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Nov 28, 2008 02:09 PM

Malay Cafe -- Not worth it

Just had a takeout meal from Malay Cafe in Woodside. Should have saved my $$. Had the Chinese broccoli with crispy pork, curry noodle soup with beef and the roti. The only thing decent was the beef which was quite tender. My suspicions seemed correct: The people running the place are Chinese people pretending to cook Thai/Malay. They're probably the same folks who closed the Chinese joint at the exact same address a while back. They've no idea what they're doing. The pork was just plain roast pork, not at all deep fried and crispy like that at Sripraphai. And the dish was dry, not a hint of any sauce at all, bland, bland, bland. Both the curry soup and the curry dip that came with the roti was the exact same thing, which would have been OK if there was any complicity in the broth. Ugh, was hoping this place would at least give Sri a run for their money, alas, no such luck.

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  1. why do you want a place to give sripraphai a run for their money?

    1. Almost all Malay restaurants are run by ethnic Chinese, including most of those in Malaysia. The giveaway is the pork dishes. Malaysia is over 60% Muslim and all Malays are required to be Muslim as per the Constitution of Malaysia. I believe all the Malaysian restaurants in NYC are run by ethnic Chinese as I've never seen one without pork on the menu.

      1 Reply
      1. re: el jefe

        It may be true that most _restaurants in Malaysia_ are run by Chinese Malaysians (I'm not positive of that but it might be true), but I don't think it's true that most (let alone almost all) _specifically Malay_ restaurants in Malaysia are run by ethnic Chinese, and I say that in particular as someone who's lived on the East Coast of Malaysia. What's more accurate is to say that there's a great deal of _Malaysian_ food cooked by and partaken in by all ethnic groups in that country. The major difference between Malaysian restaurants there and here, other than the wonderfully fresh ingredients and much higher general level of tastiness there, is that most Malaysian restaurants in Malaysia are halal and don't serve pork. On the other hand, many and probably most of the specifically Chinese restaurants (restoran Cina) in Malaysia that are non-halal and do serve pork also serve traditional Malaysian dishes like kangkung belacan.

        Anyway, your basic point, that Malaysian restaurants in New York have Chinese Malaysians (for example, from Ipoh) in their kitchens is to my knowledge accurate. And there's nothing whatsoever bad or inauthentic about that in any way. It's only the taste of the food that matters.

      2. The premise that only people of the 'proper' ethnic group can make a cuisine is an utterly bankrupt one. Many global cuisines, like populations, incorporate numerous 'foreign' elements, and large parts of the cooking staffs at restaurants of all kinds in NYC and elsewhere include people from other places. If you take a few minutes to talk to the staff at TMC, you will learn quickly that they take the food they serve seriously (I have always found their suggestions and explanations quite helpful - hardly a sign of people cooking food they do not know or like for purely market-determined reasons).

        Further, Thai-Malay Cafe is nothing like Sripraphai and does not purport to be so. They serve a few different Asian cuisines (more like the Cali-originating trend of 'fusion' Asian restaurants), and are primarily a delivery/takeout joint. For what they are, the place does a good job on most of the dishes I have had (various noodles, coconut milk based dishes, fish preparations, soups) - never spectacular but always promptly delivered, tasty, cheap and substantial. They also can make things more spicy if you ask them. I personally think they are the best Southeast Asian place in the neighborhood for delivery (food is better a Zabb, but they tend to get lost and take forever).

        3 Replies
        1. re: elbev

          I agree whole-heartedly and that was the point of my post. In fact, in many SE Asian countries, there is a such a huge variation in regional cuisines that a Thai chef from Bangkok might be better at preparing Malaysian dishes than Thai dishes from Isaan.

          So where is malay Cafe? I'd like to try it.

          1. re: el jefe

            I believe the poster is referring to Thai Malay. It's on Skillman around 52nd street. I doubt it's worth a special trip -- like someone already said it's more of a solid take out place. I'm not sure why anyone would compare it to Sri. That said, for quick weeknight delivery it's always fresh and tasty, if not totally authentic or adventurous. A step up from the local Chinese delivery options, for sure.

            1. re: catherine

              Thai Malay cafe has the best takeout in Sunnyside. It's not fair to compare it to Sri--it's different and makes different food. The coconut soup is delicious, full of mushrooms and lemongrass flavor, great for a cold day. The roti with curry and other unusual appetizers/dumplings are great. Their curries are very good too. If this place was in Manhattan, it would have raves! A case of reverse Queens snobbery here.