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Jul 27, 2004 08:43 AM

Desperate for Malaysian food...

  • t

I just moved to this area and I was hoping that some one out there knows of other Malaysian restaurants other than Penang, Kopitiam, or Straits of Malaya. I have tried all three and being Malaysian, I can attest that the food definitely is not up to par. Are there any hidden jewels in MD, VA or DC?

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  1. Have you found NOTHING at any of these restaurants that remind you of home? Sometimes Chowhounds have to find the one or two nuggets of gold among the dreck. Maylasia Kopitiam has a very large menu. Now, I've only been there once and was not impressed, but there are some people who like it. Maybe you could talk to the manager about what you're looking for. Who knows? Maybe they get requests like this from time to time... I doubt an authentic Maylasian restaurant is going to appear on the horizon.

    Have you been to other cities in the US where they have such a place? Is ther a large Maylasian community anywhere in the US? Please tell us. And what are they doing wrong here?

    11 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      I talked with the owner of Penang in Reston, VA, and he said that the chef in Reston is better than the chef in DC. Of course, he is probably biased! But the prices were better in Reston, and the menu was slightly different. We were able to order the same favorites we get in DC. I thought the meals in both places were really good. There is a Penang in Bethesda, but he said that is not affiliated with their chain (based in NY, but now also in Boston and Philly, I think).

      1. re: Steve

        Well, I find that the Penang chain in DC has toned down the spice and flavor for Western palates. Kopitiam seems to have a southern Malaysian style of cooking which is less favorful than Penang (the island- not to be confused with the restaurant chain) cooking. In Malaysia, Penang is considered to be the mecca of Malaysian food :) As for Straits of Malaya, I gather that the chef is from Singapore (again, very different style of cooking). At these places, I have ordered standard M'sian fare that I crave. Unfortunately, those are the dishes by which I measure the authenticity of a M'sian restaurant and all the above have come up short.

        I recently moved from Boston and was previously living in New York. Both these places had awesome mom and pop Malaysian restaurants (even the Penang chain). I do not know how large the Malaysian community is in those cities but can only imagine they must attract a lot of M'sian students and scholars.

        1. re: Tokay

          Im curious, what did you think were the good Malaysian Mom and Pops in NYC? You can reply on the NY boards if you want - I think there are numbers of us who would like to hear what you think.

          Sorry DC hounds. BTY, I thought Kopitiam was mediocre, mostly, when we tried it - they might have some dishes they do well, but not the ones we ate.

          1. re: jen kalb

            Mom and Pop places in NY:
            The Penang in NY's Chinatown and Flushing (I believe these are not related to the chain). There is also a basement M'sian restaurant (New Malaysia and Indonesia on Doyers St). Malaysia Rasa Saying on Broadway...

            1. re: Tokay

              still talking about NY: have you tried Pinang (not to br confused with penang) in NY (Queens) or Boston, and if so, what did you think? I liked it better than Penang. Oh, and there si a mom and pop Malaysian restaurant on a sidestreet off of main in Flushing taht a Malaysian friend likes, but I can't remember the name.

              1. re: foodgeek

                Thanks, guys!
                Are you thinking of the new Sentosa? Thats in Prince Street on Flushing.

                Ive put a link to this discussion on the NY boards so other NYers can see your suggestions and maybe discuss them further there.


                1. re: jen kalb

                  Nope, not sentosa. Malaysia is in the name. Ok...i'll stop discussing this...since I'm not switchign boards.

                  1. re: foodgeek

                    a link to what looks like a pretty good Malaysian restaurants directory worldwide. These things are never totally up to date but they list quite a number of places, including something called

                    Classic Malaysian Restaurant.
                    Roosevelt Avenue, Flushing, NY 11354.
                    Tel: 718 359 8998

                    and a few in the DC area.
                    Thanks for responding.


                    1. re: jen kalb

                      See my lengthy reply to your NY post.It's about the Malaysia restaurant at Canal and Bowery-- the best in NYC [and beyond for that matter].


          2. re: Tokay

            Thanks for your informative reply. I'll be on the lookout, especially for dishes that come from Penang. Until then, you might want to talk with the Malaysia Kopitiam folks and see if they can help you. Desperate Chohounding calls for desperate measures...

            1. re: Tokay

              This is from Tyler Cowen's list:

              Mandarin Inn, 3045 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, 548-4052, 836-2300, usually open.

              Mostly a Chinese place, but they have some Malay specialties as well. Across the street from Bombay Curry Club. Much more of a Mom and Pop than Straits of Malaya. I went once, with mixed results. I had a very good appetizer of chicken wrapped in bean curd, dipped into a sweet sauce. The Beef Rendang had a good sauce, but the beef itself was dry and tasteless. I am intrigued enough to go back, but the final verdict is not yet in.

              Pete’s Diner, near Capitol Hill.

              They are supposed to have some Malaysian specials, see

          3. I lived in Malaysia for some time. I agree that nothing in the area is up to the level of K.L. or Penang, but that's probably not a realistic hope. I would note: 1) Kopitiam is bad or at least very uneven; 2) The Bethesda Penang is much better than the D.C. Penang (I haven't tried Reston); and 3) Mandarin Inn in Alexandria, as suggested by someone else, is worth a try and maybe has the mom and pop flavor you are looking for.

            1. I was very excited for a moment. unfortunately i was confused. i was thinking that mandolay, on rt. 1 in college park, was malaysian, but it't not. 'course, it's burmese, like where mandolay is. anyway, it's great. best food around.
              the cook at ten-o-six, a thai restaraunt in Federal Hill, is actually malaysian, although their menu isn't even authentic thai (it's half french). she's made some great malaysian food for me, but customers have to settle for the best phat thai, beef and basil, or drunken noodles in town.

              so, in conclusion, no, i know nothing about any malaysian restaraunts. sorry.

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