Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Sign in to follow this  
DCMark

Straits of Malaya

Recommended Posts

Straights of Malasyia was a Dupont Staple until it closed 4 years ago. With Wazuri come and gone, Larry has decided to reopen the restaurant. The food is not Malaysian per se, but more Singapore style. As a result there is a good deal of Chinese influence.

We had the Curry Puffs which were quite nice. They could have more meat in my opinion, just a morsel in a great big puff. The Five Spice roll is more like a slice of sausage then a roll.

For main courses we shared "Straights Chicken Curry" which is quite spicy. The curry sauce is infused with galanga which is a type of ginger spice with rumors of hallucinogenic qualities. I sadly experienced no melting colors but this dish did stay with me all day the next day, so perhaps I have been experiencing flashbacks? I usually have an iron stomach but this dish has caused a bit 'o trouble below.

We also shared the Cha Kway Teow which are flat noodles with bean spouts and chicken. This reminded me a bit of the beef noodle dish Table 2 ordered at Full Kee. This was Delphine's favorite and cool my mouth down.

Wine was an agreeable Nero d'Avola which complimented the spicyness. I am usually not a wine drinker with Asian food but this may change that.

Prices are not cheap. 2 apps, 2 entrees and 2 glasses of wine came in at $68 all inclusive. This is a high-rent district but that seems a bit absurd for what we got. Service is fine considering this was the third day. The place should do well and is a nice addition to the neighborhood. Reduce prices by 20% and I would be there more often (Larry owns the building so there is no rent to pay).

Sorry to offend any Lauriol Plaza fans (you do deserve it though!) but while enjoying some nice $5 margaritas at next door Larry's Lounge (same owner) it was so much fun to watch the suburbanites flock to what we like to call the 'Ant Farm'. If you watch the place for a while it seems like one of those glass cutout ant farms from your childhood. People/ants scurrying up and down the different levels, queing to get in, blocking rush hour traffic. I am not sure why these people think they can block traffic for 10 minutes on 18th St waiting to turn into the LP parking lot. There is more to this city than that place you know!

Have a nice weekend egulleters.


Edited by DCMark (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
(Larry owns the building so there is no rent to pay).

Larry may own the building, but he does need to receive a return (aka "rent") on his investment in the building.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

True, I did learn that at Darden....

However, a good strategy is to come into the market with lower prices, gain market share then let them creep up. This is what Kuna did on U St. Now they have me hooked as a regular.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm checking out the newly reopened Straits of Malaya tonight. It was a favorite of mine back when I lived at 18th and S, many moons ago.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had dinner last night at Straits of Malaya on 18th Street, and I loved it. The roofdeck is a great spot, and we ate very well for less than $30/person (that includes a drink or two each, as well). They encourage you to order family-style, so the group of five I was with got to sample quite a few different dishes. My favorites were the five-spice roll appetizer and the curried eggplant entree. Service was friendly, and it was a great way to spend a Sunday night.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will try Straits of Malaysia soon, but I miss Wazuri :sad::sad: I would have jumped off that roof deck if a bowl of that callalou fell from it :sad:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are some things in life you do because you have to, and there are other things you do because you want to. For all the dozens of meals I don't comment on, I want to share one that was exceptional.

The servers at Straits of Malaya are fantastic, and completely without pretense. They care about the diner, and perhaps more importantly, they care about the owners. One man introduced himself, and we ended up talking for about fifteen minutes. He shared one of the most heartwarming stories I've ever heard from a stranger, the story speaking volumes of good things about him, about the owners, and about the restaurant.

Another man there told me, "We work as a family here - a dysfunctional family sometimes, but still a family."

An older Malaysian woman brought my food and asked me if I was familiar with Malaysia, talked with me for awhile about the geography there, then introduced herself and shook my hand.

Nobody there had ever seen me before. This was a caring staff showing a genuine interest in a random customer who strolled into the restaurant off the street.

As I sat alone on the rooftop deck at Straits of Malaya, I looked across 18th Street at Lauriol Plaza, crowded as always, and I honestly began feeling sad for them. I wanted to cast a fishing line over there, hook somebody - anybody - and reel them in, asking them what on earth they were doing over there.

The food could have been merely decent and I still would have loved my meal. But what am I supposed to think when it shows up, and it's perhaps as good as any food within "that genre" I've ever had? Though I understand "Straits food" is culturally and geographically distinct, this was on the same level as the great Thai Square in Arlington. How can stir-fried dishes be so clean and so complex and so delineated? Honestly, I sat there, about ten minutes into the meal, alone on the deck, and muttered an obscenity out loud, because I couldn't believe what I was eating, and I think I said something similar about ten minutes later, because I still couldn't believe it.

