Yoda's culinary guide to southeast Asia

At Yoda Café on Sydney's Northern Beaches, generous servings of Thai, Vietnamese and Singaporean inspired treats make lunching a holiday.

Australia's favourite food blogger Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, road tests a new Avalon eatery inspired by extensive travels through southeast Asia and a sagely souvenir statue.

Don’t shun me, Dear Reader, but I have never seen Star Wars or Star Trek. Worse still, I often get the two mixed up. I know that one involves a princess with buns on the side of her head and a bikini, while the other has people with pointy ears. Neither of them involve ET, The Extra Terrestrial…

But when I heard whispers of a new restaurant just six weeks old in Sydney’s Northern Beaches in Avalon, called Yoda Café, I had to call Manly residents Louise and Viggo. Viggo is a long-time Star Wars enthusiast – indeed, at a Halloween party last year he wore a full Darth Vader outfit. I did have to warn him that there was no guarantee of an appearance of Yoda at the restaurant, though.

It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon when we take the 1.5-hour drive to Avalon, and it feels like you're on holidays in this scenic, laid-back area of the city. We take a seat at Yoda Café and wait for Louise, Viggo and his mum, Madame Butterfly, to arrive. There’s a wine list available but I order a ‘Yoda Drink’: a sparkling water with a wedge of kaffir lime, coriander, mint and cucumber – a refreshing way to hydrate. It’s busy in the cafe this afternoon, with some walk-ins as well as reservations.

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A statue resembling Yoda Café's namesake presides over the eatery

It's called Yoda Café after the statue at the back of the restaurant (which looks a bit like Yoda). This has served as a guide to the café’s friendly owners, Michelle and Brendan, who have lived in countries across southeast Asia for nine years.

The menu is a mix of Asian goodies from Singapore (kaya toast) to Vietnam to Thailand, reflecting the couple’s travels. I ask if the kaya coconut jam is homemade and Michelle answers, “Are you Singaporean?” – apparently this is the question Singaporean diners always ask. (And yes, it is homemade.)

They have run out of coconut juice, so instead we order a coconut hot chocolate, which is rich with a strong coconut flavour and a swirl of chocolate sauce at the bottom of the glass.

The kaya comes with butter and two thickish slices of toast. The kaya itself is eggy and sweet, and we are kindly offered a spoon to eat it with – and the offer of more, should we need it.

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Yoda Café's generous, do-it-yourself betel leaf dish

I’m so used to seeing betel leaf dishes for $4-5 per betel leaf, so we ask how many there are to a serve and are told about 8-10 pieces – a generous amount for the price. It’s self-assembly here, with shelled crab meat, toasted rice, peanuts, Thai basil, pineapple, green onion, coconut and a tangy chilli sauce to spoon over the betel leaves.

The Vietnamese baguette is a house-baked baguette with soft, thick slices of pork, paté and salad. I’d love a bit more filling or sauce but the pate is appealingly strong and it’s a good lunch offering.

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