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Taste Good - authentic Malaysian in Elmhurst

l
Lau Jun 7, 2010 04:42 PM

I've been meaning to try Taste Good for a long time, I've pretty much given up on Malaysian food in manhattan and Taste Good gets rave reviews. My friend's dad ate there the other day and loved it, so I finally decided to get some friends and go over there last night.

It's in the middle of the chinese / asian area of Elmhurst next to HK supermarket and High Pearl (which I also want to try). It's tiny, probably can fit maybe 25 people in the whole place. Luckily my friend made a reservation b/c it's not easy to fit bigger parties in there (we had 6 people). They speak english well actually, I think some of the waitresses understood english better than mandarin (they all speak cantonese amongst each other). The decor is typical rundown chinese restaurant style, but its a reasonably lively place and the people are pretty nice.

The menu is a fairly decent sized menu with a greatest hits of Malaysian food. Here's what we got:
- roti canai (crispy pancake w/ curry sauce): their version was just so so, it wasn't as crispy as it should've have been and i'm pretty sure they use a frozen version. the curry sauce was decent, a bit on the creamy side, but fine
- beef satay: wow these were really really good, by far and away the best satays ive had in NY maybe in the US generally. Taste very authentic, the beef was super tender, had great charred flavor and the peanut sauce they had was delicious. Highly recommend
- Singapore Kari Laksa (spicy coconut curry noodle soup): this dish is highly touted here, but I think the people who highly tout it haven't had a good version of the dish. Now it wasn't bad (most versions i've had in NY are bad), but it wasn't right. Kari laksa is a spicy coconut curry noodle soup that has rice noodles, fish cakes, shrimp, fried tofu and bean sprouts. The rice noodles were fine as were all the condiments, the issue I had was the broth. It didn't have as much flavor as it should, wasn't spicy enough and had way too much coconut milk in it, it mainly tasted like coconut milk as opposed to anything. Decent, but not great.
- Fragrant Spicy Chicken: this was interesting, it was chunks of chicken that had been fried in a semi pungent sauce that tasted like it had alot of lime in it and maybe some pandan. The chicken itself was cooked decently, however most of us weren't crazy about the sauce, its pretty pungent. I think i liked it the best and i thought it was just decent
- Hainan chicken: I'll separate the chicken vs the rice. Their hainan chicken is decent, better than other places i've had although not amazing. It's sort of a self-explanatory dish, but the chicken was reasonably tender and they did get the skin the separate from the chicken. Although to me hainan chicken rice is all about the rice not the chicken. The one thing that was a surprise is that they had the real chili sauce that you're supposed to eat the chicken and rice with, none of the other places i go to give you it (its a great very light and tangy chili sauce)
- Hainan chicken rice: they've gotten rave reviews about their chicken rice, but again I think it's from people who don't know what it's supposed to taste like (probably b/c its pretty difficult to find a good version outside singapore / malaysia). Now, its definitely better than most of the garbage most restaurants call hainan chicken rice, which i've generally found to be bland and not good at all. At Taste Good, you can get some of the chicken flavor in the rice, but its not nearly as fluffy as it should be and not as fragrant. I'm sort of a snob when it comes to chicken rice fyi. It's better than other places, but just decent on an absolute basis
- Char kway teow: char kway teow is similar to chow fun with egg, shrimp, bean sprouts, chives, fish cake. Their version is very good, although i'm not a huge fan of char kway teow as dish although alot of people love it. Their version tastes pretty authentic like what you would get at a hawker center in singapore. They also have a great chili sauce which uses sambal that really kicks it up (i love this type of chili sauce that you get everywhere in singapore). If you like char kway teow, this version is good
- Ipoh tau geh (stir fried bean sprouts): this dish is stir fried, but sort of served at room temp, its in this light soy sauce with little crispy golden fried onions (you actually have to fry them for 45 mins), got some scallions, onions and garlic as well. It's a very simple dish, pretty self-explantory, but I love this dish and they do it well. one of my favorite dishes of the night, highly recommend
- Sting ray: this was surprisingly decent, the sambal paste they put on it is a little off, the real one is more vibrant tasting and spicier, but the sauce is tasty. The sting ray was tender, not quite as tender as it should be, but a good version nonetheless. Remember that you have to like sambal though. I'd recommend getting this is you want to try sting ray (similar to skate, but better if case you've never had it). I like sting ray alot, so I had to order this. I have noticed that the sting rays they use in the US are much bigger than the sting rays they use in Singapore, which are smaller, but i feel have a better tasting meat and are more tender.
- Sizzling bean curd: Wow, this was the surprise dish of the night (along with the satay). I didn't know if it would be any good, but it was awesome. It comes out on a sizzling plate, there is egg at the bottom, fried pieces of tofu circle the outside and in the middle there is a brown minced meat sauce with some shrimps in it. The tofu is perfectly fried, tender on the inside and nice and crispy on the outside. The sauce is super good, a savory brown sauce. When you put it all together its just awesome. Highly recommend.
- Bubur cha cha: this is a dessert made of sweet potato, yam and tiny clear tapioca in a sweet coconut milk. There is a cantonese dessert that is almost the same as this although I don't remember ever having in it in NY. I love this dessert and their version is tasty. The coconut milk is not overpowering and is rather refreshing. It's sort of self explantory, but i ended up getting two orders of it (I haven't had it in a long time)
- Pulut hitam: this is a black glutonious rice soup with coconut milk, i really like this dish too, their version is decent not amazing although some people at our table liked it better than the bubur cha cha. It was a little more watery than it should be, that said it still tasted good. It will remind you of a red bean soup except with a bit of coconut milk in it

