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Jan 9, 1998 08:08 PM

Best chicken sate

  • a

So far, my favorite chicken sate is at Nyonya, on Grand
St. accross from Ferrara's of all places. (I don't
care as much for their beef sate though.) It is juicy,
smokey, and fragrant, and the sauce is excellent too.
The only other sate that I have liked nearly as much
is the lamb sate at Sukasari on Damstraat in AMsterdam.
I haven't been their since 1983, but some friends were
their around 1990 and said it was still good. Most of
the Thai sates that I have had around town haven't sent
me -- Sripraphai's is one of their only dishes I don't
care for, and Ubol's is beneath comment. Even the sate
offered at lunch occasionally by the Indonesian embassy
to the UN was nowhere near as good as Nyonya's.

Any other opinions?

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  1. Nyonya has improved significantly since opening about
    2 years ago. Having grown up in Singapore, I know a
    thing or two about what a good satay sauce tastes
    like. I was just at Nyonya last week and ordered the
    chicken satay, and I agree that's the best satay sauce
    you can find in New York (even tho the chicken on the
    skewers were slightly cold).

    The best satay sauce I know of in the US comes from a
    Singaporean restaurant in San Francisco called Straits
    Cafe on Geary Blvd. (at Parker Ave) in the Richmond
    district. The sauce comes closest to the real thing
    in Singapore. I am friends with the owner, so he
    never comes to NY without bringing me a few quarts of
    the satay sauce for me to save in my freezer.

    I would always tempt fate ordering satay in Thai
    restaurants -- just to see how bad it is. And they
    are BAD. I can almost safely say that all satay
    sauces in Thai restaurants are contemptible (maybe
    that's the way they make it in Thailand, but it's

    I am always on the lookout for good satay, so if any
    chowhounds out there know of any other places please
    post here.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Gary Cheong

      Note to onlookers: Gary Cheong is as opinionated about sate as Pat Robertson is re: prayer in schools. Beware of false negatives (he only likes sate prepared the way he's eaten it back home in Singapore, which means NO PEANUTS! NO X! No Y! etc etc), but if he actually reports that he likes a sate, go running.

      I'm headed out to SF in March, and you can bet I'll check out STrait's Cafe. And I've gotta go to Nyonya (although that name sounds like my Russian grandmother rebuking me)


      1. re: Jim Leff

        Jim -- I have to correct you on one point. I did NOT
        say no peanuts. What I said was NO PEANUT BUTTER.
        Fresh ground roasted peanuts is the norm in making
        great satay sauce. I consider using peanut butter an
        absolute crime!! (Most Thai restaurants guilty on that

        Love that comment about me being opinionated, but not
        sure I like sharing the same sentence with a right-
        wing religious wacko nut-job.

        1. re: Gary Cheong

          I stand corrected, Gary. Peanuts, not peanut butter. I was kind of wondering what kind of sate sauce they use in Singapore without peanuts!

          Sorry about the Pat Robertson association...but I was searching for something wildly opposite of you to yield a maximally amusing analogy...


          1. re: Jim Leff

            A group of us went to Straits last time we were in SF, and liked it but found it wildly inconsistent. Still, I'm a sucker for pan-Asian restaurants, and I'm sure you'll find plenty to like.

            My fave place in SF remains the original Fina Estampa. Is there any Peruvian place in New York remotely as good?


            1. re: Dave Feldman

              Dave, I'm glad you went to Straits Cafe when you were
              in SFO. I send people there, with a warning it may be
              inconsistent. The reasons being :

              1. Turnover in the kitchen. Unlike NY, there is a
              squeeze on good help in SFO. Some of these Asian
              cooks are known to quit without notice. Plus it is
              more difficult to find cooks who can do
              Singapore/Malaysian than plain Chinese food.

              2. Chef-owner Chris Yeo has been ill for the past year
              and a half, and still is not able to work a full week.
              Chemo treatments have impaired his tastebuds as well.

              I still think Straits is better than most of the
              newer, more chi-chi Pan Asians that have recently
              sprouted all over SFO. In fact, food writers and
              others I know in the food business in SFO are getting
              "tired of another Pan Asian opening" (just like on
              this coast, we get tired of another Mediterranean
              restaurant opening).

        2. re: Jim Leff

          When you go, I find Nyonya's nosh food better than
          their seafood, in which I am usually somewhat
          dissappointed. With the exception of the fish head
          curry and some of the crab dishes, it is often a bit
          overcooked, and the sauces a bit too sweet. It also ups
          the bill considerably. Last time we were there the
          waitress said that we should be sure to order skate on
          our next visit, so try that if you can.

