Review: Oldtown in Newtown

Would you suggest an Italian restaurant for the farewell of an Italian chef? Bad idea, I know. My initial suggestion was Russo & Russo, as it seemed to be supported by several reviews in very reputable blogs, but they do set menu for groups of 6+ and that was a bit of a hassle for us. So I went ahead and included Oldtown in Newtown in my set of suggestions, and people voted on that one based mostly on location.

The gang included the Italian chef, a Kiwi chef/restaurateur and his wife, another Italian citizen, a couple of gourmands, and a former cook and food blogger (that would be me). Tough crowd to please.

First, the good. We all loved the decor and vibe of the place. Service was good and they were very patient with questions and special requests.

We started things off with a couple of nibbly dishes to share. The marinated olives were plump and delicious. The fresh figs served with duck prosciutto and buffalo ricotta were nice but IMO it lacked a bit of character. A strong flavour to contrast with the mild ones.

Marinated olives ($5)

Fresh figs, duck prosciutto & buffalo ricotta ($20)

A couple of buffalo capreses were ordered, too, and sent around the table to try. Good salad.

Buffalo caprese ($18)

A few of us ordered the tagliata, a 260g pasture-fed Angus Scotch fillet sliced and topped with salsa verde, served with hand-cut potatoes and smoked aioli. The dish was impressive and I really enjoyed. I heard from two people that it had too many potatoes and not enough meat but I disagree. I would have the same dish again.

Tagliata ($29)

The guest of honor ordered beer molasses ribs, beef ribs slow cooked in beer molasses with deep fried pumpkin gnocchi, pickled veggies and charred corn. Looked and sounded great, but I think he wasn’t very impressed with the dish.

Beer molasses ribs ($29)

The Wagyu beef lasagna seemed to be the biggest disappointment of the night. Apparently it was more pasta than sauce.

Wagyu beef lasagna ($24)

The beetroot gnocchi with radicchio, creamy blue cheese and walnuts seemed to be a better dish.

Beetroot gnocchi ($22)

There was also jar of pickled chillies floating around. I don’t know where it came from but it stayed within my reach the whole night.

Pickled chillies

I had been drinking red wine. By the time someone mentioned dessert (I think it was me) my good judgement was gone and I gave in. I had an affogato with Frangelico; it was delicious.

Affogato ($12)

The guest of honor had a chocolate & caramel tart that he didn’t like. I felt bad worse.

Chocolate & caramel tart ($12)

The home made tiramisu and canoli were better received by their non-Italian eaters.

Home made tiramisu ($10)

Home made cannoli ($12)

Oldtown in Newtown
6/503 King St
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9557 4339
On Facebook

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Review: Japan Village (Enmore)

A dinner catch-up with my sis finally took us to Japan Village, which had been in my radar for a couple of years. The place is small and by no means fancy but, as we found out, food is good and service is excellent.

Unlike other staff members in Japanese restaurants, the waitress knew which components of which dishes had gluten in them. She even showed concern when we decided to order the salmon teriyaki don but we told her the bit of gluten in the soy sauce would not be an issue. The dish, which included salad, seaweed, broccoli, potato salad and a fried spring roll (?) that remained uneaten, was very tasty and my once-in-a-while rice consumption was totally justified.

Salmon teriyaki don ($13.80)

We also shared a sushi sashimi combo that could be considered standard in flavour and variety but fresher than others. I would have liked more seasoning in the sushi rice.

Sushi sashimi combo ($18.80)

We also had the usual sides of miso soup and seaweed salad, both good.

Miso soup ($2.50)

Seaweed salad ($6.00)

Japan Village
162 Enmore Rd
Enmore NSW 2042
(02) 9557 2476
japanvillagerestaurant.com.au

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Q&A with Lucy from Feed Me Real Food Co

If you read my recent review of Feed Me Real Food Co‘s amazing ready meals and you want to know more today is your lucky day. Here’s a Q&A with Lucy that will give you a clear picture of what makes Feed Me so special.

On a personal level…

How did you become interested in food and nutrition?

