I am spoiled when it comes to neighborhood food choices. Platte Park has no shortage of restaurants, and choosing between some of the great spots on Broadway (Azucar, Buffalo Doughboy, Capital Tea) and South Pearl Street (Park Burger, Sushi Den, Black Pearl, Kaos Pizza) can make an indecisive girl dizzy. Now, however, I have found a new go-to place for a delicious inspired Malaysian meal--Makan Malaysian Cafe.
Nan and I decided to have an impromptu lunch out on Friday, finally finding the time to give this two-and-a-half month old neighborhood restaurant a try. We walked in, and not only were we immediately greeted by a waitstaff and a welcoming light space, but we realized that our neighbors were there having lunch. When we sat down at an open table next to them, they immediately introduced us to their two new friends, Pravine and James, who got up to shake our hands. They had traveled from Morrison to this part of town so they could have some Malaysian food. In two months, James was headed to travel around Thailand and Vietnam, ultimately teaching English abroad for awhile. Our neighbors gushed about the food, swearing to the glory of the Curry Puff and Kari Ayam (chicken curry). For awhile, the six of us chatted, all comfortably from our separate tables.
The restaurant is a small space, with one row of tables that seat two or four; they can easily be combined for larger parties. The tables are positioned close enough to share conversations, but separate enough to converse with your dining companion. There's also a small community table and a few wooden stools at a counter, a place to sit and grab a cup of espresso and a Malaysian pastry.
Usually, when Nan and I are venturing into new menu territory, we try for different dishes, wanting to get a decent sampling of the restaurant's offerings. This time, Mee Siam grabbed us both, and I'd be tempted when returning, to order it yet again. This noodle dish yields a variety of flavors, from the hints of chili spiced noodles to the tangy fresh lime on the plate for a fresh squeezed dressing. Mixed in the dish are shrimp, spongy tofu, and green onions. The dish is garnished with long strips of cooked eggs. For a starter, we ordered the pork and shrimp wontons, a dish of three pouch-like fried dumplings, delicious small bites accompanied with a slightly sweet chili sauce.
Since we were both tired from a long bike ride and hot from the heat, we selected Makan's Teh Halia , their "pick me up" (mixture of Teh Tarik and ginger juice) as a drink. The cool comfort of a milky tea with a zing of ginger perfectly accompanied all the flavors of our dishes.
What I really love about this new neighborhood spot is that it serves unfamiliar dishes. While the menu has some familiars, such as roti and satay, it has plenty of mystery with dishes such as rendang daging (beef rendang) and nasi lemak. Most of the dishes feature a mix of spices and coconut, characteristic of Malaysian cuisine.
The place has character (the good kind), with small instructions on each table about the best way to eat Malaysian food (fork and spoon for dishes that are served on a plate, fingers for small dishes such as our wontons, and chopsticks for food served in a bowl). Community and a passion of food are clearly evident here. At the top of the menu is the question, "Have you eaten?" (sudah makan?), a typical greeting in Malaysia. Any place that greets me that way is my type of restaurant. When I leave this slice of Malaysia, I can say yes, I have eaten.