Cuisine Malaya in Elizabeth is probably my favorite go-to restaurant pound for pound. I frequently crave Asian food of all types and CM delivers consistent goodness at a great price, including generously-sized sushi rolls. Since I was near the Arboretum today I decided to check out Malaya Kitchen, a new Malaysian-fusion restaurant I’ve been reading about lately.
<insert a photo of the restaurant here in your mind. it didn’t come out.>
Around 4pm, I was the only customer in the restaurant. The inside is a pretty good size with a large bar, probably because of the “restaurant and lounge” tagline. They have a sake and cocktail menu, with “Ladies’ Night” on Thursdays (free cocktail with food purchase) and 10% off bottles of Sake on Tuesdays. They also run 10% your meal purchase during your birthday month.
I’m saving money so I didn’t go hard, but I did want to compare some of my mainstays. First up, my absolute favorite dish at my other spot: roti canai. It’s a thin, crispychewy pancake with potato curry.
It’s really hard to live up to Cuisine Malaya’s roti canai. I get it every single time I eat there. It is perfect. I even drink what’s left of the curry after the pancake is gone (if I don’t just order an extra pancake to soak it up) My mom and I have taken to getting individual orders because when we share we just end up ordering a second one… and fighting over it. It is heaven. Malaya Kitchen’s was not heaven. It was okay but not great.? I will definitely try something else the next time, probably the calimari.
Next up was the wonton soup. This is a good standard for any Asian-oriented restaurant that serves it. Good wonton soup doesn’t necessarily denote good food, but great soup does. Oily, bright orange, processed-tasting, bland or otherwise bad to middling wonton soup and your entrees are guaranteed to be awful. Malaya Kitchen’s is delightful, with thick meaty wontons and just enough scallions and bean sprouts to compliment. The broth was just a touch saltier than I’m used to, but I never add salt to my food at all and rarely cook with it, so my sensitivity is pretty keen.
It was hard choosing an entree. The menu isn’t so extensive to be overwhelming and there were several items that I would have liked to try. This is Malaysian “fusion”, which I guess includes typical Chinese restaurant fare (General Tso’s and sesame chicken were listed, along with other standards) as well as Vietnamese pho and pad thai. I went for the beef/chicken lo mein, which is another one of those standards that says a lot about a restaurant’s general quality. I have to say that there was nothing on the menu that stood out as especially creative.
It was pretty good! The portion was generous and they didn’t skimp on the meat at all (but maybe that’s because I was the only person there!) Tomorrow will tell how well the leftovers heat, but the noodles weren’t greasy and there was a good meat-veggie-noodle balance. I’ve had bad lo mein, and bad lo mein is baaaaaaad.
So all said, Malaya Kitchen is a pretty good spot. I probably won’t be driving down to the Arboretum to visit, but if I’m in the area I’d definitely stop by again. I am curious to see how loungey the lounge situation can get. Maybe I’ll hit it up for ladies’ night sometime.
Update: Malaya Kitchen is owned by T.T. Chan, the same person who owns Cuisine Malaya. Well, whaddaya know. Get to cracking on making those roti recipes match!