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Flavours of Malaysia 2014 at The Grace Hotel

I’ve never been to Malaysia before but judging from Malaysians’ passionate relationship with food, I think I’d fit right in. Malaysia’s love of food was clearly evident at the launch of the Flavours of Malaysia buffet at The Grace Hotel, where there was an incredible spread of Malaysian food created by three Malaysian chefs who were specially flown in for the event.

Here’s a taste of what was on offer:

Cold salads
DIY Rojak and Pasembor salads

The cold section held a number of salads, including a DIY Rojak (mixed fruit salad with a prawn paste sauce) and Pasembor (mixed vegetable salad with peanut sauce). There were also a few salads that I’d never seen before, like a glass noodle salad with coconut and prawn, and a tripe salad.

Beef and chicken satay skewers
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Manta Restaurant, Sydney

The weather is finally warming up which means that it’s time to go out and enjoy the sunshine! And what better way to enjoy the sunshine than a nice meal by the water where you can hear the waves lapping up against the pier and feel the warmth of the sun on your back.

Dining room at Manta Restaurant

The Finger Wharf at Woolloomooloo is a great place to do this, as well as do a little bit of people watching while you dine. We visited Manta for lunch on a gloriously sunny day to celebrate The Cat’s birthday. We’d scored ourselves a voucher for 6 people for $259 – which came to less than $45pp for three courses. The set menu had a choice of three options per course, and also included a glass of house red or house white. Since we had a table of 6, we were able to order every item off the menu and I can safely say that all the dishes were delicious!

Freshly shucked Sydney rock and pacific oysters, spring onion, apple, pepper and white balsamic dressing

I started with freshly shucked oysters which included both the Pacific and Sydney Rock variety. The oysters came with a fresh lemon cheek, a sweet spring onion and apple dressing, and a tangy balsamic and pepper dressing. The oysters were deliciously briny and really didn’t need much more than a squeeze of lemon juice, but the spring onion and apple dressing also went quite well with the oysters.

Fried calamari, chilli salt, lemon zest, parsley, pickled fennel and roasted black garlic aioli
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Black Betty BBQ at The Oxford Tavern, Petersham

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Oxford Tavern is a seedy pub, seeing as up until last year, the main drawcards were the topless waitresses, jelly wrestling and the “live hot girls”. But since the Drink ‘n’ Dine group’s revamp of the inner west pub, the pokies area has been changed to a beer garden, “jelly wrestling” now refers to a dessert on the menu, and instead of girls, you can now get “live hot BBQ”!

Beer garden at The Oxford Tavern

Live hot BBQ sounds like something right up my alley, so we went to check out The Oxford Tavern’s new Black Betty BBQ. It’s an impressive beast of an outdoor smoker that has been operating for the past couple of months, churning out smoked meats cooked low and slow on the weekends until sold out.

Black Betty menu

There’s a range of smoked goodies on the menu, generally sold by weight. You can also see the prepared meats in the glass cabinet at the counter, and they all look amazing. Executive Chef of the Drink ‘n’ Dine group, Jamie Thomas, is there to serve up the meat himself, and he slices up a little bit of everything for us to try.

Platter full of meat!

We end up with a huge platter of meaty goodness featuring all the menu items on the standard Black Betty BBQ menu, as well as the specials for the day.

Smoked chicken – $8 per 1/4 chicken

The smoked chicken is the only poultry item on the Black Betty menu, and it has an amazingly smoky flavour and is succulent and juicy.

Beef brisket – $8 per 100g
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Kuidaore in Osaka: Eat til you drop!

After our adventures up north in Hokkaido, we took a flight from Sapporo down to Osaka. Although we visited Japan in springtime, Sapporo was still very cold with snow still lining the streets and intermittent snow flurries! So we were quite glad to experience warmer weather once we disembarked our flight.

Spring is also sakura season, so while it was still too cold for sakura in Hokkaido, we were fortunate enough to catch the tail end of the blooming cherry blossoms in Osaka. I’d done a bit of research on where we might be able to find sakura in Osaka, so on our first full day there we headed to the aptly named Kema Sakuranomiya Park to go sakura spotting.

Market stalls in Sakuranomiya Park

Our little trip to the park showed us that Osaka really is a city of food! We were there to see sakura but Osaka put on a show for us that weekend by having endless food stalls throughout the whole park. We literally walked through the entire length of the park and there was no way that you could have gone hungry with all the food on sticks available. Here is some of what we saw:

Cheese balls on a stick
Sausage on a stick
Sakura in bloom
A ring of fish (on a stick) cooking around charcoals
Corn!

Freshly made taiyaki
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Salvage Specialty Coffee, Artarmon

Even though there are plenty of cafes around my area, I still get a little excited when a new one pops up. Word on the street was that there was a new cafe in Artarmon that had awesome coffee and food to boot.

Latte – $3.50

You’d never think that there was a hipster cafe down the little pedestrian walkway leading out from Artarmon train station, but in amongst the Japanese restaurants, convenience stores and bookshops is Salvage Specialty Coffee.

Mecca Coffee

They take their coffee seriously here with the Mecca Dark Horse blend and single origin coffees on offer, and a rather amusing sign saying that any coffee “extras” cost 50c – extras that may or may not include “soy, extra shot, mocha, honey, vampire blood, unicorn tears, kisses from Zooey Deschanel”.

Cold brew – $5

Apart from the normal espresso-based coffees, Salvage also do filter coffees including Aeropress and cold brews. The cold brew comes in a cute Salvage bottle and is served with a sphere of ice in a glass to keep it chilled.

Croque Madame – $14.50
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A Sydney food blog