Einstein's Relative

Good theory: Einstein's Relative extends the laboratory theme to its utensils.
Good theory: Einstein's Relative extends the laboratory theme to its utensils. Photo: Eddie Jim

Shop 1, 9 Yarra Street South Yarra, Victoria 3141

View map

Opening hours Mon-Fri, 6.30am-4pm; Sat-Sun, 7.30am-4pm
Chef Taiki Nakajima
Payments Mastercard, Visa, eftpos
Phone 03 9078 9801

According to the theory of relativity, a man travelling on a train speeding through South Yarra station would experience time dilation relative to a man eating a chicken toastada in a cafe in Yarra Street.

What I think this piece of rocket science means (someone will correct me if I'm wrong) is that due to the effect of velocity, time will pass more slowly for the man on the train than the man in the cafe (but not so you'd actually notice it or probably even be able to measure it, even with an atomic clock, given the relatively low velocity of Melbourne's trains).

What's more, this is really just a thought experiment, because trains don't speed through South Yarra station: they stop there.

Chicken 'toastada' comes with a beaker of harissa-spiced mayo.
Chicken 'toastada' comes with a beaker of harissa-spiced mayo. Photo: Eddie Jim

What isn't a thought experiment is the chicken ''toastada'' (that's the menu's spelling, not mine), a nice tumble of crunchy cabbage and radish coleslaw with a harissa-spiced mayo that's laced with pieces of roast chicken and piled on an open white-corn tortilla. It really is there on the black ceramic plate at Einstein's Relative, a cute little cafe-eatery that has popped up in the street beside South Yarra station. What this Einstein's is relative to is Caulfield North cafe Einstein's 251, and owners Eitam Brami and Tomer Gian, along with Brami's Australian wife, Tammy, are now shuttling back and forth between the two.

Brami and Gian are Israelis, their chef Taiki Nakajima Japanese, so the menu has a kind of world-fusion feel with a solid Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern base.

So an old-school salad roll is presented on a rather new-school challah roll, and the Noble Prize Winner is an intriguing salad of haloumi and mushrooms sauteed in teriyaki sauce that goes all gooey, sweet and darkly caramelised.

Baked beans in shakshuka sauce.
Baked beans in shakshuka sauce. Photo: Eddie Jim

The specials board might feature a soup of sweet potato and coconut milk revved up with fresh chilli, and a steaming bowl of goulash, tender paprika-spiced chunks of beef served on yellow couscous.

Then there's the baked beans, a cafe standard but given an eastern-Med turn here with a shakshuka sauce: tomatoes cooked down for a couple of hours with sweet paprika, garlic, harissa and red peppers. The beans are served with two runny-yolked poached eggs rolled in dukkah on top and a little bowl of harissa on the side. The chef recommends adding the harissa sparingly, because, he says, it's hot. And it is, bringing a long, slow burn to the already-peppery sauce.

The science theme turns from physics to chemistry, with water served in laboratory flasks and a soda water shot poured in a tiny lab beaker. The coffee experiments are driven by North Melbourne roaster Small Batch's Candyman blend and regular single origins. Recently the single origin was a Colombian Elias Roa, which had juicy lemon acidity and a nice creamy body, while the Candyman, a blend of Bolivian and Colombian at the moment, tended towards a cleaner, orange-tinged acidity.

And the Einstein connection? The landlord at Einstein's 251 in Caulfield North was born in the same street in Ulm as the famous physicist. Which makes him, I guess, almost a relation.

Do … Strike up a conversation with Eitam Brami. He likes to talk food.

Don't … Miss the Frankenfood ''mookie'' - a cookie made with muffin batter.

Dish … Chicken ''toastada''.

Vibe … Laid-back cafe with an eastern-Med twist.