Overall, it's the most authentic Malaysian food I've had in NY and the best on a relative basis from what've i've tried although the competition is weak (although there are few places in flushing I need to try). There were some hits and misses and a few dishes that were outstanding. If you want malaysian food this is probably the place to go although I think they hype around some of their dishes (kari laksa and hainan chicken rice) is overhyped. I'd recommend trying this place and I plan on going back as there are alot of dishes I need to try (i miss food in singapore)

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Taste Good
82-18 45th Ave, Queens, NY 11373

High Pearl
82-22 45th Ave, Queens, NY 11373

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  1. Puppimus Jun 8, 2010 09:16 AM

    Awesome report. FWIW, the kari laksa has varied every time I've been--you might have just happened to go on a night when it was especially coconut-ey.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Puppimus
      erica Jun 8, 2010 11:10 AM

      I will echo the word "awesome" to describe your report! Many thanks!

    2. bigjeff Sep 21, 2010 10:28 AM

      finally ate here and I should have printed out this thread; I like what we had but, it wasn't mind-blowing.

      + fried tofu app (we were considering the sizzling tofu, it sounds great from your description)
      + beef rendang dry curry noodle
      + fantastic four (eggplant, string bean, okra and petai in belacan sauce, very good)
      + assam laksa
      + popiah (reminds me of lumpia sariwa)
      + coconut and chicken rice on the side
      + kitchen was closed (9:45pm) before we could order dessert! be sure to order dessert early
      + byob

      the food was good, tasty, simple, humble but . . . not beating nyc malaysian (laut, skyway, sanur, new malaysian) by any leaps and bounds. maybe 10-15% better than those places, but not amazingly so. big menu, with a lot of choices; I think the dry curry noodles is a great option to try the curries and have some tasty noodles without ordering a big platter of the curry itself (it was rich); the vegetable dish was really great and the assam laska, while pungent, was not as tasty as Laut's. I want to hit this place again because one of the selling points is also how affordable the joint is. I'd like to try their bak kut teh, their curry tripe, some more of the dry noodles and curry noodles and also some of their rice plates (the rice sides we had were very good).

      check these other blog posts (cross posts, actually) for food porn:
      http://www.mightysweet.com/mesohungry/2010/03/07/taste-good-malaysian-cuisine/
      http://www.ramenandfriends.com/2010/0...

      8 Replies
      1. re: bigjeff
        Miss Needle Sep 21, 2010 11:25 AM

        Jeff, have you found a place in Manhattan for better popiah? I love that dish, but haven't really found a version that measures up to Taste Good.

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        Taste Good
        82-18 45th Ave, Queens, NY 11373

        1. re: Miss Needle
          bigjeff Sep 21, 2010 05:08 PM

          popiah ain't really my thing although I did like it in comparison to most lumpia sariwa which usually feels pretty goopy. but it was pretty tasty, ya.

          1. re: bigjeff
            l
            Lau Sep 21, 2010 05:59 PM

            bigjeff - if you ever get a chance to go to singapore / malaysia, go try it there, its like night and day if you get a decent one...my gf thought they were gross everytime we tried one at a malay place here and then she tried one at a hawker center in chinatown in singapore (funny enough singapore has a ctown) and was like this is the same thing?

            1. re: bigjeff
              l
              Lau Sep 21, 2010 06:00 PM

              btw i have a decent malay place in the city to go to now, i'm setting up a blog, but ill post it up as soon as i'm done which should be very soon

              1. re: Lau
                bigjeff Sep 21, 2010 10:50 PM

                oh snap. a lau blog. crazy!

