I have been here a few times, but today would be the first visit with a guest of Malaysian descent. Someone more familiar to the cuisine than myself, and trying plates I otherwise wouldn’t have ordered. We also brought with us two others who were complete new to the cuisine.
I allowed the expert to order for the group. It made me happy to see his excitement, as evident on his face. He went through all the pages like a familiar book. Reading names in the perfect pitch and tone. Admittedly I only knew a handful of items and would only order a handful of items. So decided to write this post to commemorate dishes that I would not think to order myself. Dishes I only got to try because he ordered them. Dishes I liked but may not order again. Dishes that were good, but they just don’t hold the same childhood nostalgia as some of the other ones did for me.
I describe Malaysian food as being on the sweeter side. The full contrast to other Asian styles of cooking. Where Vietnamese dishes balance sour tones, Japanese cuisine toggles salt, and Schezwan cooking highlights spicy peppers. The best example of this sweetness in savoury was with their “Roti Canai”. “Roti” is an Indian influenced flat bread. The Malaysian equivalent of naan, served similarly with curry. But here the curry is more watery, and sweetened with coconut milk. The first timers liked it, but I was disappointed by it. The flatbread was not as fluffy as I have had it and not as buttery as I would have liked it. But having nothing to comparing it to, our guests were happily satisfied. They devoured three servings worth, leaving only flaky crumbs on the plate.
The restaurant is known for their “Hainanese chicken” so I continuously find myself ordering it upon every visit. This chicken requires very special preparation. It is described as a “delightful marriage of Chinese tradition and Malaysian complexity”. Hainanese Chicken uses the art of boneless-chicken cooking. The process involves the selection of quality meats, a delicate boiling process, and complex sauce-making. We ordered a regular “Hainanese Chicken Rice + Soup”. The bowl of soup is boiled from chicken bones, it’s clear broth was served first. As I have already learned, this chicken isn’t for everyone, as its colouring and temperate can be off putting. Especially to those unfamiliar and those who are use to only eating their meat warm. This was the case with our guest who liked the fact that the chicken was so juicy and so tender that almost melts in your mouth. Though she would have liked it served as warm as the rice it came with. The yellow garlic oil rice, the green onion spread, and red chilli sauce were flavours everyone enjoyed.
I keep forgetting that their “laksa noodle soup” isn’t worth getting. The menu describes it as a “rich and attractively spiced affair with tasty Tropical ingredients”. Their glossy description over sold this as did their factoid that this is “the crown jewel of Malaysian Cuisine adored by food-lovers around the globe. In 2011, it was honored by CNN as one of the world’s 50 most delicious foods”. Reading the entire description only got you more disappointed. The soup’s texture was rich from the curry and coconut, but other than that, this version lacked anything that identified it as being any more than neon yellow-orange soup. It was bland, the chicken in the bowl was as flavourful as it looked. It was disappointing to me, as I knew what to compare it to. I didn’t have the heart to make the others aware of this.
“Oyster Sauce Gai-Lan Vegetable”. “Gai-lan” is also referred to as “Chinese broccoli”. It’s stalk is crisp like that of regular broccoli, but instead of florets it has leaves and unsprouted buds. “Malaysian vegetarian cooking emulates the Chinese tradition of not over-cooking the vegetables so their freshness and original texture can be captured”. As a result the vegetable remains crunchy with an enjoyable and easy to chew through texture. The garlic topping was the best part.
“Bak Kut Teh”. I don’t usually order soup, and even more so anything that would look like this. (I am a very visual diner) However this one got my Malaysian guest so excited that it quickly became a must try. It is an herbal soup with pork and mushroom slices. It is boiled and served in a clay pot. The several chips and dings on the containers rim spoke to its age and frequency of use and reuse. My guest highly recommended enjoying the soup over rice, so ordered a bowl of yellow rice for each of us. It was good, but I preferred the soup as is, watery; and the rice as is, dry I remembered eating many half soup half rice plates growing up, he must have done the same. I never liked Chinese broth soups, but there was something warming about this one that I did like. A unique pungent taste, but in a good way. A taste like no other, one that I was grateful for trying, but one so specific that I cannot see myself craving for. Though at the same time I might order it again just because I forgot what it tasted like. The meat was tender, but bland. I would have liked a small dish of garlic and brown sauce to dip it in to and have with the yellow rice.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes
There aren’t many places offering Malaysian cuisine and this is the only one in this area, therefore I do foresee returning in the future. Though I probably won’t write about it, as I have already done so many times in the past. And always done so documenting the same things I always get. I need to come by more often to be able to grow tired of my favourite dishes and to instead long to try something new. To be willing to gamble on an unknown dish, that very well could be not as good as what I would have usually gotten. Don’t deny your cravings.