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Nyonya Review with Photos and Question

"National Foodmonk Week of Malaysian Restaurants" continues ...

I visited New Malaysia in the Chinatown Arcade on Sunday:

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/396671

On Monday I went to Nyonya at 194 Grand, between Mott St. and Mulberry. I realize that these places are old stomping grounds for some folks here, but this is the first time that I have been to any of them and I was rather excited to try them out.

So, here is the review.

After eating in New Malaysia on Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised with the decor and ambience of Nyonya. New Malaysia certainly wasn't bad -- just basic -- but it seemed like the Nyonya folks put a bit more attention and effort into the interior. Nice wood paneling, comfortable seating, fish tanks with live fish, etc. Also, there was plenty of leg-room, which is also nice.

Service was pretty good. The place was packed to bursting with hosts, waiters and bus people rushing to and fro. A teenager who worked there saw my new camera and came over to my table and asked me a bunch of questions about it. Everybody spoke English. I felt very comfortable.

Here is what I ordered:

* Roti canai
* Achat
* Nasi lemak

I thought I might order a dessert afterwards, but I was simply waaaaay too stuffed by the time I finished the nasi lemak to contemplate eating anything else.

The achat came to the table first. (This is the cold salad of pickled vegetables.) I think that this is my favorite thing that came with the meal. It was quite -- but not extremely -- spicy and came in a sugary red sauce with sesame seeds. I could have eaten it for days. In fact, they served me a portion that could easily have fed two people and I ate the whole thing.

A commenter on my previous post mentioned that the roti canai at New Malaysia were probably frozen and pre-packaged. I thought they were heavenly anyway. Oh, well. :) The roti at Nyonya were definitely a different beast. Instead of a flaky, thick round of dough, this one was a very thin, almost translucent sheet that was stretched out and crumpled on the plate. It was good, but definitely not as buttery as the New Malaysia version. It came with a small bowl of spicy curry sauce with some boiled potatoes floating in it. This was good, but at New Malaysia, the curry had a chunk of chicken in it and I think I might prefer the frozen, factory-made roti anyway. Eek.

The final course was the nasi lemak, something that a commenter on my first post suggested that I try. Another huuuuuge portion, with a large mound of rice that could probably serve three people. Seriously.

Apparently, "nasi lemak" refers to the rice itself, which is soaked in coconut milk before being steamed. To be honest, it tasted to me like ... steamed rice. Heh. I would order this again, though, because of the other stuff that came with it on the plate. This included another pile of achat, something that I presume was chicken rendang, some sliced cucumbers and eggs and ...

A small portion of sambal ikan bilis, a salad made out of tiny fried whole anchovies and onions and I think various other things.

As I mentioned above, there was so much food already that I was not able to order anything for dessert. Too bad.

I had a very nice dinner at Nyonya and the food was delicious. I don't know enough about Malaysian food to compare it in authenticity to what you might get elsewhere, but I left satisfied and happy.

Click on a photo below to view.

Okay, here is my question. I wanted to try the asam laksa, but the description on the menu said, "Please ask server for advice before you order." So, I was scared off. What is so unusual about this dish that they would try to discourage you from ordering it?

 
 
 
 
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  1. Hi foodmonk,

    Excellent review! And you topped it off with very appealing pictures! Nice job!

    Just wondering for the Achat, what vegetables did they use? I found that different restaurants here use different vegetables for achat and so nothing seems to authentic, so I am curious to see what Nyonya used.

    Also, do they have otak otak?

    Once again, thanks for the nice review!

    5 Replies
    1. re: kobetobiko

      The achat had cucumbers, cabbage, carrots and green beans for sure ... There might have been something else in there that I do not remember. It was delicious! As far as otak otak goes ... It's not on the Menupages version of their menu and I don' t remember it from the restaurant. In fact, no idea even what it is. :)

      1. re: foodmonk

        Is otak otak good? Should I try to find it at my next stop?

