In Short: The Malaya at King Street Wharf is an innovative culinary adventure through the tastes of the Southeast, with roots in traditional favourites. Tip: The Szechuan Eggplant is an absolute must try at The Malaya. Simply stunning!
Sydney’s culinary epicentre has shifted regularly throughout its recent history, and that foodie migration continues with the gastronomic gravitational force of precincts like King Street Wharf, Barangaroo, and Darling Quarter, creating a tasty vortex that pulls foodies from afar. With a lineage that stretches back to the 1960’s, The Malaya has deep roots in this city, and those roots have given flower to its current incarnation that glistens amongst the masts and moorings of the King Street Wharf harbourscape.
We’re lucky enough to sit down with The Malaya’s delightfully knowledgeable manager Tri Le, to sample some of The Malaya’s innovative, and traditionally inspired, Southeast Asian flavours that have made it a favourite with Sydneysiders.
Sensing this could be a bountiful banquet of dishes with lots of in-focus photos needing to be taken, we decide that a clear head is a must, so we opt for some of The Malaya’s mosaic of marvellous mocktails to start. Tri suggests one of his personal favourites, the Adam & Steve. Ginger lovers have found their mecca in this glass. With splashes of Ginger Beer, Ginger Ale, Lime, and an infusion of mint and apple, this spicy number is the perfect palate refresher.
On the opposite end of the mocktail flavour spectrum is the Ghost. This one is a homage to the subtly decadent vanilla bean. A base of vanilla bean ice cream is enhanced with vanilla bean and vanilla syrup shaken milk, accented with cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s like when you were a kid and you always wished you could have dessert first!
Breaking up the bevy of beverages, we begin the nibbles with Salt & Pepper Prawns. The Malaya knows how to craft its crustaceans, and these light and crispy deep fried, juicy prawns are tossed in fresh, vibrant chili, cracked pepper, salt, and a pop of shallots for good measure. They’re the ideal plate to kick off this eclectic meal that has been carefully designed to celebrate the Sydney Festival.
I’m a huge fan of getting tactile with food, and San Choy Bao fits the bill perfectly. If you’ve never experience the simple delight this dish can be, then this version of Chicken San Choy Bao is where you should start. The chefs of The Malaya have struck the ideal balance of spice, sweetness, and texture in this deliciously refreshing and playful starter. It’s a very communal plate that brings a table together, and who doesn’t enjoy playing with your food?!
It’s a busy night and the kitchen is running at full steam; the engine of The Malaya is open for all to see. It’s clear that there’s a passion behind the menu and that comes through as the talented chefs ply their trade on the galley stage.
With two tasters down, it’s time for another sip from the mocktails menu, and this time our friendly server slides a tall Apple Mojito right under my chin. With a muddling of mint, lime, and palm sugar beautifully accenting a plunge of apple juice and sparkling soda, this non-alcoholic version could give its naughtier cousin a run for its money.
King Prawns always draw the eye when perusing the menu, and the Kapitan Prawns justify that distinction. Mavis, fellow Coco & Viner and Malay mentor, describes this usually chicken-based dish as being very lemak, or very coconut milk influenced, in its flavour profile. With lightly battered king prawns in Penang style curry, I’d describe it as yum!
If you’ve ever done any travel throughout Indonesia, or Southeast Asia for that matter, you have invariably stuck a fork in one of the most succulent, tasty, and tender takes on beef, the distinctive Beef Rendang. The Malaya’s Coconut Beef Rendang does the brand proud with a generous pull-apart portion of moist beef that exudes the rich and complex flavours of the curry.
It’s always hard to follow a strong act, especially when the acts have been so very strong, but believe me when I say, if you go to The Malaya without ordering the Szechuan Eggplant, then it’s time we have a little talk about your foodie career plan. This plate is a sneaky stunner! As soon as the marinated dry style, stir-fried eggplant with cashews, shallots, and chillies touched the tongue, conversation paused.
It’s not hyperbole when I say, I would come to The Malaya just to eat this dish alone. The ebony glaze of the crunchy eggplant skin is almost jewel-like, and the flavour that it imparts to the overall dish is exceptional.
With a parade of flavours being the tone for the meal, why change direction for dessert? Three tempting treats arrive in a symmetry of sweets that includes chocolate coated ice cream truffles, Black Rice Pudding, and Coconut Sago Pudding. As regular Coco & Vine readers may know, I have a soft spot for the sweet sago pearls. Combine that with coconut, palm sugar, and coconut sorbet and let’s just say I was keen to keep the entire dessert tray in my corner of the table. All three creations were a delicately divine topper to the evening and left a memorable taste on everyone’s tongue.
The Malaya at King Street Wharf offers up a vibrant balance of inspired innovation, built on flavours with roots in traditional favourites. A passion for food set against a backdrop of harbour-hued elegance makes it a definite destination when the tastes of the Southeast beckon.
*Coco & Vine dined as guests of The Malaya.