I’ve been a foodie for as long as I can remember. Great and nourishing food to me, as well as experiencing food from different cultures, is one of the greatest pleasures in life ☺

As a child, I had always been quite active and did many different kinds of sports. Along with that I realised that eating healthy was important, but didn’t pay too much attention to it. It wasn’t until I had a few different overseas experiences in my life that involved seeing food scarcity, malnutrition and poor food choices that I realised how much of an interest I had in nutrition and health. So much so, that I have been studying Nutritional Medicine for the past couple of years, but am taking a break while growing the business. You can read about more of my story on our website here: http://www.feedmerealfood.co/team.

How would you describe your current approach to eating?

My approach to eating is insanely delicious!! ☺ In theory, I follow a “Paleo” way of eating, which is not a diet, but something that has become second nature and an underpinning philosophy in my life. I care about what I put into my body, where my food comes from (ethical, sustainably raised and grown sources), what the animals I eat, ate, and what is going to work for my body by providing me with the most nutrition possible to live well and thrive in life. I’m not a purist by any means and am happy to “stray” (within reason) in social situations.

What’s your favourite cuisine, restaurant and dish?

Has to be Japanese! My favourite dish is called Chirashi Don, or Chirashi Sushi. It’s all sorts of sashimi on top of sushi rice. I realise this is not technically “Paleo” by definition, but since I’m not evangelical about it and love food of different cultures, I don’t see anything wrong with that ☺ It’s too hard to pick a favourite restaurant!

What’s your favourite and least favourite ingredient/food?

Favourite ingredient is probably butter!! Least favourite is any kind of jam or marmalade. Ick! ☺

What’s your favourite kitchen gadget?

Hands down, without a doubt my slow cooker! What is better than coming home or waking up to a delicious smelling meal or broth?!! It makes things so much easier too and you don’t need to be all fancy or a kitchen whizz. Genius invention!!

You are currently doing a Whole30. What motivated you to do so and have you noticed any changes?

I think everyone’s approach to Whole30 is different. Some use it to try and work out what foods they can and can’t tolerate by eliminating them for 30 days and reintroducing them gradually to see how their bodies react. Others think of it quite restrictively like a diet for weight loss for 30 days and then go back to their old habits.

For me, because I already typically eat exactly what are classified as Whole 30 foods (with the exception of butter and Paleo-fied treats) as part of my way of eating, I use it as a reset and to normalise my hunger signals and cravings if I’ve been too keen with the Paleo-fied treats! It then allows me to maintain what I already do. I use sporadic intermittent fasting sometimes in the same way. I will also see how things go when adding back dairy because certain types of it aren’t great for my skin.

The main thing I’ve found is that I don’t feel the need to snack between meals and don’t have the cravings. Sometimes these things can be my downfall.

What other aspects of an ancestral lifestyle have you adopted?

An ancestral (Paleo/Primal) approach has also become a philosophy for everything that I do in my life. I love a back to basics approach with almost anything. I also tend to think about what things would have looked like in nature previously or what the most natural thing would be, before our modern industrial world got turned upside down. We aren’t living the way our evolutionary bodies were designed and equipped for, and it’s taking a toll on so many people who don’t realise the value of an ancestral lifestyle, which to me makes absolute sense and has done wonders for many facets of my health.

In terms of fitness/movement, I do functional fitness as well as walking barefoot in the park or at the beach, hiking, finding fun ways to play and general just spending time in nature. I am barefoot as often as I am allowed to be which is majority of the time! ☺

I also love that traditional wisdom’s cooking techniques are making a comeback and I am a big fan of cooking big batches of bone broth, fermenting foods and eating nose to tail which includes organ meats and saving the bones for broth.

I go for the less is more approach with personal care products and don’t use anything other than natural items, which mostly consists of coconut oil, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, essential oils, etc.

The same goes for medicine, drugs, etc. I haven’t had a need to use anything anyway as I haven’t been sick at all for more than 4 years, but I made the choice (about 4 years ago) never to use any kind of medicine or drug again, unless there was a life threatening situation. If I feel like I might almost be coming down with something I grab the coconut oil, turmeric, ginger and sometimes Manuka honey. Always does the trick straight away and stops anything from coming on. That’s all I need.

I go to sleep relatively early to most people. Usually around 9pm.

