Among the myriad Asian cuisines dotting our Valley, Malaysian is in the clear minority. Don’t overlook it. The blend of Chinese and Indian influences with tropical ingredients results in fare unlike any other. And there’s nowhere better to explore those island flavors than Island Malaysian Cuisine.
Island is located in Chinatown’s two-story Pacific Asian Plaza in the space previously occupied by Penang, whose former head chef took over ownership. If you were a fan of Penang, you should not be disappointed here.
I suggest wandering off-menu to start, for the roti tissue ($3.50), a marvel of modern architecture that arrives towering above its plate. In contrast to the standard roti canai, this version is dusted with a bit of sugar and rolled about half as thick. Get both kinds and you can dip the tissue into the chicken curry served with the canai. You’re welcome.
For entrées, go more traditional. Mee goreng ($8) is stir-fried egg noodles intermixed with tofu, shrimp, potatoes, egg and bean sprouts. The tofu is divine, but the highlight is the dried squid sauce, which provides the distinct essence of umami. The nasi lemak ($7.50) is a little more challenging. Coconut rice comes alongside chicken curry and chili anchovies, but neither the curry nor anchovies are overpowering. And best of all might be the beef rendang ($13), a Malaysian curry dish with just the right amount of heat.
- Island Malaysian Cuisine
- 5115 Spring Mountain Road #217, 898-3388.
- Daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
It should be noted that the good folks at Island Malaysian assist those in need of help by providing a “white folks tome” with pictures of every dish on the menu—all 137 of ’em. That’s indicative of the service overall: thoughtful, attentive and deliberate in typical Asian fashion. Fast food this is not.
Obscure drinks are common in ethnic restaurants, and Island offers several. The most interesting is the fresh young coconut ($3.50), a meal and drink all in one. After you suck the coconut water through a hole hammered into the top, simply spoon out the meat. Hours of fun for a girl or a boy.
For dessert, the peanut pancake ($6.50) is a hidden joy—roti stuffed with a combination of peanuts, honey and butter—and as addictive as it sounds, a sublime finish to an adventurous, spicy meal.