Made from shrimp paste and chilli, sambal is a condiment popular in Malaysia and Indonesia. It’s also one of the key ingredients in Hustle Fitzroy’s scrambled eggs with housemade roti, fried shallots and coriander – a breakfast dish with enough fire to have you reaching for water.
Hustle Fitzroy is clearly not your average Western breakfast spot. Head chef and co-owner Sashika Dilhan is taking inspiration from across Asia, making a morning pudding out of sago, coconut and jaggery (cane sugar). The French Lanka toast makes no bones about which two influences it’s trying to meld, with the cardamom and clove-spiced brioche finding a natural counterpart in coconut custard and treacle.
When it comes to those eggs, there’s a catch: they’re on the regularly rotating list of specials. But you can get the okonomiyaki on every visit. Iterations of the Japanese pancake are a dime a dozen in Melbourne cafés – North Fitzroy stalwart Carolina does a fritter-style version, while Papirica on Smith Street serves up the real deal – but Hustle’s version is an ornate and meticulously plated one that deserves a mention. Pleasant pink hues of beetroot-cured salmon complement brilliant red cabbage and a sour note from vinegary wakame seaweed (it cuts right through the kewpie mayo). But the clincher is the squid ink-marinated pearls of sago, which burst with an earthy brininess.
Dried anchovies, or ikan bilis as they’re known in Southeast Asia, elevate an otherwise standard coconut chicken salad on green tea soba with intense saltiness.
Cobb Lane Bakery has long since closed its retail storefront, but its wholesale business lives on in the display cabinets of Hustle Fitzroy – will the gluten-free chocolate chip cookies the size of your hand go home with you, or the full-gluten brownie?
Perched in a quieter pocket of Johnston Street, yet barely a stone’s throw away from the hubbub of Brunswick Street, Hustle Fitzroy is a destination café in soft shades of teal. But don’t let its soothing colour palette fool you, because they’re pimping your breakfast with the best of the Asian flavour wheel, because it’s never too early for sambal.