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Aug 3, 2012 10:43 PM

superb Malaysian food @ guest chef/oakland through 12 aug.

the chef is 'Shy' (Yi Xiong) Leong, presently an instructor at a local cooking school. [bio blurb and menu explicated on guest chef's web site. they're located at 5337 College Ave, a few blocks south of the Rockridge/Oakland BART]. he's offering nine dishes, with a dinner formula of four for $38. a la carte each dish is $9.

Chef Leong's cooking is refined, delicate, with concentrated flavors while avoiding excessive spicing, oil, or salt. as an amuse the chef served pieces of fresh pineapple and orange that he dressed with his own spice/herb extract that served as a light vinaigrette, a very light dusting of spice, and razor thin slices of lemongrass. the precise combination of flavours and textures was an excellent preface to the other courses. one of the standouts in the seven dishes we tried was the soup, listed as 'curried mutton'. without knowing that label, one might not think of it that way, because the broth was translucent and consumme - like, impressive depth and subtle heat around very tender, small chunks of lamb and carrot. similarly, what's described as pickled veg's on the menu are pickled so delicately that it could as well be called a lightly dressed salad, and what takes it to another level is the matrix of minced peanuts surrounding the veggies. the chef starts with toasting the peanuts, but the dressing and seasoning transform it into something much more like a grain. another stand out was his version of beef rendang. the only beef in my experience with a similar concentration of flavour, texture that was tender and firm at the same time, would be southwest 'carne seco' preparations (my sole encounter with it was in Tuscon, Az).

one of the ales from the house list, Sierra Nevada pale ale, was a perfect match with the food. the chef dished us extra tumeric-infused rice on request.

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    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I wouldn't call the menu "Malaysian" and let it go at that. It seems heavily MALAY to me, and the names are basically in Malay. The Achar, Otak-Otak and Bubur Cha Cha are Nyonya/Peranakan dishes.

      The Beehoon Goreng and the "turmeric sweet rice" **(served with the "Beef rendang"††) in my view are the only components that could be said to have some non-Malay [i.e. Malaysian-Chinese] influence.

      ** Does he mean "nasi kunyit" ?
      †† Is the rendang spicy hot at all? It should have some heat.

      I wonder if the Sayur Lodeh had any coconut milk in it? (It should have) (I would not call something "sayur lodeh" if it did not have coconut milk in it)

      Where are the Malaysian-Chinese or Malaysian-Indian dishes?

      1. re: huiray

        tried it out and it is definitely Malay with nyonya/Peranakan food but with a westernized take on it. The rendang was not spicy enough at all to my taste (lived in Malaysia) but my American dining companions thought there was some heat to it. The sayur lodeh didn't have coconut milk but I thought it was just a regional difference. The seasoning was right on but it was still an echo of common nyonya dishes. The portions were small as I was expecting more family share style. It's a good menu to introduce people to malay cuisine.

    2. So presumably two people could get eight of the nine dishes?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        ...and just order the ninth one as an extra. :-)

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          the serving portion sizes are modest [the servings of achar and sayur lodeh for example were similar to a side salad in size, rather than a plate of stir fried veg you'd get in a Chinese or Vietnamese joint], so if two eaters really liked one of the courses, they might prefer getting that course x2. with the extra servings of rice, the seven dishes for us was just the right quantity. we sat at the cook's counter as we always do, and you could probably get a taste of the course you omit if you pick eight different ones for two people, talking directly to the chef from that vantage point.

        2. Went last night around 8:45 and they had just run out of food.

          1. Thanks for the tip! Four of us had dinner there tonight and it was delicious! We actually ordered three prix fixe for the four of us (twelve dishes -- one of everything on the menu and doubles of the mutton soup, the beef rendang and the noodles. It was a lot of food and we had substantial leftovers.

            The complexity of the spicing was amazing. On a couple of dishes on my first bite I wasn't impressed, but by the third bite the flavors were growing and developing. The mutton soup was indeed outstanding -- each bite tasted different, and as I got to the bottom of the bowl, the flavors intensified. The "candy soup" with chunks of sweet potato, taro, coconut milk and vanilla ice cream was similar:

            Apparently his time has been extended, so don't miss out. BTW, the pricing was slightly different than you mentioned: $34 for the prix fixe and $10 for individual dishes.


            10 Replies
            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Did the Sayur Lodeh have coconut milk in it?

              1. re: huiray

                Not that I noticed. It was fairly dry, not soupy.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Interesting. Definitely his take on it, then. I expect Sayur Lodeh to be somewhat soupy, or at least very "wet", with coconut milk as a defining constituent in it. Sure, you can skip the coconut milk and change the consistency of the saucing etc and have a wonderful and delicious dish - but it simply isn't "Sayur Lodeh" anymore. Or change the saucing to a tamarind-type instead - in which case it is Sayur Asem.

                  1. re: huiray

                    This was moist, but didn't have any sauce. I thought it was the least successful dish, but maybe because it was the last savory dish we got and we were full!

                    To answer the question above, the rendang has some heat, although I wouldn't call it hot. Like the other dishes the seasonings were in layers that built on succeeding bites. Some of the dishes the flavor elements were physically separate, i.e. you'd get a bite with a bit more peanut, or sesame, or herbs, but for the fish mousse, which was uniform, it just seemed to build.

                    I felt bad because on a Saturday night when I got there at 8 there were just a couple of other tables occupied, and we were the only people in the restaurant after about 8:30. Please go (but make a reservation -- Robert complained about them running out of food, but if he's been getting a small turnout and buying accordingly then several people drop in, I could see how that could happen).

              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                It's quite a nice menu. I thought the heat level was mild.

                My favorite dishes were the spices on the chicken satay and the pickled cauliflower and long beans.

                The candy soup was too sweet for me, although everyone else loved it. Mutton soup was very good; I'm not sure I could eat a huge bowl of it.

                Definitely worth checking out. Portions were generous.

                1. re: Windy

                  Yes, the mutton soup was very rich, and the cup-size portion (I assume it was two orders, split into four) we had was just right.

                2. re: Ruth Lafler

                  How long is his stint extended for? Glanced quickly at the website, but didn't see any dates mentioned.

                  1. re: Spatlese

                    I think she said another week, but you should call and confirm.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      According to their FB page, through Sunday, 8/19. And new items on the menu!

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Kangkong belachan can be considered a nyonya dish. Kueh lapis is a nyonya cake. Sup ikan as described is neither here nor there, it could be Indonesian or Thai as well. :-)