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Jun 10, 2012 07:45 PM

Asam laksa in Manhattan?

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

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  1. 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.

    1. 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

        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

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

          1. re: Lau

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

            1. re: Pan

              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. 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

            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 fast and far.

            1. re: Worldwide Diner

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

                      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

                      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

                        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

                          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

                            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

                              I am a white guy who speaks fluent Malay.

                              1. re: Pan

                                You are? holy shit thats cool

                                1. re: AubWah

                                  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

                                    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

                                      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

                                        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.

                                  1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                    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

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

                                      1. re: Duppie

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

                                2. re: Worldwide Diner

                                  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.

                                3. re: Pan

                                  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

                                    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

                                      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

                                        It figures. That is pretty annoying. :(