224 W 104th Street (Between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave), NYC
It might be easy to miss this place, since it almost resembles a hole in the wall, but you’ll want to try this hidden treasure on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The decor reminded me of an old-school ramen shop with lots of wood paneling, and several small tables. You might have to wait a few minutes from a table since the place is not that big, but it’s worth the wait. The food, and amazing aromas in the dining room, are what it’s really all about here.
We started with the Curry Mee Noodle Soup ($8.25), which we got with two bowls to split, and the Roti Canai ($3.50) appetizer. Both dishes were delicious. The curry broth coated your tongue with a pleasant layer of fattiness, and had a great viscosity. It came with a combination of (homemade?) egg noodles, as well as delicate rice noodles. Both were cooked well—not an easy feat to accomplish. The broth also had subtle coconut and intense curry flavors that warmed you up—perfect for the tail end of Winter weather. This soup was definitely asking for a nice squeeze of lime juice though. In addition, the chicken was cooked nicely in the broth, and I’m planning on trying the shrimp version next time.
The Roti Canai consisted of a Malaysian/Indian style pancake flatbread, which was thin and a perfect vehicle for scooping up the spicy chicken curry sauce that served as a dip. The pancake itself was crispy on the edges with a doughy consistency throughout so it didn’t fall apart from the, at times, heavy curry. It also came with some pickled vegetables as a garnish that didn’t seem very necessary on the plate. At only $3.50 for the dish, this is a major deal and a delicious way to start the meal.
The next dish to come to the table was the Chow Kueh Teow ($8.95)–flat rice noodles with shrimp, squid and vegetables–a Malaysian specialty. The plate arrived with a big portion of chow fun-esque noodles, but the noodles were more angular with a firmer texture, though not in a bad way. The delicate baby shrimp were cooked perfectly, and the squid was not overcooked and retained its meatiness, but seemed to be an odd choice in the dish. Scallops might have fit in better. The noodles lacked enough spice or tanginess to elevate the squid. Luckily there was some sambal (a very spicy Asian chili paste with a bright red color, sometimes made with the addition of garlic, lemongrass or lime) on the table to mix in.
The final dish to arrive was the Chicken Rendang ($9.95) that came (recommended) with coconut rice. The Chicken Rendang consisted of succulent pieces of boneless, dark meat chicken with an aftertaste of lemongrass mixed with heat, but a mild mouthfeel. The meat was melt-in-your mouth tender and the sauce was a beautiful dark red color that was offset by the bright pickled vegetable garnishes. In this dish, the pickled veggies were a welcome addition to act as a cooling agent as the heat built on your tongue. The gravy was reminiscent of an earthier tikka masala sauce, with strong notes of lemongrass. The ground onions gave it a very aromatic flavor, especially mixed with the lingering heat. The coconut rice was a solid side, especially as it complemented the coconut in the sauce, but it was nothing special in comparison. The dish also featured pieces of potato, with the skin on, and just on the edge of overcooked, as well as eggplant, which was super soft and tender. The eggplant lived up to its spongy reputation, and absorbed a lot of the spiciness. The eggplant and Rendang gravy could have made a delicious vegetarian dish all on its own. However, the plate could have stood to lose the blanched string bean and tomato garnish. Otherwise, this dish was awesome!
Overall, the meal was fantastic in terms of taste, smell, aesthetics and value. You should make it a point to stop by this place anytime you get a hankering for some comforting Malaysian dishes.