Whether or not eating activated charcoal is actually good for you, its trendiness on Instagram is understandable.
It makes ice cream look chic in a villainous way.
It makes lattes look like they possess Voldemort-level dark powers.
It's an aesthetic superpower, no doubt about it. But that doesn't necessarily mean it should be put into everything, as has been demonstrated by this Australian eatery's divisive new dish, making strides on the internet for (likely) unintended reasons: it, um, looks like poop.
The fish is cooked in a batter containing apple cider vinegar and activated charcoal and served on beetroot labneh, a cheese made from strained yogurt.
Melbourne's Long Story Short Cafe is revered for its photogenic all-day brunch, and it's not hard to see why. A quick scroll through the restaurant's Instagram gives way to enchanting stacks of Tim Tam pancakes, dessert burgers covered by fabulous domes of cotton candy and unreal matcha lattes with white chocolate. With an immaculate track record like that, what the devil were they thinking blackening pieces of fish until they resembled dog droppings baking in the hot sun?
They were trying to make a statement, Long Story Short owner Ly Nguyen told news.com.au.
“We wanted to incorporate fish and chips into our menu, but we don’t do standard dishes," she said. "We always like to have a twist to our dishes."
Besides its fecal appearance, the dish presents another issue.
It's unlikely that the activated charcoal in the dish really does the body any good. According to WebMD, the only thing activated charcoal has been proven to do is treat minor poisonings. While the trendy food is celebrated for reducing cholesterol and healing hangovers, there's little evidence it does either. It's yet another health trend with lots of looks and little substance.
Despite its resemblance to campfire-roasted feces, the menu item must be performing well, judging by the restaurant's caption in the photo below.
"Overwhelmed by the love and wonderful feedback from those who have tried our activated charcoal fish and chips," it reads.
In fact, the dish tastes like regular fish and chips, and the hundreds of customers who have ordered it have eaten every bite, Nguyen told news.com.au.
Curious to try it? With a glance at the restaurant's breakfast menu, it sounds like a destination worth the trip. Its new fairy floss dessert burger -- a Sicilian brioche with honeycomb gelato, fruit salad, white chocolate matcha sauce, fruit jellies and a huge cotton candy dome that you douse with coconut milk to uncover the burger -- has appeared in many an Instagram video.
Their buttermilk Tim Tam pancakes are made with poached Nashi pears, vanilla peanuts, mascarpone "chocolate soup" and Tim Tam gelato.
And their avocado toast -- topped with poached eggs, broccolini, goat cheese, nuts and seeds -- looks like food fit for a fairy.
Guess it's time for a trip Down Under.