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Malaysian restaurants in NYC

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Do NOT go to Nyonya on Grand St. It is a watered down, bland, tasteless, yucky tasting so-called "Malaysian" food. I am a Malaysian living in NYC and I went there a couple of nights ago with my Msian friend who had not had Msian food for a long time. We had high expectations since it had so many good reviews and awards but after tasting their nasi lemak, indian mee goreng and pasembur - it was horrible!! Even the waitress admitted that the taste has been altered to suit the timid and less adventurous tastebuds of the gwailo Americans. We were so dissapointed, angry and so dissatisfied. We went to the next street on Elizabeth St to Penang hoping to find hokkien mee ladened with crispy pork fat but they said they did not have crispy pork fat (chee yow char) so we left.
My conclusion is that if you are a real Malaysian who can handle the heat, go down to Queens and you can find 80% like original Msian cuisine at certain restaurants. There are NO authentic Malaysian restaurants in Manhattan because to make $$, they have to tone down the flavors for the benefit of the gwailos. Gwailos - stay in Manhattan and eat the watered down versions. Do not come to Queens and spoil the market for us who can handle the real stuff.
Oh yeah, and also after eating at Nyonya, I had a tummy ache at night. Expensive and had to wait for half an hour somemore. Malaysians in NYC - Don't bother to eat Msian in Manhattan, go to the suburbs.

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Nyonya
199 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

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  1. you write off manhattan after two bad places in chinatown? where are your recs for queens malaysian, along with dish recs for specials or particularly good renditions of authentic cuisine?

    1. I am also a Malaysian living in NYC and I love Nyonya. I admit they are inconsistent but it's where I go get my Malaysian fix and they are good more often than not. I love the Roti Canai, Nasi Lemak, Asam Laksa, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Char Kuey Teow, Crispy Golden Fried Squid. I'd suggest not writing it off just yet. I think it's pretty authentic and I'm highly doubtful that a trek out to Queens is worth the effort for the incremental improvement in authenticity.

      1 Reply
      1. re: iloveguacamole

        try some of Laut's dishes; pretty good. that is, if I'm not picking among the bottom heap of malaysian restaurants in chinatown, where I always end up defaulting to New Malaysia. Solid and dependable.

        edit: looking at your history, it looks like you DO like Laut!

      2. That's what you feel are representative of the Malaysian restaurants in Chinatown? I too do not like Nyonya (it's super trendy and in Little Italy for christ sakes!) and Penang (which is pretty much a chain restaurant! That's like calling McDonald's a mediocre burger joint.) I normally like to go to a place called New Malaysia Restaurant. It's in an alleyway. You walk down the Bowery and pass Canal Street towards East Broadway. Once you pass the bank, Duane Reade and I think 2 more storefronts, you'll see an alleyway. Head down halfway and you will find the restaurant. The food is always so flavorful and you can ask for them to make it extra spicy or mild without sacrificing flavor any way you ask for it. I love the typical Malaysian dishes they have but my current fav there are the curry noodle soups.

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        New Malaysia
        48 Bowery, New York, NY 10013

        1 Reply
        1. re: blatantdream

          I second the New Malaysia Restaurant. I love, love the curry and the Hoi nam chicken.
          I also like all the stir fry dishes which have lots of wok hai.

        2. Jaya on Centre Street (in back of the Manhattan Detention Center) is really good. Near the courts, so if you're on jury duty, definitely check it out. I had an amazing tofu dish, which also had peppers stuffed with fish paste, in a curry broth, I apologize for not remembering the name, and some pickled vegetables, which were spicy and delicious.

          1. While I'm not sure the repeated gwailo references were necessary (for better or worse, gwailo patronage keeps Malaysian restaurants open in Manhattan, and I for one am grateful for that), this thread was really helpful. I prefer the chendol at Nyonya to that of New Malaysia, but I felt like an insider finding this alleyway restaurant, and their squid Malay style was spectacular - a riot of really fresh, interesting ingredients that definitely included Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce). There was a leaf in the mix that looked like a cross between basil and mint, but had an almost candylike complexity - pandan leaf, maybe? At any rate, I will try some of the other dishes next time I go. Thanks for the tip!

            1. I agree with your assessment of Nyonya, and have found most Malaysian food in NYC (America, really) to be crap. With that said, I strongly suggest the wonderful and nearly literal hole-in-the-wall Taste Good in Elmhurst. You walk in to that place and it's heavily redolent of shrimp paste, and I mean that as a strong endorsement. The sambals taste accordingly. It's rojak is a standout from the normally treacly mess.

              http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/...

