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May 6, 2009 02:52 PM

Best Malaysian in Chinatown?

After starting to read Cradle of Flavor, I really want to try some Malaysian food. A friend and I are going down to Chinatown tomorrow for shopping & lunch. I've heard mention of Nyonya as a good choice. Has anyone been the Jaya on Baxter St (across from Nha Trang, my favorte pho place)? Where's our best bet for a delicious & affordable Malaysian lunch?

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  1. Do a search and you'll find a fair bit on best Malaysian food. My personal favorite is Nyonya, but Skyway and New Malaysia are also excellent, in my opinion.

    1. I have been to Jaya. It's not bad but I think some of the other Malaysian places in Chinatown maybe better.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bearmi

        Skyway or New Malaysian. Sanur, the Doyers street place is good, but you have to eat in their dungeon.

        If you get really interested in SE Asian food there are a lot more places in Elmhurst/Woodside, and some in Flushing.

      2. If you go to Nyonya, what are you planning to get, and what kind of taste are you looking for? Depending on your answer, go and have a good time, or avoid the place completely. I'll say this: I may be wrong, but I doubt you'll get much that will taste like what you read about in Cradle of Flavor (a cookbook I haven't personally read, but which I understand is very accurate in transmitting the flavors of Southeast Asia, including chili, belacan, and other strong flavors).

        I haven't been to Jaya for quite some time. When I did go, some years ago, I found their Malaysian food at the time to taste pretty accurate but not exciting. I recall getting a baked stingray that was fine. If it's still up to that level, you could certainly do worse. The atmosphere was pretty lively, with a young crowd of local Chinese groups of friends and couples on dates.

        Skyway was until recently a favorite of mine, but they developed consistency problems I couldn't deny. Their food is real Malaysian food, plus Cantonese items which were also dependably good, but they were having trouble with the quality of their shrimps the last few times I was there (within the past few months), and their Nasi Lemak was overcooked on another visit. But they are cheap and may be worth a try.

        I haven't been to New Malaysia in several years, but they are popular and cheap and also may be worth a shot.

        I gave Sanur in its different incarnations (they used to be called Malaysian-Indonesia Restaurant, but I'm pretty sure the owners were the same) a few shots, found them to have unacceptable quality control and consistency problems (including old-tasting fish), and haven't been back in a few years.

        I totally agree with Deam that you might want to consider Taste Good in Elmhurst, which really isn't that long a trip from Manhattan. However, I also had a pretty good Malaysian meal fairly recently at Laut, 17th St. between 5th and Broadway. It's not in Chinatown and your meal there would cost about twice as much as one at Skyway, but I thought it was worth it.

        1. Then there is the often overlooked Oversea Asian restaurant on Canal & Orchard. Good for their Young Tofu, Indian Rojak, Ginger duck noodle soup, and occasionally curry mutton.

          2 Replies
          1. re: anil

            I found their fish dicey, though - I mean, REALLY fishy.

            1. re: Pan

              Did I mention fish :) It is indeed a small place.

          2. Thanks for the input! We ended up at Skyway Malaysian. (Elmhust wasn't really an option this time around, but I'll add it to my list of places to try.) We got roti cani and roti telur for apps, both of which were fantastic. Jaime got the beef with tomatoes lunch special, which she really liked. My kari ayam was good but very mildly flavored - kind of a disapointment since it was listed on the menu as "very spicy"! Jaime loved her Malaysian iced tea (a lot like Thai iced tea but less sweet, and very good here). My rambutan drink was a little sweet for my taste - actually tasted almost exactly like the longan drink at Sripriphai - but I just really wanted to try rambutans. My plan is to do some cooking from Cradle of Flavor, and I wanted to get a sense of what things tasted like before I try to replicate it myself. Next big challenge - finding candlenuts in NYC!

            7 Replies
            1. re: Emmmily

              I wasn't bowled over by Skyway my one time there after seeing raves here. Overseas Asian can be good but uneven--run by the people who used to have Ipoh Garden on Eldridge (which was always reliable in the old days). The Brooklyn Nyonya is always reliable, but I haven't been to the Chinatown one in a couple of years, but I'm going back with a group in about a week. It really boils down to the fact that different places do different dishes well, and with the diversity of the Malaysian menu that's especially the case.


              1. re: Emmmily

                Where have you checked for candlenuts? Among the usual suspects would be Bangkok Grocery on Mosco St. and Udom's Thai-Indonesian store on Bayard between Mott and Mulberry.

                1. re: Pan

                  Checked Bangkok grocery; they didn't have any and couldn't recommend where to look. I'll check out Udom's - thanks for the suggestion. Worst case I'm pretty sure I noticed them at Patel Bros last week, but I'd rather avoid the ride out to Flushing if I can.

                  1. re: Emmmily

                    There's also another store on Mulberry between Bayard and Canal, on the west side of the street. I forget the name of it (it was mentioned in another thread, recently), but they have a bunch of Southeast Asian products for sale.

                    I think that Macadamia nuts are an acceptable, though not identical substitute for candlenuts.

                    1. re: Pan

                      Udom's was out of candlenuts (I ended up getting some daun salam and sambal though, for far less than what Kalustyan's charges), but Asia Market on Mulberry had them. Thanks again for the tip!

                      1. re: Emmmily

                        Glad that worked for you. I love Kalustyan's, but they can be expensive for some items, and not all their items are equally good.