"Ribs brined in cencalok, smoked with oakwood..."
The latest New York based Zak Pelaccio's homage to all things funky, fishy and pungent is Fatty 'Cue, southern-style barbeque that gets down and dirty with spices and ingredients our side of the border. The restaurant itself is no frills but packed even for 6pm. Cocktails on the menu are not shy on flavour either using chilli infused mixers and leaves like Vietnamese mint and Thai basil.
Menu-wise it is undeniable that Zak loves his succulent pigs- it's porcine heavy but that doesn't mean the rest of his meats like brisket, duck and chicken or seafood (think grilled mackerel and a crab-meat laksa) suffer for it.
The Legend is a mixed plate of delicious fatty pig parts including ribs and belly- crisp and succulent with smoke enforcing the brines and rubs with blow-your-mind flavour. It comes with a side of soft bau's so you can sop up the juices, oils and the dipping sauces that come with it.
The wahyu brisket, which is my personal favourite are tender chunks and slivers of meat with more of those sinful white buns with a side of chilli jam, aioli and red onions (almost like the fushia kind that you put on a murtabak). You can eat the brisket on its own or make make-shift sandwiches. This is worth coming here for.
The duck and chicken are both note-worthy as is the mackerel. The crab laksa is a sweet-briny broth with mushrooms- I could use a little more sourness. My fellow diners however lapped it up. Though the barbecue here is undeniably delicious, Cue like any good member of the Fatty family excels in the snacks and starters.
The nasi ulam (though it resembles more like a nasi goreng kampung with crispy ikan bilis within) is addictive. It's a little herby but not overpowering and just goes so well with the wealth of chilli-fied condiments. Another, which is just called Bowl of Noodles is also ridiculously good. It harkens a little of those cold Korean noodles with a pungent chilli mix. What makes it classic Fatty is the fact that it's also mixed with all those lovely meat-drippings and topped with fresh scallions. Yummers.
"Your spicy fix in Melbourne"
"You've come during the lunch rush," said the cheerful owner. She waved us to a table with lots of light, "so I can't talk but please enjoy the food." Little Malaysia is small, cosy and pretty packed for lunch. You can't tell much from the street, just a door and one long window which doesn't show much since the eatery curves downwards. It's very much like the small Chinese eateries I used to eat in Chinatown London. No fuss, bustling and good food. Most of the people eating here are local Aussies.
Australia we discovered, does know a thing or two about Malaysian food by virtue of being closer to Southeast Asia and the insane influx of Malaysian students into their cities. Restaurants such as Little Malaysia have been operating successfully for many years. And though other countries know satay, rendang and perhaps even nasi lemak, in Australia, it's the laksa they can't get enough of.
The seafood laksa here is tasty enough with big prawns and chunky squid. The gravy is fragrant without being too spicy. The only jarring thing was to find broccoli in my laksa- strange but doesn't distract you too much.
"Malaysian with a funky twist"
How can we not enter a restaurant named Laksa Me? At the tail end of our FAM trip to Melbourne for the Food and Wine Festival
one might think that we've had enough of food. Wrong. Afterall, there is an underlying Asian theme to the festivities this year so ending it with a Malaysian restaurant seemed fitting. The restaurant itself is simply decorated with enticing scents wafting from the kitchen area.
First up, oysters. One is done as a shot in a basil and sesame concoction that gives you a bracing kick at the back of the throat. The other is served in a mother of pearl shell with chillies and ginger- hot and leaves a pungent aftertaste on your tongue. What a meal opener.
Next up is his famous pandan chicken. It's succulent, with just enough oil to lubricate its passage down your throat. Pops beautifully in your mouth. This is followed closely by grilled calamari, sliced thinly to resemble fat laksa noodles. The strands are then tossed with jellyfish, cucumbers and dressing. An undeniably bright dish with lots of textures and flavours.
We loved the nasi lemak. Served as an appetizer it's really spiffy-looking. Three mouthfuls of coconut rice on a cucumber pedestal with a condiment on top of each. One was crowned with toasted peanuts, another bore sambal ikan bilis and the last, nested a boiled quail's egg. What a funky way to serve it! But most importantly it's delicious and does not skimp on the spiciness.
"Come on in!"
Our team was in London to film some of the top Malaysian restaurants for one of our online TV channels called Worlds Best Malaysian Restaurants and Satay House was not in the list. It was supposed to be a casual stroll along Praed Street, just off the Paddington Train Station in London crossing Satay House, on the way to my most ‘favouritest’ kebab shop in London called Lolita which dishes out delish kebabs for less that 5 pounds. And then I saw it.
The new and improved exterior of Satay House. It looks… half decent.. stylish even. OMG! Have they changed owners? Are their food any good? Only one way to find out… let’s try them incognito. By the time we were done with Satay House, we were planning how to fit them in our already hectic schedule and filmed them two days later.
So, when a restaurant has Satay in the name, that should be the first dish to try. The grilled skewered chicken pieces come to the table with a couple of nasi impits (rice cakes) and kuah kacang (peanut sauce). Presentation wise, it looks absolutely beautiful. I am used to getting my satays over a greasy plate with the smell of charcoal smoke in the air. Not that I am complaining as that is how I like my satays to be but sometimes a different yet fresh view on our Satay is a welcome change. Authentic? Edible? Well the ingredients are all there. 'Cukup' (translates to complete) as the Malays would say. Not as good as the ones you get here in Malaysia but close. But I must say that the ingredients are definitely fresher.
In all our travels across the globe sampling Malaysian cuisine; whilst all of the good ones come close to being authentic, the ingredients used are of a much higher quality. And since Malaysian spices and herbs can be sourced easily from the nearest Chinatown, some of the dishes can be ..dare I say it... better than the ones here in Malaysia. So anyway, the only thing about this satay dish is that the peanut sauce is no Haji Samuri... but by the time we finished this dish, the sauce was nowhere in sight as well.