          Gary, if you are reading, what is your take on Nyonya's

          1. re: Alan Divack

            Alan, I try not to order the seafood dishes at
            Nyonya. It does up the bill a bit, but it's not worth
            the extra cost. However, Jim liked the stingray dish
            at Penang (Flushing), and I noticed that is served at
            Nyonya as well. As for the fish head curry, it is a
            decent rendition (it satisfies my yearnings when I
            miss the food from home).

            1. re: Gary Cheong

              " However, Jim liked the stingray dish at Penang (Flushing),"

              no, I LOVED it! Very very funky smelling, but once you get past that...oh my god!!!! (it turned out to be the waitress' favorite dish as well)

            2. re: Alan Divack

              RE: Nonya's Seafood dishes

              Hi!! I'm also another Singaporean that misses the local cuisine of SE Asia. To date, Nonya does seem to have the best sates in NYC. As far as other seafood or tasty dishes to recommend at Nonya's, well here goes...the mussels in black bean sauce (typical Chinese style), the red snapper Thai style (note I don't care for their Thai style sauce, coz I had better both in Thailand and my own mom's cooking) but everyone else swears by it. I like their deep fried calamari, albeit a tiny portion for the price. Try their frog legs w/scallion. Those legs were meaty the day we had it.
              I also recommend black pepper crusted crabs, cooked once with and w/o curry powder. Prefer the dish w/o curry powder.
              Oops got to go...

              1. re: susan

                hi, susan
                Always good to have another Singaporean on board! There
                are a couple of lurkers as well (who know who they
                are). I've never met a Singaporean who wasn't nuts
                about food.
                Not surprised you don't like curry powder...that
                stuff's as much a blasphemy for Singaporeans as potato
                pancake mix is for Jews.
                Which brings me to another point...I'd love to see you
                guys flame over that Singaporean chow mai fun dish that
                all the Cantonese make. How does it feel to know that
                such a subtle (not) curry dish has become the most
                famous Singaporean (sic) dish in America?
                [grinning and duck

                1. re: Jim Leff

                  Oh, alright Jim -- now that you brought up the subject
                  of that ABOMINATION of a dish called Singapore Chow
                  Mai Fun on the menu of most Chinese take-outs. There's
                  nothing Singaporean about that dish at all. I'm very
                  curious to find out which wise-guy started making it
                  and how it came to be copied on every Chinese take-out
                  menu. There is so much curry powder thrown in there,
                  it's pretty disgusting !! It would truly be an insult
                  if people here think this came from Singapore.

        3. Alan--I'm in total agreement on the sate at Sripraphai. I had a pretty darned good sate at the otherwise bleh Typhoon, when the guy at the downstairs sate bar was a pretty experienced chef...I got the feeling he wasn't long for there, and I'll be he's been replaced with some kid.

          As far as Sukasari, are you a musician? That's the NYC musicians' Indonesian of choice in Amsterdam. I've been told that Lonnie's (Rozengracht 48 phone 623 89 50) is better, btw.

          The Indonesian UN Mission cafeteria is fun, but there's a MUCH better secret Indonesian'll all have to read my book to find out about it (it'll be published next fall...sorry...)

          Enjoyed, as always, your savvy message


          2 Replies
          1. re: Jim Leff

            I am not a musician. I may be as close to tone deaf as
            they come. If you remember Calvin Trillin's friend
            with the Naugahyde palate, I may be the person with the
            Naugahyde ear drums. I like listening to music, but
            can't sing, play (or, some would say, appreciate).

            I am actually an archivist, and studying computer
            science on the side, which severely cuts into time
            available for chowhoundery.

            I am glad though that Sukasari is still around, and
            that there is said to be a better place now. I was
            extremely dissappointed in most of the "Indonesian"
            food when I was in Amsterdam on and off in 1982-83.

            Is your secret Indonesian place in the consulate in the
            east 60's? I have wanted to get up there, but it is
            not very convenient for me. The UN mission is just a
            few blocks from where I work, so I try to eat there a
            few times a month.

            Speed up that book big dog! No one around here can
            wait till the fall!

            1. re: Alan Divack

              "I was extremely disappointed in most of the "Indonesian" food when I was in Amsterdam on and off in 1982-83"

              I know what you mean, but since I've never been there for more than a week at a time, I never got past the starry eyed enthusiasm phase, what with the plethora of Indonesian and Surinamese choices there and such a dearth of those cuisines here.

              For what it's worth, Dutch foodies agree that Haarlem is the better city for Indonesian, not Amsterdam.

              Me, I happen to especially like Nijmegan. Not for Indonesian, just for pancakes and nice people. I really like Holland...