Sedap Malaysian Kopitiam, oh, the weight (or lack) of expectations.
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501 George street is a place I avoid. I always found Regent Place confounding, lots of entries feed visitors into a narrow building with floors connected by oddly placed long escalators reminiscent of a M.C. Escher drawing. A decade ago, I remember it as a a sleepy cluster of eateries. These days, it’s home to buzzing restaurants, dessert bars and watering holes. The feel is Asian, where everything is packed tight with every square metre used.
And like Asia, queues abound. Young people, like ants crawling everywhere and pulsating music compete with loud, excited voices. And it’s just after 6pm on a weekday.
Sedap Malaysian Kopitiam beckons us to rush in. This tiny eatery still had a couple of spare tables.
They’ve tried to recreate the excitement of a casual outdoor Asian dining experience with murals of street food eating and strings of light bulbs overhead. And like the Asian street food experience we’re sitting on barely comfortable stools made for fast eating.
A friendly waiter swoops with the menu, eager to increase the shop’s turnover. We’re hungry and keen to get our order into the kitchen before the rush starts. The menu is standard quick fix Malaysian and we settled for a couple of classics plus something different.
Chaipo tofu fried is different alright. It lands on our table looking like nothing I’d expect at a local Malaysian eatery. Curries, sauces, tender cooked meat I’d expect. This dish is a gravel of brown interspersed with rings of red chilli and lightly fried broccoli bouquets poking out around the edges. Dig deep and you’ll find snow white tofu lurking underneath. Scoop a spoonful and it’s instant heaven; crunchy, fragrant deep fried crushed garlic with silky, melty tofu. Crunchy and soft, fragrant and subdued – like Ying and Yang they work – inexplicably. Mouthful after mouthful it’s hard to stop.
Walter’s face lights up at the first mouthful of beef rendang and he begs me to try it. Sure the beef is well-cooked so the dark gravy seeps deep inside. But he’s smiling at the fiery spice of the dish, easily the hottest version I’ve had. It’s not gratuitous, that zing works wonders, making each mouthful and complex yet simple joy.
I’m very jealous. While my chicken curry is tender and swims in a rich curry, it’s respectable but doesn’t slap you in the face like Walter’s rendang. Still, I can comfort myself in repeated mouthfuls of the Chaipo tofu fried garlic soil (that’s what fine diners would have called it).
As we’re leaving, Walter and I both spy a neighbouring table face deep in a golden bowls of shiny laksa. I soooo want to try it next visit.
My, how one meal has affected us. We rushed into Sedap with low expectations and leave expecting the world.
Sedap Malaysian Kopitiam
10-12/501 George St, Sydney
(02) 8021 4424
Other Sedap branches are located in Westfield Chatswood, Westfield Eastgardens and ANZ Tower.