The Graff Caff has been a long-loved venue of us here at Sydney Tum Tum for quite a while. Recently, the family relaunched their little café while Erich, one half of the dynamic duo who runs this amazing eatery, was on holiday. To his surprise, he came back to a Japanese-inspired café with the interior designed by his artistically-gifted daughter, Lara.
His wife, Takako aka the resident baking powerhouse, ensured that her delicious and beautiful baked goods remained the focus of café while a new menu was designed by their son, Owen.
Though they were swamped during the opening event that day, they had one of their award-winning Vegan Pies left. They’ve usually been sold out the last few times we’ve visited so we were eager to try this pie again.
As with all Takako’s pastries, the pie crust was very crispy at first but soon starts to melt in your mouth. The pie itself was packed with oven-roasted pumpkin and chickpeas. There’s plenty of flavour and heaps of texture. Just as good as we remember it!
Our friend ordered the Veal Sausage Roll. The first thing I noticed was the freshness of the meat and pastry, complemented by the roasted fennel seeds sprinkled on top. It had a clean and punchy flavour to it. One of the best sausage rolls I’ve ever tasted!
I was keen to try the Tofu Noodle Salad because, reading the menu, it sounded phenomenal. The presentation of this bowl is enough to get the tummy rumbling in anticipation!
The dish is made up of vermicelli noodles topped with asian greens, soft tofu, crispy fried onions, edamame, renkon chips and a Japanese-style boiled egg (nitamago) and dressed with a sesame-mayo dressing. All of these elements are delicately balanced in this bowl to create a fresh, delicious and satisfying salad.
My girlfriend opted for the Vegan Taco Rice. The brown and white rice was topped with vegan “chilli con carne” which was recreated with Japanese marinated soybeans and topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, vegan cheese and special sauce.
This dish was a perfect fusion of Tex-Mex and Japanese food and a creative take on the traditional donburi. These were new ingredients used in a way that I’ve never seen before. It was a great example of Manmaru’s ability to bring two cuisines from opposite sides of the globe together seamlessly.
Our friend’s second choice was the Avocado Toast with Preserved Lemon & Japanese Dukkah. The avocado was fresh and there was plenty of it while preserved lemon provided plenty of zing. The Japanese dukkah rounded off on a what turned out to be a delicious and interesting take on the much-loved avo toast.
In addition, tasters of their edible treats were passed around and we were lucky enough to try their Vegan Brownies topped with edible rose petals. The brownie was rich, soft and sweet… just the way a brownie should be!
To go with our meal, I ordered the Soy Iced Chai which was spicy and perfect to wash down the tofu noodle salad. My girlfriend’s Soy Matcha Milkshake was very creamy and just a little sweet. Perfectly balanced and refreshing.
We thoroughly enjoyed the opening of Manmaru, and the talents of both their children are showcased in both the decor and menu. The revival of The Graff Caff had some big shoes to fill but we feel they’ve done a great job introducing a new theme to the café. We’ll be back soon!
It was time to revisit Manmaru to see how things had changed. The first thing I noticed was the revised menu. It’s been reworked to incorporate more traditional Japanese ingredients like yuzu, koji and miso.
The shop retained its Japanese-inspired decor and it feels very calming to be in the shop. The light colours of the interior give the front of the cafe a very bright and airy feel.
The vegan White Chocolate Matcha Latte was my drink of choice. I’ve had many matcha lattes in the past, most of which I’ve enjoyed but I wanted to see how a touch of white chocolate changed the flavour.
It was great fun to see the matcha being whisked in front of me to be poured into my latte glass. The touch of white chocolate gave my drink another layer of flavour. The white chocolate was not overpowering at all, just a hint to bring the matcha to the foreground. I really enjoyed Manmaru’s rendition of the matcha latte.
We missed out on the Crispy Mochi Dumplings on opening day because they were sold out! Luckily my second visit was my chance to give these a go. These are perfect to share and came out with a simple soy dipping sauce. The dumplings were very crispy on the outside with the signature mochi softness on the inside. I only wish we had a bit more of the chickpea tofu, cabbage and red quinoa filling in the dumplings but this was a completely new experience that I would order again!
Suzy Spoon is a famous vegetarian butcher in St Peters who we visited in our pre-blogging days and rarely have the chance to try so when I saw her sausage on the menu, I had to order it. Her sausage was served with sweet potato mash and microgreens in a Japanese milk bun and topped with Japanese mayo and black sesame seeds. This was a delicious combo and left me feeling very satisfied.
The couple’s daughter, Lara, has also teamed up with her mother to design and bake her own cakes. She mentioned that all the traditional flavours he used to hate as a child like Yuzu, Koji and miso, she’s grown to appreciate and wants to use them more in her cooking.
There’s no doubt that Manmaru is a unique in its Japanese-inspired cuisine. The Fasolin family have found a way to adapt the traditional Japanese flavours and ingredients to Australian tastes and that is something you’ll rarely find around here.