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Asam laksa in Manhattan?

w
Worldwide Diner Jun 10, 2012 07:45 PM

Any place in Manhattan that serves really good Asam laksa? And chili crabs?

  1. w
    Worldwide Diner Jun 11, 2012 12:14 PM

    My cousin brought up Nyonya - any thoughts? I also read about Laut in NY Magazine. Which is the best btwn them? I really only care about Asam Laksa (because I don't like coconut milk, and don't like curry laksa) and chili crabs. Thanks!

    26 Replies
    1. re: Worldwide Diner
      Duppie Jun 11, 2012 12:43 PM

      Please stay away from Nyonya.It's food had been deteriorating for quite awhile before they crossed the street and went "upscale". Laut has it's detractors but since I only had their fried tofu and Chicken Rice which was both good,I can't comment on their other dishes...
      And if by chance JAYA comes up in conversation....Run...run fast and far.

      1. re: Worldwide Diner
        p
        Pan Jun 11, 2012 02:09 PM

        What Duppie said about Nyonya - don't go there. As for Laut, you could have a very good meal, but only if you get a waitress from Malaysia, Indonesia, or Singapore, and probably not until you've gone a few times and they know you really want it spicy. I don't think it's a good return on your investment, because they charge at least twice as much for a meal as any of the cheap Malaysian restaurants, and even if you're a regular, if you get the wrong server, your meal will be depressingly mediocre and cost just as much as a good one. I gave up on them some time ago.

        1. re: Pan
          f
          foodwhisperer Jun 12, 2012 02:21 PM

          Laut is good. The hostess/owner/sometimes waitress is Malaysian/Chinese and would be helpful.It's been awhile , so I can't remember her name. In looking at the menu, it seems they have added some dishes in the past year or so. The prices are higher than most Malaysian restaurants. They do have good laksa, and it has always been as spicy as you want.
          Nyona has decent noodle dishes, that's about it In my opinion.
          Overseas is more reasonably priced and more authentic. Less atmosphere though

          1. re: foodwhisperer
            p
            Pan Jun 12, 2012 11:28 PM

            I already told you what my experience at Laut was. But to elaborate: After a few times coming and speaking Malay to them, I finally convinced the servers who had gotten to know me, who were from Malaysia, Indonesia, or Singapore, that I really wanted my food spicy and real. And then I got a server from China who clearly didn't understand what I was requesting or didn't believe it - I told her to tell the kitchen I was from Malaysia and have them make everything very spicy in Malaysian style - and I got I think Ayam Masak Cili (Chicken in Chili Sauce) which had almost no spiciness or taste. I was upset and a waitress who knew me ultimately took over, but I hadn't been able to get anyone's attention for quite a while (it was busy) and was hungry, so I ate the food but realized that it was no longer worthwhile for me to go there.

            Also, in probably somewhere between 10 and 15 trips, I have never found Overseas more than mediocre. Skyway is better than Overseas.

            1. re: Pan
              f
              foodwhisperer Jun 13, 2012 05:27 AM

              I'll have to try Skyway. My experience was pretty good at Laut, when I went with someone from Malaysia. But they also had to specifically ask for the food to be served Malaysian style. The chicken that usually comes with broth on the side, did not come that way , until we asked for it. The spice was hot, after asking. I have not been there in over a year.

              1. re: foodwhisperer
                p
                Pan Jun 13, 2012 06:19 PM

                Don't have really high expectations of Skyway, either. You might have a very good meal there, but that's New York "very good." It won't be the least bit comparable to a good Malaysian restaurant in London, let alone a mediocre Malaysian restaurant in Malaysia.

              2. re: Pan
                w
                Worldwide Diner Jun 13, 2012 07:07 AM

                I would think all these places would be open on July 4th, right?

                New Malaysia lists two crabs:

                D19. Crab In Aromatic Flavor
                D20. Crab In Hot & Spicy Sauce

                Which one is the chili crab?

                Skyway has 5 crabs:
                3011. Crab In Special Style*
                3015. Hot And Spicy Crabs*
                3016. Crab In Thai Sauce*
                3023. Crab In Special Aromatic Flavor**
                3024. Curry Crabs**

                Which one is the chili crab?

