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Sunday, July 10, 2005

Cafe Kasturi, Haymarket

We'd been curious about Cafe Kasturi ever since it opened on George Street three months ago. Boarded up for months and months, suddenly there was glass frontage, modern signage and more Ikea-style furniture than you could poke an Allen key at.

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!

View Larger Map
Cafe Kasturi on Urbanspoon

Cafe Kasturi
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.

13 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (AugustusGloop) on 7/10/2005 10:00:00 pm


  • At 7/10/2005 10:07 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I keep seeing this on the bus on the way in to work. It sounds worth a go...thanks for trying it out for me! I've already tried the dumpling shop across the road(dumplings good, noodles HUGE)

    I'd definitely try the murtabak and teh tarik! yumyum. For future dining reference, authentic bubur pulut hitam should come with a creamy salty hit of coconut milk. And you're right the Otak Otak should be spicier and more creamier then what you describe having.

  • At 7/10/2005 10:07 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I keep seeing this on the bus on the way in to work. It sounds worth a go...thanks for trying it out for me! I've already tried the dumpling shop across the road(dumplings good, noodles HUGE)

    I'd definitely try the murtabak and teh tarik! yumyum. For future dining reference, authentic bubur pulut hitam should come with a creamy salty hit of coconut milk. And you're right the Otak Otak should be spicier and more creamier then what you describe having.

  • At 7/11/2005 5:28 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'll be back too.. if i were you .. :) All the food that i crave for.. yumms..!! now my blood sugar is definitely gonna go up.. hahah!!


  • At 7/11/2005 9:44 am, Blogger deborah said…

    Oh that roti canai looks so good. i will definitely be stopping in to try this. i don't need to have a craving for roti and a good chicken curry - this is something i can have whenever its put infront of me! yum!

  • At 7/11/2005 1:11 pm, Blogger Kelly said…

    This place looks delicious! Lucky I've just had my lunch otherwise I'd be drooling all over my keyboard!

    I just got curious about what Kasturi means and found this: "Kasturi is the strong scented secretion found in rare musk deer, used by kings and queens, also used for most expensive perfumes." Hmm...maybe you'd rather not know after all...

  • At 7/11/2005 7:11 pm, Blogger Reid said…

    Hi AG,

    The chicken curry and roti canai looks good. You're so lucky to be able to find this type of food in Sydney. If I want to eat Malay/Singaporean food, I'll have to cook it myself. *sigh*

  • At 7/11/2005 8:10 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Sue - Yes, China Noodle King is great and you're right, their noodles ARE huge.

    Thanks for the tips and I'm glad to hear that it sounds like I had a dud otak otak. Cos I really did like that one I had at The Malaya.

    Hi Mrs T - Yes I'll be back. And sorry for making your blood sugar go haywire, but the food was great.

    Hi Saffron - The roti canai was great. I was sooo impressed with its freshness. Mmm... I can almost taste it now...

    Hi BrisKJJ - Hehe. Good thing!

    And er, thanks for the translation research... I think! That's quite scarey. I won't be able to stop thinking about that the next time I eat there! lol

    Hi Reid - Yeah we're spoilt pigs in Sydney. I'm telling ya, you gotta head down here for a gastronomic tour!

    And hey, your posts on obento, croquettes and daifuku always make me green with envy!

  • At 7/13/2005 4:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    aah, ag, you always have such wonderful posts! thanks again for playing in dine and dish - three for three - you're on the varisty team now!

    by the way - i have decided to call the roti "onionfood" - you know the kinds of foods that are so good they make you cry ;)

  • At 7/15/2005 2:37 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Sarah - Aw, shucks thanks. There are still many foodbloggers out there whose html expertise, photography skills and culinary efforts make me weep with envy.

    Varsity team? =) That sounds so American - yeah, funny that!

    And I like the call on the "onionfood". Except there's no danger of slicing your finger from the resultant blurred vision...!

  • At 7/16/2005 9:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey AG.

    Was told to have a look at your blog by dad and i have to say i am v.v. impressed! The photos are spectacular and i'm coming to get some tips on photography! You should be writing food critics for some glamourous magazine! I'll start the mag and you'll be the first person i head (or tummy) hunt! hehehehe
    Keep up the good work.. im v. hungry now!

    Alex :)

  • At 7/18/2005 1:01 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Alexandra - Hi and thanks for checking out my blog!

    Glad you are enjoying the salivary journey. I would love to be writing for a glam foodie magazine! Let me know when you start one up! =)

    Enjoy the site and maybe you should start your own blog? There are thousands of great photo and food blogs out there. Gives you a great excuse to practise!

  • At 7/20/2005 6:58 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey again!

    My own blog?? i wish i had the time! Between uni and all, but make sure u keep yours going. i am so impressed at how up to date you keep it. Fantastic writing, fantastic photography, looks likes you're having a fantastic culinary time! No wonder dad loves being in sydney, eating all this great food.
    Tell him i said hi, he's too busy to write back to my emails!

    See you soon
    Alex :)

  • At 7/20/2005 8:27 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Alex - Time is elastic. And thankfully, so is my stomach!

    I'll pass on your greetings. Now you know where the eat the next time you're in Sydney! =)


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