              1. Has anyone been to Curry Leaves in Flushing? I was there in the summer. I'm not at all a Malaysian expert. Good stuff. Big menu. I got the idea it is a place worth exploring. What I had (rojak and curry puffs - deep fried pork skin and tofu floating in a huge bowl of red oil and coconut milk) was good, not great.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Steve

                  ya that place is good. big generous nasi lemak, everything else is good and standard, which doesn't quite sound like a compliment but really, its quite good. can't think of any standouts. I've also picked up breakfast from there which is tasty and . . . they have homemade pandan paste which is really really really good.

                  still haven't tried that other malaysian/thai/combo place that opened on main street, down near northern boulevard:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/640079

                  1. re: Steve

                    Funny you should ask. I just hit up Curry Leaves for the first time last week, and had a very satisfying bowl of Bak Kut Teh. I'd been sick and was in need of this dishe's somewhat "restorative" and herbal properties. A very full-flavored broth - I caught traces of cinammon and fennel in there - was topped off by some fatty and tender slabs of pork leading the way, excellent fresh mushrooms, greens and fried tofu skins. This is, thus far, my favorite rendition of this dish in NYC. I've experienced other Malaysian eateries to be uneven - and I expect that Curry Leaves is as well - but I'd order this again in a second.
                    p.

                    1. re: Polecat

                      haha, it's the fat that is restorative, you knew that right? :)

                      I do love that dish for sure, I usually make it at home from the packets, they are not bad at all. of course, my first intro was in Sabah, Malaysia so I've got very fond memories of my first roti canai and my first durian (not to mention, my first guinness!)

                      1. re: bigjeff

                        I thought I saw mention of Sentosa in Flushing in past threads. What do you guys think? I have not been there in about 2 years. But I used to go for the curry flavored beef stomach and their okra. While I have always thought the okra had this strange, slimy texture to their inside, I got hooked on this dish at Sentosa dating back to the days when they were located in Chinatown. I have no frame of reference for hainan chicken as I have not been to Malaysia but I always thought the ones I tried in NYC were weak, not very flavorful and thoroughly unremarkable. I cannot name a Malaysian place that serves awesome hainan chicken.

                        1. re: nooyawka

                          I hear they have good Hainanese chicken on Hainan Island, China.

                          1. re: nooyawka

                            I haven't been to Sentosa in quite a long time, but I did go after they moved to Flushing, and my conclusion was that they had been a lot better when they were on Allen St. in Chinatown. Their relocation to a less quiet street seemed to bring with it a total subtraction of chili for white people. By the way, I wasn't at all impressed with Curry Leaves, either, but in both cases, the impressions are quite a few years old!

                    2. Nyonya's was sooooo disappointing. I live in Montreal (no malaysian restaurant) and every time I go to NYC I make sure I can eat malaysian food (which is my favorite food). Last summer we found out Nyonya by reading really good reviews on Chowhound. We went back 2 days ago after 1 year of waiting... but the food was so not happy with what we had (which was exactly the same thing as last year), we thought is was tasteless, the new place had no ambiance, the service was very bad, but mainly the food was not what we had experience last year.
                      I should have read this thread before going. I will never go back there again...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: isasa

                        saw that new nyonya for the first time; not surprised that it is the same old place but I was hoping for an evolution. really, man, no good places in chinatown.

                      2. taste good malaysian in elmhurst.

                        1. Has anyone been to Belachan in Sunset Park, Brooklyn? Some Indonesian friends of mine like it, but they haven't revisited since it moved. Also, there's a place on 40th Road in Flushing called Restorant Malaysia (or something like that). I only bought mooncakes there, haven't tried the food yet. I like New Malaysia in the Chinatown Arcade, but I think their chendol is terrible.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Peter Cuce

                            the only place on 40th Road is Curry Leaves although maybe the name has changed since there is also a Curry Leaf on Prince Street too I believe, along that row of restaurants next to 66/Laifood/Lu's and Nan Xiang. The place on 40th road has been around a long time, with bamboo fixtures inside and a long steam table serving area on the right side of the entrance that has a hopping breakfast business.

                            1. re: bigjeff

                              I dug up the address on Foursquare. It's called New Restorant Malaysia. Address is 137-15 40th Rd. Looks good. Curry Leaves is there also.

                          2. I agree with you about the Nyonya/Penang chain, but if you're still here and want to try someplace in Manhattan, you can go to Laut, speak with the waitstaff in Malay, and have a decent chance of getting food that not only tastes right but is also at least moderately spicy. It's more expensive than other Malaysian places in Manhattan, though.