                1. re: Worldwide Diner
                  Duppie Jun 13, 2012 07:53 AM

                  D20 for New Malaysia, the other,I believe is a riff on black pepper crab. Forgive me but we almost never eat Pepper crab out ,simply because it requires time and effort to truly appreciate so I just make it at home where I can hose down my guests after the meal and several rounds of drinks.
                  Back in the day Fatty Crab on Hudson made a very good version served with thick slices of toasted brioche for sopping up the sauce but It's been many years for me.

                  1. re: Duppie
                    w
                    Worldwide Diner Jun 13, 2012 12:42 PM

                    One more question. I'm Chinese, read and speak Mandarin - which place would I get the best food (since many posts suggest that language/ethnic background would affect the "authenticity" of food)?

                    1. re: Worldwide Diner
                      Duppie Jun 13, 2012 01:18 PM

                      I should think you would not have an issue in any one of the restaurants mentioned.I'm only a quarter Chinese and speak a smidgen of Cantonese when I have to and had a harder time convincing the wait staff that I do indeed know what's in a Laksa and how it should taste. But for the most part,if you articulate what you want and the ability to eat it without sending it back,you'll have no problem.

                      The issue as I see it is that these types of restaurants have to balance what they serve the local clientele wanting to experience what they saw on No Reservations the week before without having even a notion that It's taste signature is not what their used to or would even like and in typical American fashion send it back with an indigenous diner who wishes the full experience they grew up with,and further,having to decipher who is who?
                      I believe Pan,much like myself does not look the part of an average Malay even though he has lived there and speaks the lingo so I believe it to be a larger disappointment to him if the dish is modified for "tourist" taste.

                      You'll be fine either way with a little convincing and an adventurous spirit.

                      1. re: Duppie
                        p
                        Pan Jun 13, 2012 06:15 PM

                        I am a white guy who speaks fluent Malay.

                        1. re: Pan
                          a
                          AubWah Jun 13, 2012 06:49 PM

                          You are? holy shit thats cool

                          1. re: AubWah
                            p
                            Pan Jun 13, 2012 07:33 PM

                            I lived in a Malay village for 2 years in the 1970s and returned for a visit during the summer of 2003. My mother was an anthropologist.

                            1. re: AubWah
                              m
                              michelleats Jun 13, 2012 07:52 PM

                              Seriously. If you go cyberstalk Pan and read his bio on his website, there's more there that'll make your jaw drop. None of it has to do with asam laksa, but it's pretty cool.

                              On the subject of asam laksa... I am not Malaysian, I don't speak Malay. I've only had asam laksa once, abroad, that I can remember and that was in Singapore. I have enjoyed Laut's version both by delivery (they can't see me in advance to see whether I look the part of someone deserving of authentic food) and at the restaurant. It has always been potent -- i.e. not skimpy on the belacan -- and clears my sinuses. Of course I haven't lived in a Malay village for two years, but to me, it is very much enjoyable to eat.

                              1. re: michelleats
                                p
                                Pan Jun 14, 2012 12:30 AM

                                Thanks for the compliments. And I have had good laksa at Laut in the past. I just no longer trust the place. And I get my fix of good, real spicy food by going to Sichuan places and Thai places like Zabb Elee. It's not Malaysian, but it will do.

                                1. re: michelleats
                                  p
                                  Pan Aug 3, 2012 01:18 AM

                                  By the way, Michelle, thanks for the props. I'm just back from a trip to California and Hawaii, where I had a lot of great food but no Malaysian. I'll eventually catch up enough to post some things on the relevant boards.

                          2. re: Worldwide Diner
                            p
                            Pan Jun 13, 2012 06:13 PM

                            Beats me. I speak Malay.

                            1. re: Worldwide Diner
                              w
                              Worldwide Diner Jul 4, 2012 08:12 AM

                              I'm sitting at New Malaysia. After ordering Asam Laksa in Chinese, the waitress asked if I've ever had it before. She said it's spicy and sour, can I handle it. I said sure. Unfortunately they're out of chili crabs, so I got chili shrimp balls....

                              1. re: Worldwide Diner
                                Duppie Jul 4, 2012 08:23 AM

                                Try their fried tofu and ask for a small bowl of peppers in fish sauce...you'll need it.