Any tips for people who want to get healthier?

Find a way of eating that works for you, and adopt it as second nature, not as a fad diet or else it becomes stressful, easy to fall off the wagon and result in unhealthy habits and cycles. It’s important to listen to your body and look out for signs and symptoms of discomfort, nausea, skin irritation or the many other little signals your body is sending you, because more often than not, it’s a result of something you’ve but into or onto your body.

Surround yourself with people who have similar philosophies on health and wellness and who enjoy similar things that you do. It means you’ll have people to do things that you enjoy with, makes for great social interaction time and more enjoyment of life.

Make time for quality sleep! Your body will love you for it!

Be comfortable in your own skin. You are unique and there is only one of you, and only one lifetime to do all the things you want to do. So what are you waiting for?!! ☺

Now tell me about the business…

What was your motivation when you started this project?

Being a huge foodie who lives and loves this way of eating and the lifestyle that goes with it, I also realised that in today’s crazy modern life, so many people want to eat healthy but don’t have a clue how to do it, aren’t organised enough to do it or just plain and simple, don’t have the time to do it. There are plenty of meal services out there, but hardly any that focus on the quality of the food and the speciality area of focus. So I wanted to make quality food available to those who want more than just a so-called healthier option. I also want to use the opportunity to help educate people about making better food choices.

Where do you get inspiration for recipes?

These days there are about a billion Paleo, Primal and Real Food websites with people who write blogs and post recipes. So sometimes a recipe might have come from something I saw online and adapted at home with some different ingredients, techniques and twists. The same can be said for the many recipe books I have at home! Those are also sources of inspiration.

What characteristics (flavour, difficulty to prepare, popularity, etc.) determine which dishes end up in your menu?

It definitely has to be delicious, nutritionally balanced (enough meat and veg) and sometimes when we’re adapting recipes we do think of the easier cuts of meat or vegies to prepare and cook that will also go well together.

We also think about what kinds of foods we think will appeal to people, depending on the season, type of cuisine or style of meal (eg. will people like salads in Summer, stews in Winter, will they like Thai or Indian inspired meals? etc)

Tell me about your ingredients and supplies.

We focus heavily on the quality of our food and where it comes from. Our produce and other ingredients are either grass fed, free range, chemical free, organic, etc. You won’t find any preservatives or other nasty additives in sight. I think it’s what separates us from a lot of the other meal services out there. We care about where we source our ingredients, what the animals we use ate and how they lived, how the vegetables were grown and how the spices were prepared. We eat this kind of food ourselves for optimal health and wouldn’t dream of providing anything less.

What is your favourite Feed Me dish?

Anything wrapped in bacon is always good, so in this case it’s the chicken thighs wrapped in bacon! ☺ Followed closely by the Balsamic beef!

What was your expected audience when you started this project? Does it correlate to your current client base?

We mainly wanted to appeal to the health conscious and time poor and people who are active, which can mean a wide demographic of people. We are not exclusive at all and have many different types of customers, from working mothers, to busy students, to gym trainers, to clients referred from different practitioners, to athletes, to busy office workers. I guess everyone has to eat eventually and many more people these days are conscious about eating well!!

What is the most challenging aspect of the business?

Trying not to eat all the yummy food! ☺

Would you like to share any news or plans for the near future?

There are plenty of things I’d like to do with Feed Me in the future. We will expand our reach and offer delivery to more areas and possibly have pick up points available. Paleo catering might be on the cards at some point. It’s exciting to think of the endless possibilities!

Feed Me – Real Food Co.
Level 1, 401 New South Head Rd
Double Bay
0403 425 321
hello@feedmerealfood.co
www.feedmerealfood.co

Review: Cuckoo Callay (Newtown)

The recent renovations done to the Newtown train station have brought quite a few new interesting eateries to the neighbourhood. Cuckoo Callay is not only in a premium location (just outside the station), but knows how to grab the attention of commuters with its wacky name and cheeky sense of humour (deliberate spelling mistakes, smart-ass jokes on the blackboard and takeaway coffee window).