                1. re: bigjeff
                  l
                  Lau Sep 22, 2010 04:33 AM

                  yah its surprisingly simple, posts will look a lot better and pics are way easier to upload etc

                  1. re: Lau
                    a
                    AubWah Sep 22, 2010 05:44 AM

                    cant wait to read it Lau

                  2. re: bigjeff
                    l
                    Lau Oct 18, 2010 08:04 PM

                    hey here's the blog: www.lauhound.com

                    check the post on overseas asian: http://www.lauhound.com/2010/09/overs...

          2. a
            Anicca Sep 22, 2010 11:39 AM

            Finally tried Taste Good last night and I must say I enjoyed it quite a bit. I was alone so couldn't try all that much -- had a simple roti canai and the hainanese chicken with rice. Thought both were simple, tasty and amazingly cheap. With a generous tip I got out of there for $10. This will definitely become a regular spot for me. Busy, upbeat place. Pretty friendly staff. As promised, everything tasted good!

            The spicy ginger sauce for the chicken was fabulous, by the way.

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            Taste Good
            82-18 45th Ave, Queens, NY 11373

            1 Reply
            1. re: Anicca
              f
              fredid Oct 3, 2010 01:14 PM

              Ah! I was there earlier that evening - from Boston! Too bad we didn't meet up and share!

            2. DaveCook Oct 2, 2010 07:25 AM

              Secondhand news, via a circle of expat Malaysians and Singaporeans: The owners of Taste Good retired at the end of September and sold the business to new owners.

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              Taste Good
              82-18 45th Ave, Queens, NY 11373

              7 Replies
              1. re: DaveCook
                l
                Lau Oct 2, 2010 07:38 AM

                ahh thats too bad, wonder if its still good?

                1. re: Lau
                  a
                  Andrew Hyatt Oct 2, 2010 04:15 PM

                  I go every week. There's been no change so far.

                2. re: DaveCook
                  bigjeff Oct 3, 2010 08:17 AM

                  maybe new owner, but the same people running the place? a stout, outgoing short-haired lady and her gang?

                  1. re: bigjeff
                    DaveCook Oct 3, 2010 04:52 PM

                    My understanding of this husband-and-wife partnership was that he ran the kitchen and she, the front of the house. Whatever of that gang may remain -- and when time permits, I'll pay them a call -- I'd imagine that some dishes may change.

                    1. re: DaveCook
                      DaveCook Oct 18, 2010 07:02 PM

                      I stopped by today and confirmed that Taste Good did indeed change owners as of October. The lady I spoke with added that the chef has stayed on and that the menu and everything else will be unchanged. My research would have been more hands-on if the restaurant had been open at the time.

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                      Taste Good
                      82-18 45th Ave, Queens, NY 11373

                      1. re: DaveCook
                        Jeffsayyes Oct 18, 2010 08:46 PM

                        when I went they said, same owners diff management. The last owner was the main chef, maybe they still have the other chefs. I don't know. They are definitely in a transition right now though. all things must pass.

                        1. re: Jeffsayyes
                          daffyduck Nov 10, 2010 09:50 AM

                          has anyone been lately? any changes with the new management?

                3. daffyduck Oct 7, 2010 09:31 AM

                  awesome report next time try the crispy fish cakes! i never had kari laksa before so i cant compare it with anything but i LOVE coconut milk. so it was a ftw dish for me

                  1. Gastronomicon Oct 25, 2010 03:30 PM

                    Actually, "Bubur Cha Cha" is a Peranakan dish and isn't Cantonese. The Peranakans were Chinese immigrants to the Straits Settlements who so completely assimilated with the native Malays that they stopped speaking Chinese altogether in favor of Malay. The men were called "Baba" and the women were called "Nyonya." Up to the 1960s, there were entire clans who only spoke English and Malay and didn't speak any Chinese even though they were still genetically pure Chinese (intermarriages between the Malays and Chinese were rare). The Peranakans came up with very distinctive dishes which combined a lot of the spices of both cultures and used ingredients that the Muslim Malays were forbidden to touch due to their religion such as pork. A lot of these immigrants originated from the coastal provinces of Canton and Fukien. This added to the melange of foods that is only becoming to spread worldwide due to emigration of ethnic Chinese from Malaysia.

                    The authentic Hainanese Chicken chilli sauce that you're speaking of is known as "Chilli Garlic Sauce." While Taste Good makes it in-house, you can find it in a bottle made by "Yeo Hiap Seng" (a well-known canned goods/bottling firm in Singapore) called "Yeo's Chilli Sauce for Hainanese Chicken Rice" or another name but basically the same, also from Yeo Hiap Seng, "Yeo's Chilli Sauce with Garlic." I've attached/uploaded a photo of a bottle of the former that I have to this post.

