Downtown Lunch: New Malaysia Restaurant
Making Downtown office workers jealous is something this blog has been doing for awhile now. To even the score, I’ve brought on Daniel Krieger as an official Downtown Lunch Correspondent to write up some of the great stuff you can get in the lower half of Manhattan. He’s a great photographer (insuring good food porn), but more importantly he is a lover of cheap, unique and delicious eats (or as I like to call it- Midtown Lunch’ish food), and seems to be particularly fond of Chinatown (my dream lunch location). Last week was Tasty Dumpling, but this week takes it to a different level- since there is no Malaysian food in Midtown at all...
New Malaysia Restaurant can finally live up to it’s name after having a recent interior renovation which spiffs the place up to a shine (literally, you can see your reflection in the table). While the old interior of New Malaysia wasn’t that bad, it has definitely improved the overall feel of the place. But what about the food? Did they change my favorite recipe for their Roti Canai, which is chopsticks down the best in the city? No, thank god, they haven’t.
But with new decor, comes new prices, and as is the case with many NYC restaurants, the ones at New Malaysia have gone up (although you’d be hard pressed to complain, considering it’s still dirt cheap). Hidden between two streets, the “Chinatown Arcade” marked entrance sadly has no Donkey Kong but includes several Asian eateries (and probably a Centipede or two). The staff is surly with a smile.
My favorite roti canai and a dessert that looks like clown throw-up, after the jump…
Roti canai $2.95 — This pan fried disc of dough is reason enough to come to New Malaysia Restaurant, expertly prepared, each time it comes out slightly crispy with the perfect consistency for tearing and dipping in the thimble full of dangerous chicken chunk filled curry sauce that comes with it. Dangerous not from the heat, but because of tiny sharp bones that are almost always found in the sauce.
Satay chicken $4.75 — a healthy slather of thick, sweet peanut sauce drenches the tender chicken nibblets…mmmm that is good!
Homestyle combo on rice $5.75 — This feast in a bowl comes with a few pieces of cold hainanese chicken (covered with a thin, somewhat off putting layer of fat), warm beef brisket (delicious), and a fried egg (it was a fried egg). Overall the dish was satisfying and had it’s strong points, including a pair of spicy and sweet saucesâ€”one was red pepper, the other a sweet ginger concoction.
Singapore ice $3.25 — Oh boy this was hands down the nastiest thing I’ve eaten in awhile. The entire thing was a ruse..they delivered what looked like a nice refreshing and sweet dessert to us (see exhibit A). The ice itself was flavored with what can only be described as a bubble gum spritz. Then we quickly found the treasures contained within (see above). Still we weren’t too grossed out.. so we kept digging.. red beans? Ok not so bad… corn? Ok a little weird…. then we started to hit the belly of the beast.. larva like plastic gum drops and rugged lego shaped turquoise gelatin pieces abounded. By the end (and I mean by the end of digging, not eating, because my lunch companion and I stopped ingesting it after a few bites but continued searching for more treasure like pirates!) it looked like a clown threw up in a dessert dish.
When you realize they have options like Coconut and Pineapple ice on your way out, you wonder what sounded so good about “Singapore ice” in the first place.
Also recommended: Curry tender beef on rice $5.50, Curry potatoes roll $4.50, Chicken with string beans on rice: $4.75
The staff at New Malaysia is attentive if brusque, but that is Chinatown for you… and the locals know about the spot which is always a good thing. The level of the food here is a bit above most of the restaurants in the area. It’s clean, fresh, and cooked to order. Soups and vegetable dishes are also top quality and seem authentic to me (thought what does a white boy who lives in Brooklyn know?). You’ll feel like you’ve found a cool hidden spot when you’re there, and you’ll love the roti canai. Don’t get the Singapore ice though, not even on a dare.
New Malaysia Restaurant, 46-48 Bowery, in the “Chinatown Arcade” btw. Bowery+Elizabeth, 212-964-0284
Post & Photos by Daniel Krieger