I may be wrong but I think there was no indication of gluten-free items in the menu when they first opened. Now they’re clearly identifiable so it was easy for us to choose. The dishes came out of the kitchen roughly around the same time, but not together. We were first served the triple fried chips and aioli, which we originally thought of as a side but became an appetizer. The chunky wedges were piping hot and delicious, and the thick creamy aioli was one of the best that I’ve had lately.

Triple fried chips and aioli ($9)

The chips were served with a cute mini butter dish containing pink salt.

Pink salt

Then came the twice cooked pork belly with caramelized chilli and fresh lime. We found the caramel a bit too thick, sticky and sweet for our taste, but the pork belly was a good one. Nice presentation, too.

Twice cooked pork belly ($15)

Finally, we got the free range chicken and roasted dutch carrots with barley (which we asked to skip), herbed yoghurt and almonds. The chicken breast had been poached and sliced and went really well with the sweet carrots, almonds and generous serving of herbed yoghurt. I’m not often excited by poached chicken or yoghurt but this dish is clearly an exception.

Free range chicken and roasted dutch carrots ($17)

Cuckoo Callay
324 B, Newtown Railway station
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 8084 5383
www.cuckoo-callay.com.au

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Food for thought: The art of what is possible

We’re in the era of overachievement. Increased productivity. Hyper-competitiveness. Everything must be done better, faster, more often, more efficiently. You should be able to have a job (or two), take care of your family, go to Crossfit 7x week, work on your PhD and get away with sleeping 4 hours per night. No excuses. If we look at the results (ie, does this behaviour confers any sort of evolutionary advantage, makes us better people, leads us to permanent happiness, …?), the answer is likely to be “no”. So why do we do it? The victim-type/conspiracy-theorist would say society/the system/god/family/peer pressure is to blame. Those of us who prefer to believe in self-responsibility can go a bit deeper and find that ego is the culprit. Both pride and attachment -disturbing emotions that arise from illusion that “I” am separate from “you”- can make us behave in crazy ways. And in the process we forget to care about what really matters, like mental and physical health. In my opinion the real reason is that it’s easier to pay attention to fill your day with uni assignments and office stress than to sit down to meditate and spend quality time with your spouse. This also gives you a wonderful excuse to suck at everything you do and/or to avoid working hard enough to stop sucking at everything you do.

My Buddhist teacher has the perfect antidote for this. Whenever someone asks him “dear lama: I have two jobs, three kids and I’m working on my masters in aerospace engineering… how can I get through my personal practice?”, he knows that you’re really saying “I’m trying to fill up my time so that I have a pretty good excuse to not meditate” and he gives you the “art of what is possible” alternative. Meaning: do as much as you can, but do it. Meditate for 5 minutes if that’s all the time you have.

Mark Sisson has a similar approach when he says “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. How many times have you excused your lousy eating habits by thinking “I can’t afford grass-fed, sustainably-raised beef and organic local vegetables, therefore I’ll just eat ”? Or “I found the perfect gym but I can’t make it to any of their classes, so I’ll just continue to be a sedentary deskjockey for the rest of my life”? Aren’t we just coming up with excuses to escape from our “no excuses” lifestyle?

Although we like to think in black and white, pretty much everything in life falls in a spectrum. Meaning: no need to shoot for the stars, doing a bit better than yesterday is good enough. In a week/month/year you’ll be way ahead than if you just sit down and do nothing.

Review: Feed Me Real Food Co (Double Bay)

I finally got to try Feed Me Real Food Co‘s meals! I used to be a regular client of Lucy’s previous company, Eat Me Primal, so I knew the food would be good. In fact, she’s kept some of the dishes. I ordered two of each of the items that were available for a week worth of great lunches for Alvaro and me.

All the meals come in compostable sugar cane containers that I’ve found are great for reheating in a microwave oven. The label includes the meal description, ingredients, some tips and ideas to make the meal even yummier, the “eat me or freeze me before” date and directions for reheating.

We liked all the meals, although my favourites were the balsamic beef (beef slowly cooked in a spiced balsamic and tomato sauce, served with red cabbage, onion and apple and seasonal greens) and the lamb curry (slow cooked lamb, pumpkin and kale curry, served on a bed of cauliflower rice).

