17 Morey Street Armadale, Victoria 3143
|Opening hours||Daily 8am-3pm|
|Features||Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||03 9500 0823|
The new venture from Merchants Guild co-owners Vincent Conti, Mario Minichilli and chef Ryo Doyama (who also worked at Merchants Guild), Walk Don't Run is achingly on-trend in the "clean eating" genre – they boast incorporating "superfoods" into every dish and there are even multiple ingredients that have been "activated".
But thanks to Doyama's Japanese influences, Walk Don't Run's "mindful eating" ethos does not, like some of its earnest peers, preclude flavour; if I hadn't read the menu before ordering the house hot-smoked salmon salad (with roasted baby veg, broccolini, freekeh, farro and honey yuzu dressing, $25, and at once delicate and satisfying), I would not have suspected I could well be eating a breakfast that Pete Evans might order.
"We try to be more creative so our food is clean and simple, but not boring," Doyama says. "Many Japanese people eat very cleanly anyway, so I have used my background and added things like ancient grains to try and make something different."
It's hard to miss the message in some of the dishes, like the raw organic granola (gluten-free, natch) with activated buckinis, nuts, seeds, acai berries and chia yoghurt ($17) and the buckwheat and quinoa porridge with coconut milk, almond milk, goji berries, rhubarb, poached pear, banana and an activated nut and seed crumble ($16).
But many of Doyama's creations would sit just as comfortably on a "regular" Japanese menu: the chilled organic green tea soba noodle with poached chicken, beans, nuts, seeds and tahini ponzu dressing ($25) and the grilled eggplant with spicy nut paste, farro salad, fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes and labna ($23).
The savoury rice porridge with poached chicken, corn, ginger, chilli, soy sauce and coriander, cooked in kombu stock and served with shallots and a poached egg ($17, vegetarian also available) is a winter revelation and a favourite among regular breakfasters.
"But the most popular is our Life Loaf – which we make here, from our own recipe that we took many months to create – and the baked millet and vegetable slice (served with two poached eggs, activated cashew cream and super greens pesto, $20)," Doyama says. He makes everything from scratch in-house despite the tiny space.
It's small, but Walk Dont Run is surprisingly calm and quiet – largely due to the lack of espresso machine. "We do the French press instead, because it's healthier than an espresso; you don't need sugar or milk because it's naturally sweeter," Doyama says. "It fits our concept."
It has also led to more people eating in than you might expect from a cafe perched next to a busy train station.
"We do get people on their way to the station, but not many get takeaway food," he says. "People prefer to eat in. It's more relaxed here, a different atmosphere to most cafes."