You've got to go, and you've got to go this week. Here, let me take your hand:

1. Leave work early on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday

2. Get to Straits of Malaya at 6 PM. You're running out of good weather, and this is your last best chance for rooftop dining.

3. Sit out on the deck, bringing a long-sleeve top or light jacket to wear as the sun begins to set (and, unfortunately, a tolerance for mosquitos)

4. Order a Tiger beer (perfectly serviceable - compare with Singha)

5. Enjoy reading the entertaining anecdotes and notes from the owner on the menu

6. Correct my mistake of omission and order an "Acar" appetizer with their fine complimentary basket of shrimp chips - my guess is that this would be a terrific match, though the shrimp chips stand just fine on their own.

7. Order number 8 (shrimp) and number 12 (chicken). Don't worry about what they are for now, just order them, and ignore the "hot and spicy" comment which simply isn't true.

8. Sit back, relax, and smile, knowing that life cannot possibly be any better than this.

You're going to love this place!

Rocks.

P.S. Tom's excellent review here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We had a great meal too. I especially loved the Poh Pia, shreds of all sorts of good things with mushu pancakes and hoisin sauce (the mix includes JICAMA, bean sprouts, dried shrimp, chicken, and other goodies). The #11 dish (we got it with fish instead of shrimp) was great too, tangy with tamarind. We had the fried tofu appetizer which we remembered from the old days of this restaurant; this isn't oil-sodden or fried until totally dry, it retains some of that soothing creamy tofu interior to contrast with the crisp outside. Dipped into chile-peanut sauce it's terrific.

Have I mentioned that it's fairly cheap? Four of us shared one appetizer and three family-style entrees and the tab was well under $100. (Granted, only one of us drank anything alcoholic, but still.)

Go early. Go often. Ignore the crowds across the street.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Talk about timing. I made plans to go there tomorrow night and am even more excited about trying it after reading all these comments.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are restaurants in DC generally more expensive than in NYC? I'm a little surprised to read about those prices.

Malaysian restaurants in NYC are generally cheaper than what I'm reading here.

Then again, Straits could well be at a different level from the Malaysian places in NYC so it's not a fair comparison.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Should I go here tonight? Don's post makes it sound not like getting there Right! This! Minute! is like missing Haley's comet.


Edited by eunny jang (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Are restaurants in DC generally more expensive than in NYC?  I'm a little surprised to read about those prices.

Malaysian restaurants in NYC are generally cheaper than what I'm reading here.

Then again, Straits could well be at a different level from the Malaysian places in NYC so it's not a fair comparison.

Hi Laksa,

You're right, Straits is not cheap - from what I can remember, beers are $5-6, apps are $6-9 and mains are $12-19 (and worth it). Before I went to Straits, I walked into Lauriol Plaza for a look-around and menu check - the prices are really elevated there too (for a bunch of glop).

Here's a theory: it may be a good policy for the owner of Straits to keep his prices high, because as soon as the Lauriol crowd realizes that they can get a great meal for the same money, they'll go across the street to Straits. But undercutting Lauriol in price may not necessarily bring in the crowds - witness Caravan Grill just a block away, which is less expensive, but not booming.

I wish I had some more of that chicken and eggplant dish (#12) - just for the carrots.

Oh, the carrots.

Rocks.

Should I go here tonight? Don's post makes it sound not like getting there Right! This! Minute! is like missing Haley's comet.

Eunny,

Weather-wise, I think you should take a helicopter over there right now and have it deposit you on the roof. Food-wise, I get the feeling it's less time-sensitive than you fear.

At least for the time being. :wacko:

Rocks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
True, I did learn that at Darden....

However, a good strategy is to come into the market with lower prices, gain market share then let them creep up.  This is what Kuna did on U St.  Now they have me hooked as a regular.

well, i didn't attend darden, but i actually dislike this strategy. i always feel abused when a restaurant starts low and creeps up. it's a transparent marketing ploy, and it kind of makes me feel like they're trying to put one over on their customers.

and i concur - this place is wonderful. i'm mildly addicted, ordering takeout when time doesn't permit casual dining on the rooftop. and as mentioned above, the servers are wonderful, treating you as if you were a guest in their home. larry plans to offer cooking class this winter - sign their guestbook to get details.

i'm thinking an e-gullet outing may be in order...