Balsamic beef ($15.00)

Lamb curry ($15.00)

Two new dishes that unfortunately are seasonal and won’t be available for much longer were the Saigon salad (summer Vietnamese style salad with fresh crunchy greens, herbs and poached chicken breast) and the peachy pork (slow cooked pork with peaches or seasonal stonefruit with cauliflower rice and green beans or seasonal greens). Great salad, with a good chunk of protein and a delicious date-sweetened dressing. A dollop of mayo would have been a great bonus. Regarding the pork, you can’t go wrong slow cooking a fatty slab of pork with fruit.

Saigon salad ($15.00)

Peachy pork ($15.00)

The smokin’ thighs (smoky chicken wrapped in bacon with baconified mash and seasonal greens) were pretty great too. The bacon fat in the sweet potato mash makes it extra delicious. The spiced meatballs (juicy, Indian spiced meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce, with roasted sweet potato and kale or seasonal greens) were my least favourite in the bunch of awesome meals. Not that they were bad, just didn’t do it for me as much as the other dishes.

Smokin’ thighs ($15.00)

… this time on a plate and with the recommended grass-fed butter on top of the greens!

Spiced meatballs ($15.00)

Finally, we got some free coconut cups (tasty morsels of creamy coconut coated in raw chocolate). These were great out of the fridge and even better frozen. Needless to say, they didn’t last long.

Coconut cups ($7.50)

Feed Me – Real Food Co.
Level 1, 401 New South Head Rd
Double Bay
0403 425 321
hello@feedmerealfood.co
www.feedmerealfood.co

Food for thought: A moving target is a better target

I used to be an avid attendee of a boxing class at my old gym. The workout was great and, in between really bad jokes, the instructor occasionally shared some insightful phrases. “If your abs look good your whole body looks good” and “a moving target is a better target” are two that really stuck with me. The first one is self-explanatory, so I’ll elaborate a bit on the second one.

What he was talking about was punching a heavy bag instead of training with a partner holding the pads for you. Training partners are great when they know how to make you work, but what usually happens is that they direct the pads to where is easy for you to punch (“throw the pads at you”, as Omar usually says), defeating the purpose of you having to think and react. However, if you punch a bag, it will swing around in an unpredictable manner, forcing you to move around and adjust your punches accordingly.

You can think the same way of “targets” in life: different situations in front of you that you cannot control. It’s not easy to deal with them; they force you to adapt and respond quicker. They make you a better fighter.

There are different ways of approaching this concept. While sitting around waiting for challenging situations to show up can certainly work, I prefer a more proactive approach. That’s why I try so many different things: to widen my skillset. On the mental level, I find it helps with fighting 2 of the 5 basic disturbing emotions: attachment (to situations that become habitual) and pride (which is under attack each time we find something difficult to understand or master).

Recipe: Carapulcra (Peruvian pork and potato stew)

This is very weird. I have hated this dish for most of my life. My mum and aunties are so nice that they actually cooked a different dish for me whenever they made carapulcra. When I went to cooking school my friends really trusted my palate and made me test their version before presenting them to the instructor for marking. I knew they were really well made but I still hated them. Last year Alvaro, Gladys, Vicky and I went to a Peruvian festival and I tried their carapulcra. I liked it. A lot. I liked it so much that I bought a bag of papa seca (dried potatoes, the main ingredient in carapulcra) online.

Carapulcra is a dish that hails from Chincha, a town South of Lima that received a big African migration. In Chincha they make it with fresh potatoes but somehow when the dish arrived Lima (and became extremely popular) the dried potatoes took over. I guess it was someone from the highlands who adapted it, since drying potatoes is a common preservation method in the Andes.

Anyway, apart from the potatoes, the other main ingredients in this stew are pork and peanuts. It also has a couple of flavour enhancers added at the end of the cooking process: chocolate and port. I’ve heard some people in Chincha add in a Sublime (milk chocolate with peanuts) but I prefer using dark chocolate and ground cashews instead of peanuts (what is wrong with peanuts? apart from being highly allergenic, they contain high amounts of phytates and are often contaminated with aflatoxins.)