                    Now comes to the sad part of the my post: It is with heavy heart that I report that the husband and wife team who made Taste Good what it was, Mr and Mrs Thong, has retired and sold the business off as of late September 2010. Hopefully, the new owners know how to keep it all going at the standards that used to exist.

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                    Taste Good
                    82-18 45th Ave, Queens, NY 11373

                     
                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Gastronomicon
                      l
                      Lau Oct 25, 2010 09:41 PM

                      well i'm pretty sure bubur cha cha maybe the peranakan version of a cantonese dessert b/c you will find a dessert that is very similar in alot of cantonese restaurants and dessert places, its actually quite common (i've had a bad version of it in NY at shifu chio in flushing)....i eat it in hong kong all the time, one of my favorite cantonese desserts. This would all make sense as you stated most malay-chinese are of cantonese or hokkien decent. Although it could be that it was made up in malaysia and brought back to hong kong.

                      thanks for the rec on the hot sauce, i'll have to try

                      1. re: Lau
                        bigjeff Oct 26, 2010 08:53 AM

                        that's like the thing with "chinese" BBQ sauce or "sha cha" that is actually from sate, which is that malay thing, and it made its way backwards (and then forwards again).

                      2. re: Gastronomicon
                        squid kun Oct 26, 2010 12:55 AM

                        Appreciate the info. What do you know about the new owners?

                        1. re: squid kun
                          m
                          Maud Nov 18, 2010 02:59 PM

                          I ate there 3-4 wks ago and talked to a guy who said he was the new owner - and the brother or cousin or something of the male half of the original owner-couple. My brother and I begged him not to change a thing. He was very friendly and cheery.

                          1. re: Maud
                            squid kun Nov 18, 2010 10:31 PM

                            Interesting - thanks. Hope they take your advice!

                        2. re: Gastronomicon
                          DaveCook Oct 26, 2010 01:54 PM

                          Taste Good will be among the vendors at Eat Drink Explore Malaysia in Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall (November 5, 11:30-6:00; November 6, 11:00-6:00). One can expect only just so much from the food at such events. I hope, however, that this will be an opportunity for some of us to meet the new owners and express our hopes for the restaurant's future.

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                          Taste Good
                          82-18 45th Ave, Queens, NY 11373

                        3. daffyduck Nov 13, 2010 03:11 PM

                          went last wednesday I had Singapore Kari Laksa it tasted more coconuty than what I remembered, I still loved it. I also tried the Sizzling Bean Curd which was a great dish and their Ipoh chicken and shrimp noodle soup which nicely flavored and light.

                          1. scoopG Apr 26, 2011 06:02 AM

                            I am certainly no expert at Malaysian food and never managed to stop by Taste Good under the previous owners, Helen Tong and Tong Kok Kiang. But this small but busy spot turned out to be the place to make an initial stakehold in Elmhurst – now one of seven New York City neighborhoods where there at least 15,000 Asians residing.

                            The big favorites here were the Fish Fillettes in Golden Aromatic Flavor, the Curry Noodles with Stuffed Bean Curd and Kangkung Belacan. The Roti Canai was not crispy as Lau mentioned but we didn’t mind. Sambal Assam Squid was slightly over (or under) cooked, lending a slight chewiness to the squid. Hainanese Chicken Rice and Hokkien Char Mee KL Style brought up the rear in style. Each dish revealed the presence of different flavors and textures.

                            The story I heard was that this was the go-to place for the folks at the Malaysian Consulate while the Tong’s were in charge. Not sure if that still holds but I‘d gladly return.

                            Slideshow:
                            https://picasaweb.google.com/roswellh...

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                            Taste Good
                            82-18 45th Ave, Queens, NY 11373

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: scoopG
                              l
                              Lau Apr 26, 2011 06:27 AM

                              you should def try the satay and the sizzling bean curd next time you go they are by far the best dishes ive had there.

                              1. re: Lau
                                scoopG Apr 26, 2011 01:52 PM

                                Thanks - their menu is huge!

                                1. re: scoopG
                                  l
                                  Lau Apr 26, 2011 04:45 PM

                                  yah their menu is way too big, they run into the common fault of chinese restaurants in NY

                                  Get the Ipoh tau geh (bean sprouts) as well, they make those good too.

                                  i should go back soon since the owners changed and see if there is a difference at all

                                  1. re: Lau
                                    d
                                    Daniel76 Apr 27, 2011 10:19 AM

                                    I love this place and go here often.. Sting Ray seems to be my go to dish these days..

                                    We always start with the pickled vegetables.. Then switch between the fish cakes and sizzling bean curd..

                                    The fish head curry is really nice as well...

                                    Lots of good things to get..

                                    Might have to go tonight now..

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