                                1. re: Duppie
                                  w
                                  Worldwide Diner Jul 4, 2012 08:42 AM

                                  It wasn't really spicy but I am pretty full after noodles and plate of shrimps. Thanks for the rec.

                                  1. re: Worldwide Diner
                                    Duppie Jul 4, 2012 08:45 AM

                                    ...thus the bowl of peppers...

                          3. re: Worldwide Diner
                            p
                            Pan Jun 13, 2012 06:13 PM

                            Hot and Spicy Crabs, I believe. And I certainly would think it would be open on July 4, but you can always call and ask.

                          4. re: Pan
                            d
                            diprey11 Jun 13, 2012 09:46 AM

                            Let me articulate the problem: time and effort. And that's the reason why I stopped going to places like Laut or Chao (Thai).

                            Like many others, I like Malaysian food, and I like real food. I also have a fairly busy lifestyle. I might not have the time to commit to a particular restaurant in a hope that one day they recognize me as sponge-worthy. And what if, in the end, I don't like them?

                            I don't speak Malay and probably never will. I don't look the part. I have never lived in Malaysia. Is there hope for people like me? End of rant, sorry..

                            I am glad you found a way to convince the restaurant to serve you real food, but I don't see it as a common recipe.

                            1. re: diprey11
                              p
                              Pan Jun 13, 2012 06:17 PM

                              Yes, and it became clear that even that effort didn't work if I got the wrong waitress, whereupon I stopped going.

                              No, I think you have very little hope of getting food that really tastes like you'd get in Malaysia while you're in New York. If you went to some other cities outside of Malaysia like London, you could, but here, you can't. That's the way it is.

                              1. re: Pan
                                klyeoh Jul 7, 2012 08:30 AM

                                I think it's sad that the folks at Laut, whilst they certainly have the means to produce truly authentic Malaysian flavors in Manhattan, chose "not to", unless they have to, or want to. The reason I said so is because one of my closest Malaysian friends, on a holiday in New York last year, actually insisted on trying out Laut, despite my misgivings & forewarnings after I read some of your disappointing meals there.

                                Turned out, she had a terrific meal there, and said the food was every bit as good as she's expected from a Michelin-starred Malaysian restaurant . I was perplexed ... till I found out that she went there with the Malaysian ambassador & his family. Humph!

                                1. re: klyeoh
                                  p
                                  Pan Aug 3, 2012 01:16 AM

                                  It figures. That is pretty annoying. :(

                    2. Duppie Jun 11, 2012 03:51 AM

                      New Malaysia in Chinatown serves a decent Laksa and like Skyway,the spice level is pretty low but it's a small place so after a while when they get to know you the cook will dial it up a bit. Never had the Chili Crabs there but the curry fish head and chicken rice is pretty good IMO.

                      Lau should be checking in soon.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Duppie
                        l
                        Lau Jun 13, 2012 07:33 PM

                        sorry not going to be of much use here

                        asam laksa: i don't really like it as a dish (including in singapore and malaysia) so while i've had it a few times in NY, i dont really order it (i do love curry laksa though)
                        chili crabs: the problem with this dish is that its hard to find a good version outside of singapore or malaysia; i haven't had a version that is even passable in NY, so i'm going to be a snob right now and say you can't get it. some people like fatty crab, its ok, it doesnt taste like the real thing the sauce is much different although i dont think he was actually trying to totally re-create the dish. i do like their black pepper mussels though as a side note

                        1. re: Lau
                          Duppie Jun 13, 2012 07:45 PM

                          I hear you,and I guess that's why I learned to prepare most of my favorite dishes at home.

                          1. re: Lau
                            p
                            Pan Jun 13, 2012 08:50 PM

                            Lau, do you like other asam dishes like asam fish head?

                            1. re: Pan
                              l
                              Lau Jun 14, 2012 04:21 AM

                              i like other asam dishes since asam is just tamarind, but for some reason i don't really like asam laksa, i dont hate it and ill eat it if you put it in front of me, but its just not something i really order if you put a menu in front of me

                        2. p
                          Pan Jun 11, 2012 01:06 AM

                          Really good? No, I doubt it. But Skyway is good at least 3/4 of the time. You could try chili crabs there, too. But keep your expectations low. Skyway generally serves with a pretty low spice level.

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