                            1. Yes to most, Nyonya \Penang taste so-so at best, Chinese food with a hint of Malaysian flavor.

                              To Peter Cuce, Restorant Malaysia on 40th St is excellent, especially with their Satay. I personally think is the best in NYC. Yes, that is a Throw Down. Small dark meat morsels with nice hand grind grainy peanut sauce. I have been there over 15 years.

                              To iloveguacamole, Taste Good in Elmhurst has excellent Asam Laksa. The lady owner told me they have the BEST Malaysian food in NYC. She was dead serious when she said that to me, looking me straight into my eyes. Other than the Satay, I almost believed her.

                              I will NEVER go back to New Malaysia Restaurant in the alleyway back in NYC Chinatown. Five months ago, I waited 20 mins for a table, while the restaurant was half empty at 5:30 pm. They wanted me to sit at the tiny table with some guy taking his time paying his bill. After I sat down, I waited for another 20 mins, no menu, with waiters standing around. I walked out. Told the manager\cashier, you guys need to learn how to run a restaurant. I ate there last year, no big deal, another Nyonya wannabe.

                              To most feedbacks, yes, Flushing\Elmhurst do have the best authentic "Asian" food nowadays because of the lower rent - Cantonese, Taiwanese, Korean, all those trendy hand-pull noodles, Szechuan, Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, Indian and Nepalese.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: UniquePalate

                                What Malaysian restaurants do you think have better satay than Taste Good? I'm not an expert on Malaysian food but there's are the best I've ever had.

                                1. re: daffyduck

                                  Taste Good is good. But I personally think Restorant Malaysia on 40th Road nudged out by half a horse length. The size of the skewer. The meat they used. And the charcoal grill. When a dish is done right, everything seems to align, if you know what I mean. It is like having a plate of pretty good pasta with squid ink in NYC. And the same dish but better executed in Venice's non-tourist restaurants tugged in the back alley way. That's why Restorant Malaysia show case their Satay station in the front window. As for all the other dish, Taste Good is a better and more hardcore place than Restorant.

                                  1. re: UniquePalate

                                    I used to like Restorant Malaysia. I went there years ago, and used to go almost every week. But after a time, I found that they were using old bean sprouts - you know, the ones that taste kind of musty/muddy. I couldn't taste the difference too much in spicier dishes like Curry Mee with Yong Tau Foo, but their Ipoh Bean Sprouts - a dish I had liked - deteriorated so much that I wouldn't order it anymore and went about looking for a better place. And the one I found was Satay, at the corner of Holly Av. and Kissena Blvd. But while real and solidly good, it was not as good as the meals I've had at Taste Good.

                                    I'm open to the idea that Restorant Malaysia has improved since the last time I went, which has to be at least 5 years ago. So, how are their bean sprouts?

                                    1. re: Pan

                                      Yep Pan, I agree with your assessment with the other dishes. Again, I am just limiting the comparison to Satays. In general, Taste Good, is very good with all the dishes. I will pay attention to the bean sprout next time I am there. Unfortunately, that seems to be a nagging problem for a lot of small restaurants. They tried to stretch their outdated ingredients, so that they can keep their production cost low. It is like those outer borough Chinese run Sushi place with their grey Tuna. That's another post....

                                      And for Daffyduck, I guess we need to do a taste-off between the Restorant and Taste Good Satays. It will a nice little holiday projects. Unfortunately, Satays don't travel too well. The idea of cold BBQ meat is just not the most appealing. I tried to buy the Satays for Superbowl parties. But the condensation from the aluminum wrap always ruin the taste of the charred meat.

                                      1. re: UniquePalate

                                        Got it. My long-range memory tells me that I liked their satay, too. The thing is, though, I went back to Malaysia for a visit in 2003, so after that, every example of satay in New York paled quite a lot for at least a year.

                                        1. re: Pan

                                          Well Pan, if you factor in meat from outside the States, then there is no comparison. Most small-ethnic restaurants here are not going to use small farm local grown meat. I have been to Argentina a few times, I couldn't stop eating grill chicken for lunch. AND that is not even from a restaurant, it is from our office cafeteria! One will be amazed what meat taste like, if we let the animal grow up naturally, without using means to accelerate their growth.

                                          1. re: UniquePalate

                                            Yeah, that's right. Malaysian chicken, for example, is so much better than typical American supermarket chicken.

                                    2. re: UniquePalate

                                      thanks for the tip on Restorant Malaysia, Ill definitely check it out. I hear what you're saying with your example of squid ink pasta. It's just the satay I had at Taste Good is a lot better than the others I've had (better char, peanut sauce, seasoning, etc) it can be a tad too sweet sometimes though.