So it seemed like the perfect candidate for Sarah's latest instalment of Dine & Dish #3: The Freshman, where bloggers were urged to post on a restaurant in its first (or freshman) year. Great idea!
As we near Cafe Kasturi we realise there are only two tables occupied, but we venture inside anyway as we gaze around our surroundings. It's modern but stark, and the giant lamps which hang over each table make you feel like you're dining at an operating table.
We hem and haw over the menu, a rather varied listing of Malaysian, Singaporean and Thai cuisine. Cafe Kasturi is actually attached to the Valentine on George, a newly opened boutique hotel with a strong Asian businessperson focus. In addition to the bistro-style Cafe Kasturi, patrons can head upstairs to the fine dining area Golden Cinnamon, or order takeaway at Satay Sydney. All operate off the same kitchen with similar menus.
Tom Yum Goong $7.80
Spicy Thai prawn soup with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and lemon juice
The tom yum goong is spicy, hot and sour with two freshly cooked prawns and plenty of lime leaves.
Popiah Goreng $7.80
Crispy spring rolls filled with vegetables
I have the popiah goreng, which are pretty much like fancy spring rolls. Instead of cabbage within, these spring rolls have plenty of mung bean vermicelli, mushroom and finely shredded bamboo shoots. The spring rolls are freshly fried, so crispy and golden they make an earth-shattering crunch with every bite.
The accompanying sambal is hot but very sweet, and the side salad of carrots and lettuce provide a welcome palate cleanser.
Sambal Ikan $13.80
Fish fillet in a mildly spicy chilli gravy served with rice
The two of us share the sambal ikan and our initial joy at first sight is validated with every mouthful. I forgot to ask what type of fish they used, but the fillet was firm and almost "meaty", battered and deep-fried before smothered in a sweet chilli and vinegary sauce.
The sauce is addictive, and I do the ol' "mop up the sauce with a spoonful of rice" trick to get every last mouthful.
We are so impressed with the food and the allure of a continuing 20% discount for the month of July (hurrah!), that we find ourselves back again a week later =) This time the place is a little more buzzy with five tables of people inside. It probably also helped that they finally put up 20% discount promotional signage on the windows. In addition they have publicised a new $8.90 lunchtime special which includes a laksa curry, rice, dessert and teh tarek (a Malaysian "pulled " or frothy tea).
We're in for the full experience though--and with 20% discount, hey, let's go all the way huh?
Otak Otak $7.80
Spicy fish mince blended with coconut cream and spices wrapped in banana leaves
My dining partner goes for the tom yum goong again, but I go for something different this time, ordering the otak otak, a dish I've had previously at The Malaya. The banana leaf package is like opening an edible Christmas present, and the caramelised slash of fish offers the allure of excitement within.
Unfortunately this version of otak otak doesn't seem to live up to the waxing lyrical memory of my initial experience. I find this otak otak a little floury and not very fish-pastey at all. It also seems to be bereft of the spice explosion I remembered from The Malaya, and I order extra sambal just to spice it up a bit.
However I admit I'm an otak otak newbie, so maybe it's supposed to taste like this, in which case, please ignore the previous paragraph. =)
Roti Canai $12.80
Crispy layered pancake served with chicken curry
The next dish though offers no such disappointment. The smell of freshly cooked roti wafts tantalisingly into our nostrils, and the sight of the chicken curry just screams out to be soaked up and savoured.
The roti is so fresh I could cry. Delicately flaky, crispy, buttery and fried to a tear-inducing golden brown, I cast a grateful smile towards the kitchen as I grab a square with greed-induced urgency.
We tear off generous shreds of roti and use it to soak up the rich warming flavours of the chicken curry sauce. The chicken itself is tender and the potato chunks at the bottom provide an extra carb kick. The sauce is so good you almost want to have it with just plain rice so you can appreciate all the flavours. But the roti is calling, and we must heed its instruction.
We mop up every last stain of curry sauce, picking up leftover flakes of roti with forlorn fingers, reluctant to acknowledge the dawning truth. That our meal is over and it's time for the bill...
There are a couple more dishes I'm keen to try here, including the nasi lemak (coconut rice with rendang, egg and acar), rendang ayam (chicken in spicy coconut sauce) and murtabak lembu (beef-filled pancake with curry sauce). Then of course, there's dessert: sagu (warm tapioca pearls with palm sugar and coconut rice), bubur pulut hitam (black glutinous rice), bubur kacang (warm mung bean porridge) and teh tarek ice cream!
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767-769 George Street, Sydney
Tel: 02 9288 9888
Open daily 12pm - 10pm.
The opening special 20% discount runs until the end of July 2005.
Check out Sarah's full round-up of entries for Dine & Dish #3: The Freshman here.
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7/10/2005 10:00:00 p.m.