Malacca Straits is an establishment that I’ve been keen to try out for some time, having read some positive reviews of the restaurant.
Named after the Straits of Malacca, a major international shipping lane between the Pacific and Indian oceans, a lot of the dishes at the restaurant draw its influence from Nyonya cuisine; one that is specific to this region that incorporates elements of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian cuisines. However, there are also a number of Thai dishes on the menu.
With a close circle of friends in tow, we ventured forth into the city to discover that finding the restaurant isn’t as straightforward as punching in a few details into a GPS.
Malacca Straits is not the sort of place that you would likely stumble across during a leisurely stroll around Broadway, as the only visible marker from the street is a rather innocuous free-standing sign directing you to enter the courtyard of a residential apartment building. Ensconced at the far end of said courtyard, this casual Malaysian eatery is ironically easy to spot once you’ve ventured into this vast, open expanse as it’s the predominant source of light and life within the whole complex.
Service by the wait staff was somewhat of a mixed bag – a kindly, middle-aged gentleman juxtaposed with a gruff, equally-middle-aged waitress with the charm of a buzzard. The good cop/bad cop routine may work wonders as an interrogation tactic, but not so much from a customer service standpoint. Food service on the other hand was fine, though, as there wasn’t a long wait between the placement and receipt of our order.
Air Batu Campur ($5) – Another name for Ais Kacang, Air Batu Campur (ABC for short) is a shaved ice dessert with a whole assortment of flavour and textures including red beans, cubes of grass jelly, the little green worm-like cendol, crushed peanuts drizzled with a generous amount of evaporated milk, rose syrup and palm sugar syrup. Perhaps a little too generous with the rose syrup, as I found it dominated the flavours of most of the other elements.
It may seem odd to have a dessert item so early on in the dinner line-up but if you’ve read the previous Malaysia Kitchen Summit post, it was something that I’d picked up whilst over in Malaysia. The ABC adopts the role of a fancy drink more than a dessert. However, judging from the reaction from the staff, I’m starting to wonder whether it is indeed an odd thing to do…
Har Mee ($11) – There’s not much I can say about this noodle dish as I’d only had a small taste of its soup. It was ok, but the presence of prawn flavour was fairly muted compared to others I’ve had.
Penang Kapitan Chicken ($14.80) – Not the most photogenic of dishes, but what it lacks in appearance it makes up for in flavour. This rich, coconut-based curry is mild and nonthreatening, and as such, is likely to be a good choice to those unfamiliar with Asian cuisine.
Assam Udang ($16.80) – Prawns cooked in a tangy, sweet sauce of tamarind, tomatoes, okra and onions, the Assam Udang was a noteworthy dish I was rather happy with. The tangy sauce worked well with the natural sweetness of the prawns.
One of the diners had felt the okra was underdone, rendering it inedible. Whilst it wasn’t so tender than a toothless octogenarian would make short work of it, I personally didn’t find a problem with it.
Hainanese Chicken Rice ($9.50) – Whilst it may seem rather impressive for the dollars spent, the chicken rice left much to be desired. A common issue amongst all the chicken-flavoured elements of the dish – the meat, rice and accompanying bowl of chicken broth – was that it was too greasy. The meat, though juicy and tender, lacked the clean taste that it’s normally known for. Same too goes for the rice, while the soup had a distinct, homogenous oil slick pooled across its surface.
Golden Sand Prawns ($28.80) – Deep-fried battered prawns coated with a “golden sand” of salted duck egg yolk. It’s crispy, rich and salty, which would normally be a recipe for satisfaction (if not hypertension) but the person who ordered it seemed to be rather unimpressed by it. Having tried some myself, it seemed like a fairly typical example of this dish, though the apparent use of frozen prawns over fresh ones was a little disappointing given the relatively high price tag.
Chicken Satay ($12) – If you ever find yourself at Malacca Straits with children in tow, this dish is one that won’t likely disappoint. It’s tasty chicken in stick form that can be eaten with the hands – what’s not to love? Little Miss Sunshine gobbled them up with a manic glee reminiscent of the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil.
Bo Bo Cha Cha ($5) – The likely subject of many a bad dance-related pun, the Bo Bo Cha Cha is a dessert soup consisting of cubes of steamed sweet potato and sago pearls immersed in coconut milk flavoured with palm sugar. Served warm, it’s a rich, intensely sweet dessert. Perhaps too sweet for those that prefer the subtle sweetness common to a lot of Asian desserts, but I was fine with it as it was.
Kuih Ketayap ($5) – A pandan-flavoured crepe is wrapped around a filling of toasted coconut and palm sugar and served with vanilla ice-cream and a drizzle of palm sugar syrup. The flavours work well with each other, making for a nice dessert. However, a single serve seems rather small for a dessert course, something that is only accentuated by the unnecessarily large plate it’s served on. In relation to other desserts on the menu, it appears stingy by comparison.
Banana Fritters ($5) – Given the ludicrously high price of bananas, I was surprised that this dessert was still on the menu at its usual, comparatively low price. Little Miss Sunshine made short work of this dessert, finishing with a big smile and a look of contentment.
Whilst I find it to be less a hidden gem than just hidden, Malacca Straits has some redeeming elements that makes it worth a look into if you happen to be in the area, especially around lunch time. There are a large number of lunching options available around the $10 mark, with the amount of food served likely to be on the generous side if the chicken rice or har mee are anything to go by.
the heart of food dined at Malacca Straits courtesy of Malaysia Kitchen Australia.
Malacca Straits on Broadway
5/66 Mountain Street, Ultimo
(02) 8021 7069