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May 3, 2007 05:21 AM

Oversea Asian Review with Photos and Question

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

I visited New Malaysia in the Chinatown Arcade on Sunday:

And on Monday, I went to Nyonya on Grand St., also in Chinatown:

In addition, I went to Udom's Thai and Indonesia Grocery, on Bayard St., where you can also buy some Malaysian food ingredients and condiments:

Yesterday, I visited Oversea Asian Restaurant at 49 Canal St., between Orchard and Ludlow, for a quick bite to eat after work.

Here is the review ...

Like New Malaysia, Oversea Asian is definitely more modestly decorated than Nyonya. Unlike New Malaysia, however, this place seems to be aspiring toward something more. The interior of the restaurant was sunny at this hour -- maybe six-thirty -- and brightly-lit and, if a single word could summon up the decor, I would say that word was "bamboo." Lots of bamboo ...

When I arrived, the small dining area in front was completely empty, save for a large round table of neighborhood guys drinking beer and reading newspapers. I was greeted prompted at the door by one of the staff -- I think that there were three people working the dining room, which was plenty, considering its size. Soon after I sat down, the place completely filled up. The other customers were all larger parties and families with kids and everyone was speaking Chinese except for me.

Staff was nice, understood English and I felt comfortable and welcome.

Here is what I ordered -- and in a bit, I'll tell you why I felt like I ordered the wrong thing:

* Roti canai
* Beef satay
* Mee goreng

Photos below ... click to enlarge.

First, the roti canai ... The roti was definitely the same make and model as served at New Malaysia. Round. Thick. Flaky. Buttery. A commenter in my previous review referred to this as the "spongy" variety, as opposed to the "fluffy" at Nyonya. It was enough identical to that at New Malaysia that I can believe that these come frozen from a factory somewhere. At the same time, I really like them and if I knew where to buy the frozen ones, I would buy them and make them at home. In short, roti was good, but not any different than what is apparently available everywhere else.

Roti was served, as everywhere else I have visited, with a small bowl of Malaysian chicken curry. This was actually a great deal better at Oversea Asian than either New Malaysia or Nyonya. It was hotter, spicier, richer ... Also a cardamon pod floating in it. Anyway, this was good.

The next item that came to the table was the beef satay. The meat was tasty, well-grilled and juicy. It arrived with a sweet peanut sauce and a pile of fresh cucumbers and red onions. I ate the cucumbers, but not the onions. The satay was good, but not something that you might go out of your way for.

Finally, I ordered mee goreng for my main course. This is the "Indian-style" plate of pan-fried noodles with tofu and shrimp in a sauce that I think contained soy and ... peanut oil? I was served a large platter of noodles -- a portion that I would make at home for four people -- easily waaaay too much food for me and I'm 6'3. The mee goreng was ... good. I think it would make good hangover food, because it was so carbohydrate-heavy and oily. But for me, it was very oily, too oily in fact. Also, it seemed somehow to lack "depth" and I ended up wondering if they had held off on the chili oil and the shrimp paste for my benefit. I filled myself up on it anyway.

As I was eating, though, I had the chance to look around and see what everyone else in the restaurant had ordered. Every single other table in the restaurant had one of two things -- or both -- on their tables: Hainanese chicken rice and/or a cast iron "hot pot" filled with one of the house stews.


I ordered the wrong things!

I would sum up my experience at Oversea Chinese as: Pretty good, with some very good moments -- notably the delicious curry sauce that came with the roti canai. But I will go again and order the dishes that the rest of the customers obviously come to the place to order, rather than the mee goreng. Also, I'll tell them that it is okay to make my stuff as spicy as what they serve to the neighborhood people.

And ...

Here is my question: Has anyone actually had much luck in telling restaurants that it is okay to make your food "normally" spicy and to not try to tone down the shrimp or fish paste for you? I like very hot stuff and I almost never get anything hot enough when I sit down in a restaurant.

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  1. Shrimp and fish paste are never really spicy. The waiters never ask how spicy do you want it. Hainanese chicken rice is usually popular among the Asians when they frequent these restaurants. Your pictures look delicious!

    1 Reply
    1. re: wench31

      Thanks! I guess in my hasty writing, I didn't make clear what I meant about fish sauce and shrimp paste. I meant to say that I don't mind a generous helping of either. :) I think I'm going to get some Hainanese chicken rice at my next stop!

    2. you should try skyway, on allen below canal.

      4 Replies
        1. re: foodmonk

          if you search for it, you'll find some good information about various dishes. fyi, my favorites there are:
          - curry mee with young tau foo (very spicy coconut broth with egg noodles, stuffed tofu and eggplant)
          - baby oyster omelette
          - assam laksa (another noodle soup; not spicy exactly but very tangy/sour and very fishy)
          - achat (pickled vegetables; spicy/sweet/sour)

          1. re: wleatherette

            Great, thanks for the recommendations. I have seen baby oyster omelette now at every Malaysian place and I've been curious as to what it is and if it is any good. I guess I will know soon! Also, the curry mee sounds delicious.

            1. re: foodmonk

              the omelette is an egg pancake studded with small, briny oysters. i really love it.

      1. Wow, I'm really enjoying your illustrated Malaysian food saga! I don't know much about Malaysian food at all. The one near me, Malaysian Grill, is pretty poor and I kind of just figured that the cuisine was not for me. But I'm inspired to try it anew. Thanks, FM!

        1 Reply
        1. re: cimui

          Cool! I am enjoying visiting all of these places for the first time and am learning a lot from comments posted here.

        2. You're fast becoming one of my favorite hounds, foodmonk, love your review and pics. (Now, if only Brian S would tote a digicam ;))

          My approach in trying to find a favorite version of a particular dish is similar to what you're doing with Roti Canai, i.e. block out a week (or two), map the turf, eat nothing but. A couple years ago I wanted to try all the Hainanese Chicken from all the Malaysian/Indonesian/Singaporean restaurants in Chinatown. At some point I realized, because of the method, I started preferring a more "homestyle" version, in other words, the type you could eat every day, not necessarily the one that'll blow you away on first taste. (My favorite was the restaurant at 1 Doyers, which had gone through at least two changes in ownership since then.)

          Definitely try Skyway or even Penang (there's a branch on Elizabeth above Canal) whose "fluffy" RC and Nasi Lemak I prefer over Nyonya's. I've never found anything memorable from Malaysia Restaurant (at the arcade) and, if it's just for Hainanese Chicken, I think Singapore Cafe in Mott is way better. BUT, here's going out on a limb, if you like Beef Satay, I'm gonna go all out and say Lemongrass Grill on Maiden Lane beats them all! Imagine a good cut of steak (the strip side), done into little cubes, not thin/flat slices, well marinated, cooked medium well.

          1. The grocery store KAM MAN sells the flatbread. Its a singapore brand name "Chinatown' and its located in the outside freezer. You get 5-6 rounds in a package. I brush it with a thin layer of oil and bake it in 350 degrees in the toaster oven for 10-15 minutes. It expands and puffs up. They also carry quick curry sauces in the aisle if you dont want to go through the hassle of it.
            Requesting for more fish sauce and shrimp paste would be a bit strange as this only makes the food more salty. You can request for a side of chili peppers and hot sauce which is what I always do.
            I also like the spicy thai chicken. Its the same chicken as the hainanese but with a spicy shallot topping instead of the garlic ginger and hotsauce.

            1 Reply
            1. re: csw

              Thanks for the tip on where to find the bread! I'm definitely going to make a trip and pick some up.