        1. re: foodmonk

          Hi foodmonk,

          Thanks for your quick reply! I have had achat with jicama in it and it was very refreshing! So I was just wondering if Nyonya uses similar types of vegetables. Either way, sounds like a dish that I should try at Nyonya.

          As for otak otak, it is a "fish cake", also like a paste or mousse in banana leaf. here is a wikipedia definition.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otak-otak

          I like it a lot because it goes so well with rice or noodles. Just otak otak and some good rice and I can have a very simple happy meal! =D

          1. re: kobetobiko

            Unfortunately I've not had any good otak in the states before (FYI, I'm Singaporean). It would be awesome if anyone had leads for otak!

            1. re: xigua

              Have you tried any places with otak even if you find them underwhelming? I couldn't find restaurants that serve them, and am hoping someone might have seen them somewhere.

    2. Great review! Personally, my fave for Malaysian in Manhattan is Nyona (though I haven't been to Skyway). I love their roti canai, preferring it to New Malaysia. I prefer it not being so butter as it is the perfect foil to the rich coconut chicken curry dipping sauce.

      About asam laksa -- it's a tamarind-based fish soup. It's very sour and VERY fishy. I love fish, whether it's mild or stinky. Am a big fan of belachan as well. But I just could not stomach asam laksa. It was too much for me. But I see a lot of Malaysian people ordering it all the time. It's just not my taste.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Miss Needle

        Thanks! Hmm. I like fish too, but I guess I'd better arrange to try someone else's asam laksa before committing to a whole order for myself. :)

      2. If your Malaysian tour will include Jaya, definitely try the achat there. I liked it better than Nyona's achat.

        1. Thanks for the review and pictures! As far as Nyonya's roti canai, it's quite good, I call it the "fluffly-" vs the other "spongy" version (prefer the latter, and I'm not talking about roti telur). Anyway, Nyonya's Nasi Lemak is just okay, I prefer the version at whatever-Malaysian-restaurant-is-currently-at-1-Doyers (just kidding), last I ordered, the place was called Bagus.

          But, if you're up for something more exotic at Nyonya's try their "Stingray in Lotus Leaf." Now if only that sauce on top were done a la Sripraphai's Chu Chee Tilapia...

          3 Replies
          1. re: bokkyo

            is it any good? i've never had good stingray in the US, its always way too dry...it should be very moist

            1. re: Lau

              I think it's good enough, so far, the only "passable" version of stingray I've had in NY/NJ, although I've only tried this dish in a few restaurants: Jaya (eh), the now defunct Proton Saga (flavor hidden by heavy sauce) and, similar to Nyonya's version, wrapped in lotus leaf, in that Malaysian restaurant along Washington St in Hoboken.

              1. re: bokkyo

                I had the stingray! A chef friend of mine took me to Nyonya and suggested that I try it. It was definitely . . . different. Not sure I would order it on my own, but I can say I've tried it.

                I can't eat there much though because it's too spicy for me!

          2. glad you liked the nasi lemak, thats exactly what it is rice with a bunch of sides haha

            1. >Okay, here is my question. I wanted to try the asam laksa, but the description on the menu said, "Please ask server for advice before you order." So, I was scared off. What is so unusual about this dish that they would try to discourage you from ordering it?>

              In my opinion, NOTHING. It's sour, spicy, fishy, and delicious! But somehow, a lot of white people don't like it. I don't really understand, and I hate it when waitstaff try to discourage me from ordering it. Miss Needle, it really shouldn't be THAT fishy! If it's overly fishy, that means the mackeral is too old. I usually don't find that to be the case at Skyway, but when it is a bit fishier than I like (probably less than 1/6 of the time), I eat it anyway, and it's not terrible.

              "Nasi Lemak," although meaning "fatty rice," refers to the sides as well as the rice itself (which should taste rich and not just like steamed rice). All the sides you described are traditional. I think the chicken isn't rendang but a similar-tasting type of rich curried chicken; I can't remember the name of that side. And in addition to the sides you mentioned, there might have been some roasted peanuts on the dish. A Google search for Nasi Lemak recipes has shown me that there is a fair amount of variety in what sides are used, though.