Carapulcra
Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 500g papa seca (dried potatoes) or regular potatoes (Tasmanian pink eye recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon lard or ghee
  • 1 kg pork belly
  • 1 large red onion
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 100g ají panca (Peruvian red chilli) or other red chilli paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 litres chicken or pork broth
  • salt and pepper
  • 100g cashews
  • 20g dark chocolate (85% or higher recommended)
  • 1/4 cup port

Directions

  1. The night before: toast the papa seca in a dry pan for a few minutes until fragrant. Rinse and soak in a container with twice its volume of water overnight. Skip this step if you’re using regular potatoes.
  2. If you’re using regular potatoes, cut them in 1-cm cubes. Reserve in a bowl, covered with cold water.
  3. Cut the pork belly in bite-size pieces. Chop onion and mince garlic.
  4. Melt lard/ghee in a heavy-bottomed pot at high heat and sear the pork (be careful, it spits). Reserve.
  5. Lower the heat, let pot cool down a bit and add the onion, garlic and chilli paste. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Add cumin, cloves and cinnamon stick, stir. Add pork and drained potatoes, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper, mix well.
  7. Add broth, cover and cook for 1 hour.
  8. Grind cashews in a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle. Grate chocolate. Add both to the pot.
  9. Add port, turn heat off, discard cinnamon stick and adjust seasoning.
  10. Serve with cauliflower rice.

Review: Jalapeño (Newtown)

My friend Sebastian and I were looking for somewhere on Enmore Road to have dinner. We walked past Jalapeño, where he had been before. I wasn’t very excited about it because I very much prefer true Mexican food than Tex-Mex but there was a mixed grill on the menu that sounded promising. We entered and I had the feeling we should better leave because it was ran by an Asian (Vietnamese?) couple and the mixed grill was labelled as “not available” in the menus they handed us. Pretty much everything else had flour tortillas and/or beans. However, the lady owner recommended the fajitas, offering to replace the flour tortillas with corn tortillas. Yes, the place did not have the typical colourful Mexican décor, but the service was just as warm and friendly.

We started with a basket of warm corn chips served with tomato salsa. Good, plain corn chips and tasty, natural-tasting salsa. Good stuff.

Basket of corn chips and tomato salsa ($9.50)

We also ordered 2 servings of fajitas, each one served with sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, rice and 4 tortillas. I didn’t like the pico de gallo but the guac was good.

Rice, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole

Plastic tortilla press to serve tortillas

As much as I love lamb, I found the lamb fajitas (leg of lamb sliced and marinated with mustard sauce and herbs, grilled, served on sizzling hot plate with caramelised onions and salsa verde) a bit disappointing. The meat was dry and the sauce needed more kick.

Lamb fajitas ($21.90)

The chilli chicken fajitas (chicken breast sliced, marinated with spices and medium hot pimiento sauce, grilled with mushrooms and caramelised onion on sizzling hot plate) were much better. Very tasty, in fact.

Chilli chicken fajita ($21.90)

It was really good that they swapped the tortillas for me but you know what? I didn’t find them very tasty. I enjoyed more eating the meat + accompaniments with the provided cutlery.

In summary, it is not the most cheap or cheerful or tasty Tex-Mex/Mexican eatery around but if you’re not very fussy you can give it a shot.

Jalapeño
89 Enmore Rd
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 8094 9711

Jalapeno Tex-Mex Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Review: Newtown Thai II (Newtown)

On a late Sunday afternoon, Alvaro and I wandered King Street on search for lunch. I remembered having seen a “gluten-free available” sign on one of the many Thai eateries and so, after almost 5 years of living in the area, we finally tried Newtown Thai II.

We were advised by the waitress that only the stir fries could be made gluten-free. We chose our usual meats: duck and pork, the roasted duck with mixed mushrooms and the BBQ pork with ginger sauce. Both dishes were tasty and big enough for two hungry South Americans (even when I didn’t have any rice). I loved the inclusion of black fungus in both dishes. Service was quick and polite. We’ll be back.

Stir-fried BBQ pork with ginger sauce ($10)

Stir-fried roasted duck with mixed mushrooms ($10)

Newtown Thai II
105 King St
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9519 1197
newtownthai2.com

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