pasta, kimchi, pork belly, garlic, and onion with tomato sauce. Slices of pork belly were laid across the heap of twisted pasta, and slices of spring onion were scattered over the dish for a verdant touch of contrasting colour. You tend to expect pasta to be quite saucy. Though this did not look it, the pasta was actually well coated, and held tangy, salty, faintly sweet flavours. It also carried quite a fiery heat, without being overwhelming. We were glad we didn’t get the Jjampong after all, which would have been even hotter. The fine pasta had a good, springy chew.
The slices of pork belly were thinly sliced, the cuts you would find at Korean BBQ, and similarly cooked. They were seasoned, and had a little smokiness. A couple of slices of buttered toast accompanied the dish. The bread was still warm, soft in the middle, and a little crisp on the outsides. We thought this was a well-executed fusion dish, and the pasta even better done than at a supposedly classical Italian place we had recently been to (Osteria Epoca did such dreadful pasta, it boggled the mind).
We were intrigued by the Korean tacos on the poster and menu. While we had come across fusion pastas before, we were curious to find out how the Korean and Mexican mix would turn out. The dish was listed in the menu as marinated pork, chilli, onion, garlic, tortilla, and baguette bread (which we didn’t think was quite right in the mix). It was served with the components neatly arranged on the plate, for patrons to assemble themselves. There was a fan of round tortillas, a small heap of pork strips with sliced sauteed onions, and a bigger heap of a mixed salad with a creamy dressing and shaved cheese.
As we tried to determine how to approach it, staff advised us to put sour cream on the tortilla bread, then add the other components on. The tortillas were thick and fluffy, and soft enough to fold around the ingredients without breaking. The pork marinade tasted like a bulgogi mix, with salty and sweet flavours. The sauteed caramelised onions held moisture and sweetness. The mix was juicy without being too sloppy. The salad and sour cream ensured that there was freshness and creaminess to balance the other components and meld things together.
We enjoyed the meal we had at Cafe 053. The dishes had plenty of flavour, and were tasty combinations. Staff were polite and friendly, and considerate about little things, like providing a paper sleeve for the iced latte so it would be more comfortable to carry away. This is a good spot to visit for a casual meal, if you are after something different from the usual brunch fare. You will need to find street parking, as the complex doesn’t really have provisions for parking, but it is worth it.
Price point: Our dishes $19 and $19.90.
Value: Pretty good.
Address: Shop 1/ 53 Lytton Road, East Brisbane
Phone: 0472 818 830
Website: Cafe 053