Malaysian food is one of the world's great cuisines, so I was excited to check out Restoran Malaysia, in Richmond Hill (815 Major Mackenzie Drive East at Bayview). The bustling, sprawling restaurant is one of only a handful of places in the GTA that serve Malaysian food. But when the first dish arrived at my table, I was disappointed.
The mutton and beef skewers were tough and chewy. They were coated with an overly sweet marinade, and the accompanying satay sauce was sugary, like a dessert.
The nasi goreng was also a let down. Normally this is a wonderful Southeast Asian fried rice dish is packed with all kinds of great meat and veggies, held together with a syrupy version of soy sauce. But Restoran Malaysia's version tasted like your standard take-out Chinese fried rice with flavourless pieces of chicken, shrimp and frozen vegetables. But soon some items appeared at the table that more than made up for the meal's mediocre beginnings.
It was the roti. Oh, the roti. This exquisite flat bread is called roti canai or roti prata in Malaysia, and it has roots in Indian cuisine. The thin chewy bread is slightly crisp and toasty on the outside. Served with a bowl of intense, rich curry sauce, I could eat endless amounts of the stuff.
"People come here from Malaysia and say the roti here is better here than at home," boasts chef and owner Howard Chew. "We made 35,000 pieces of roti here in the last six months."
It's made in the restaurant kitchen on a griddle, and consists of just flour, milk, sugar, salt and ghee (clarified butter). "You have to it eat right away," says Howard. "It's crisp on the outside, but if you take home, it becomes all soft."
While Indian curries are flavoured mainly with ground spices, Malaysian ones get their flavour from fresh ingredients such as ginger, shallots, chili pepper and garlic. "Malaysian food uses fresh ingredients like Thai food, but the cooking style is similar to Indian food," explains Howard.
The Singapore Laksa (below) is also excellent. It's a bowl of chewy noodles, fried tofu, chicken and saucers of fish cake, doused in an intensely flavourful bright orange liquid. "It's made with galangal, dry shrimp, chili, shallots, coconut milk and lemongrass," explains Howard.
While the menu certainly has some misses, the roti and laksa make a meal at Restoran Malaysia well worth the trip.
Restoran Malaysia is at 815 Major Mackenzie Drive East, Richmond Hill, Ont. Tel
Sunday noon to 10pm. The food is halal.
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