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Jun 26, 2007 07:47 PM

Coco Southeast Asian, Elmhurst

Fleeing the heat, we made our way to Elmhurst. We decided to give Coco a shot. I haven't had a whole lot of Malaysian or Indonesian and haven't either at all for a few years.

We started with a plate of the achat, the cold, vinegary vegetable dish. It was crisp, cool, tangy and bracing. Nothing amazing, not too well balanced, but a very good starter on a hot day.

The beef rendang, listed as "dry curry", was enjoyable, the meat tender and flavorful. The gravy did the right things, coconut, lemongrass, beef and ginger all present, just timid on all counts. Certainly good, we wished it just had more concentrated flavor

Our waitron was probably a little crazy from the heat. We'd ordered okra belachan, spicy, and she'd launched into an explanation of what okra was -- "Okra is a green veggetable,,," -- which we cut short. She asked if we wanted some meat or seafood with the okra... and ten minutes later a runner brought us a plate of eggplant belachan. We sent it away. The waitron told us we'd ordered eggplant... which we hadn't. We held firm and five minutes later got our okra. It was fresh and crisp, maybe too crisp, and sliced too coarsely. The flecks of sauce were too sparse for the big, slightly undercooked okra, resulting in something a bit on the bland, bitter side, and not noticeably spicy.

I suppose I'd go back and everything was fine, but I'd like to do better. Are they capable of more, bolder flavor? Is there a secret handshake, or should I look elsewhere? How does the Elmhurst Penang compare these days? Any others?

Another question: is this a spicy cuisine or a relatively mild one?

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  1. My one experience there was similar. I had the Belachen Shrimp, which was hot and spicy but also on the dry side. Not bad, but nothing memorable either. The vast, varied menu contains a great many tempting items; I can't help but think it's a tad too varied for their own good.

    Yeah, Malaysian can get very spicy; think Assam Laksa and the like.

    My wife and I had a good experience at Taste Good, which is right nearby. Some very fresh and spicy Prawns, can't remember the name of the dish. This was a few years back, though. You might give it a shot, report back.

    My problem vis-a-vis trying more Elmhurst Malaysian is that, when there, I make a beeline for Whitney Avenue.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Polecat

      I've been to Coco several times -- only for their bargain lunch -- and have the same opinion as both of you. The Dry Curry Chicken is excellent, but I haven't had anything else that was as good as a nearby version of the same dish.

      Penang across the street is one of my favorite restaurants. Roti Canai, Satay Tofu, Kari Mee, Ginger/Scallion Duck, Chili Chicken, Kari Sotong, Salted and Spicy Spareribs are all excellent.

      Hatless asked "is this a spicy cuisine or a relatively mild one?" Which cuisine? Coco does too many. For Malaysian go to Penang instead. Some dishes are mild, some are a little spicy. It's not as spicy as Thai or Sichuan. For Indonesian, go to Upi Jaya or either of the restaurants on Whitney, For Thai, go to Sri. And for Chinese, you chose.

      1. re: el jefe

        what are the other two restaurants on Whitney

        1. re: jmax

          Jakarta Mie (Javanese noodle place; still haven't tried it) and Minang Asli (Padang; inconsistent but can be excellent).

          Here's Minang Asli's menu:

          1. re: squid kun

            Have been to MinangAsli twice, Mie Jakarta several times, and lean towards chicken dishes at both, preferring the chicken soup and fried chicken at the former, and the superb Soto Ayam (Huge chicken leg sticking out of a thick coconut broth) at the latter. I'm not partial to the namesake dish at Mie, but there are enough enticing menu items at both places to keep me coming back. This is one of the chief reasons that I haven't given Coco more of a chance, nor made a much delayed return trip to Taste Good.

    2. There is a wonderful new Malaysian restaurant in Flushing, Banana Leaf, 133-60 41st Avenue, just west of Main Street. The beef rendang was delicious, tender and very flavorful. We had the Kang Kung (Chinese waterspinach) Belanchan and found it perfectly seasoned, not overcooked and the belanchan sauce was complex and yummy. The restaurant opened up about 4 months ago.

      1. after a decent meal at Minang Asli, I had to pick up some takeout from the area so I got an Asam Laksa ($5.75) to go from Coco; there was a large party of 12 finishing up but otherwise, the place was kinda dead. i asked for the laksa extra pungent/sour/spicy and it was pretty good. takeout-wise, I really liked the delivery; a separate quart container for the fat white rice noodles (with plenty of fresh veg and herbal garnish) and a smaller pint container for the soup, a fishy, sweet pungent sour soup. plus a little container of hot sauce (smooth). not sure it beats all asam laksa out there but for the price and takeout configuration, the place gets props.

        walked by taste good; that place looks so grimy! but I picked up a menu so I'll give it a go at some point.