Eats - Malaysian, Indonesian, Singaporean
311 Lake Merced Blvd
Daly City, CA
This is the closest Malaysian place to my boyfriend's house, so we go here every
month or so. It's not completely hidden behind a multistory parking garage, but
it's worth seeking out. The food can be uneven. I've had soggy roti canai here,
which is a crime. The lobak is okay, maybe a notch above Penang Garden.
We've actually been here a half dozen times, but this time it was just off. Black
bean clams were insipid and salty. Eggplant Malaysian style was good though.
The golden sesame chicken was fine. Dinner for two $49.04 before tip. Oct
McCarthy Ranch Shopping Center website
182 Ranch Drive
Milpitas, CA 95035
Mon-Thu: 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-9:45 p.m.; Fri: 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-10:30 p.m.; Sat: 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Closed Sun
This is the joint that started widespread popularity of Malaysian food in the South Bay. We started with roti prata, which was goodchewier and thicker than roti canai. Then there was about a 20 min. pause until the entrees arrived: Penang sizzling jumbo scallops, which were tender and delicious in a spicy dark sauce; Mee goreng, which is basically pad thai without the tamarind; and Belachan eggplant with Malay shrimp paste sauce, which was flavorful but not overpowering. I had a Malay ice coffee, which is similar to Vietnamese ice coffee but a bit less sweet and made with weaker coffee.
This is a small place and seating is in long rows of small tables which are shuffled to accomodate parties of different sizes. There are 2-3 outdoor tables, but they're right next to the parking lot. Service is very friendly and helpful.
Lunch for two ran $48, which seemed pricey. When you turn right onto Ranch Drive, continue until you see the Banana Leaf sign on the right. It's the first bldg on the right after you turn into the parking lot. Lines can be long, up to an hour wait (my advice: drive to Penang Garden). 03/03
238 Redwood Shore Pkwy (in the Nob Hill shopping center
across from EA)
Redwood Shores, CA
I really like this place, and it's ultra convenient from the Saba office. We
had roti prata (first rate), poh piah, lemon grass chicken (skip this
goreng, tulang cunung api. FYI: A small iron pot of hot tea is
extra, so I'd order something else. The place is fairly new, and chic on a budget.
The lunch crowd can overwhelm the waitstaff so I'd try to go early (crowds have
been growing as word spreads). $46.76 for a HUGE lunch. Jan 25, 2008
Update Jan 30, 2008 - We
eat here at least every two weeks now. We had the roti
prata (we always order this now), seafood tofu dumping
soup, curry chicken (skip it), and basil beef. Not extraordinary
this time, but for $34.42 for three, a steal.
278 Barbor Lane
Milpitas, CA 95035
Mon-Thu: 11 a.m.3 p.m., 5 p.m.10:30 p.m.; Sat: 11 a.m.10:30 p.m.; Sat: 11 a.m.10:00 p.m.
A casual restaurant in the far left corner of the mega-Chinese Milpitas Square shopping mall. I had my first version of the Malaysian version of roti canai (pronounced "cha-nai") here, which is thinner than the Chinese version and served with a curry dipping sauce. The Rendang beef was a bowl of stewed beef in a mildly sweet sauce. The reason that we ordered the kang kung belachan (sauteed convulus) was because I didn't know what it was, but it turned out to be a nicely cooked but not unlike A tsai. Service is first-rate and very friendly. Lunch was about $30. 02/03
Update 05/14/03: Went back for a huge lunch with two friends. Started with roti canai (of course), Lo Bak, and Poh Piah. Lo Bak is minced chicken wrapped in tofu sheets and deep fried and is served with cucumber wedges, pickled ginger, preserved eggs, and an odd "shrimp toast" of sorts. Poh Piah is steamed rice noodles wrapped around sprouts and sprinkled with crispy fried onions.
Both were delicious, especially the Lo Bak. For entrees, we chose a braised baby chicken in dried scallop sauce, chow kueh teow, and "Ladies Fingers" Malaysian style. We also added a second order of roti canai. The braised chicken was subtle. The chow kueh teow is very similar to pad thai except without the tamarind paste, so it was a bit bland to me. The "Ladies Fingers" are okra, cooked quickly so they aren't overly mucillagenous and flavored with shrimp paste. For dessert, we split deep-fried bananas with ice cream, and ABC, which is a spectacular mound of shaved ice flavored with sugar syrup, coconut milk, little bits of grass jelly, palm fruit, corn, pinto beans, and other textures. This was by far the best lunch we've had here, and could easily have fed five people. The bill came to $60.
Update 08/16/03: We return again,
a trio this time. One of our party doesn't eat pork, so
I thought this would be a good choice. We had the usualroti
canai, lo bakplus chicken satay, which was tender,
hot off the grill, and juicy. We followed with lamb santan,
a subtle curry-spiked sauce with slivers of onion. We also
had pepper beef, which was good but not noteworthy.
Update 4/24/05: We return for lo
spareribs, roti canai, and a shrimp dish I can't
remember because I didn't really like it. Quality is just
as good, although the roti canai was a bit chewier than
(used to be Penang Garden)
El Camino Real
San Mateo, CA
I didn't even realize this was the northerly sister restaurant of the place in
Milpitas until I saw the interior, which has the same modern feel. Unfortunately,
I think the food at the Milpitas location is superior, if only slightly. 09/04
Update 5/29/05: Thanks
to Roderick for letting me know about the name change.
He also recommends the Mee Siam (Thai rice noodles) at
The Island Cafe in downtown San Mateo (3rd street), which
is says "is not as hot and spicy as the way mom served
it but I'll take it."
The Spice Islands Cafe
210 Hope St.
Mountain View, CA 94041
A plain jane restaurant with a nice selection of Malaysian, Indonesian, and Singaporean dishes, i.e., a fusion of South Asian, Chinese, Indian, and indigenous foods. The pancake-like wheat flour-based appetizers such as Roti Telur ($4.95) are fantastic. The entrees are odd: some are simply prepared and presented, while others are unsuccessfully elaborate plates. The coconut shrimp was uninspired. My advice: go for the Indian-derived dishes over the seafood, and when in doubt, try the weirdest thing on the menu. 03/02
Whatever, expect a 30 min. wait
So, my friend Michael and I finally go to see what the fuss is over this place. And it wasn't half bad. The appetizers are fascinating, mostly because we couldn't figure out what they'd mixed into the aioli or the ketchup. Whatever it was, it was delicious. Entrees kinda sucked: bland grilled salmon that couldn't be saved by the spicy sambal, paella with undercooked rice but well-cooked seafood, strangely non-greasy beef chow fun. Service was good, although the tables are sooooo close to each other that a) I kept getting bumped by the clumsy straight people passing through, and b) the waitors has to do a freaking dance just to fill our water glasses (grace under pressure). AND, I had to stare at pathetic straight people ALL NIGHT LONG. It was if every girl was trying out for the Fresno edition of Sex in the City. The saving grace was the older white guys with solid pecs trying to score. How sad...how very, very sad. 09/07/03
Update May 25, 2008: We
went to the branch in the new Westfield Mall in downtown
San Francisco, which is a nice enough room even though
you can't see out of the windows. We had a ginger soda
(very nice), roti prata (good sauce), spare ribs, a spinach
salad, some jasmine rice, ayam kalasan (fried chicken with
garlic), and a rack of lamb. The food was all very good,
which strangely always surprises me since I consider these
restaurants little more than excuses for young people to
go hook up. Before tip: $85.38, which is high although
that the portions are fairly large, so we ended up taking
a bunch of stuff home.