Edited by giuinha (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would not be so offended if we are talking about Kuna. I seriously doubt they came in with price x and are now at price x + y due to a sinister ploy. They most likely set their prices based on a) what they thought that location would bear and b) what they needed to cover food, rent and payroll costs. Since their opening two years ago, they have found a great deal of success. Their food has been well reviewed and the restaurant has some 'hipness' (how I despise that word). They likely saw that raising prices 20% would not impact their demand. Since this is a business and not a charity, I don't see what is wrong with that. On the other hand, if this raising of prices cuts demand so much they go out of business, we don't owe them any sympathy.

Also, its quite possible that they had mis-calculated their costs and despite being popular, the restaurant may have been barely breaking even.

I am actually more dissapointed that a restaurant like Striaights, which in its earlier incarnation was a 'bon marche' has become so expensive. The prices there have prevented us from making in a neighborhood hangout.

Hi Laksa,

You're right, Straits is not cheap - from what I can remember, beers are $5-6, apps are $6-9 and mains are $12-19 (and worth it). Before I went to Straits, I walked into Lauriol Plaza for a look-around and menu check - the prices are really elevated there too (for a bunch of glop).

Here's a theory: it may be a good policy for the owner of Straits to keep his prices high, because as soon as the Lauriol crowd realizes that they can get a great meal for the same money, they'll go across the street to Straits. But undercutting Lauriol in price may not necessarily bring in the crowds - witness Caravan Grill just a block away, which is less expensive, but not booming.

I wish I had some more of that chicken and eggplant dish (#12) - just for the carrots.

Oh, the carrots.

Rocks.

Eunny,

Weather-wise, I think you should take a helicopter over there right now and have it deposit you on the roof.  Food-wise, I get the feeling it's less time-sensitive than you fear.

At least for the time being.  :wacko:

Rocks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ohh, kway teow, among my most beloved dishes from the far east. I think I need to get over there immediately. They'll have to wow me to win me over from the cheaper Spices or Cafe Asia.

And as a resident of the neighborhood, can we live and let live with all the eateries? No reason to praise one place at the expense of another.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
And as a resident of the neighborhood, can we live and let live with all the eateries? No reason to praise one place at the expense of another.

Doc,

You make a legitimate point, and I assume you're talking about Lauriol-Plaza bashing, but I feel the need to proactively support quality over quantity, individual over formula, and family over machine.

The roof at Lauriol Plaza is a beautiful place for a drink, but the customer waits and waits, and then overpays for what amounts to a plate full of gruel. It bothers me greatly to see it overflowing with people when surrounding establishments remain empty.

Yes, one could make a "survival of the fittest" argument here, and it would be perfectly correct to do so, but Lauriol Plaza to me is a viper in a birdcage, and I really want to save the birds, even if it means harming the viper.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The evening began with my usual hour-long, obscenity-filled commute from Reston to DC, as Rocks' high praise of Straits echoed through my mind. By the time I pulled into my 'hood and freed of my car, they were reverberating throughout my entire being. "Stir-fried dishes so clean and so complex". "Order a Tiger beer". "Oh, the carrots".

Dinerboy saw the determination in my eye as soon as I walked in the door and knew he didn't stand a chance of ordering in and lazing on the couch before his graveyard shift. I was in mission mode, and out the door we went.

We did exactly (well, almost) as we were told. Snatched up the last table on the edge of the roof and settled in. Our server was great- helpful and pleasant, excited about the food. I was already feeling sympathy for the mob across the street. I ordered the Tiger beer, Dinerboy had to opt for the (delicious) iced coffee, and we started with the 5 spice rolls (no Acar for us- sorry Don). I could make a meal out of these rolls every day for a month and not tire of them. I was surprised to find them... homey. Comforting. Almost like meatloaf (but much better).

The #8 and #12 followed. We were not disappointed (loved the shrimp, especially), but I can't wait to go back and try the rest of the menu. Don's right- go now while it's still beautiful roof weather.

Thanks, Don, for inspiring a lovely evening.

And man, those shrimp chips are like crack!


Edited by littlechinagirl (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, if any place can survive in that spot, I think it will/should be Straits, from the praise it's getting here. If it goes under, I'll probably rethink my opinion on Lauriol's influence.

Don't get me wrong, LP should never be a "destination" restaurant, but it has a lot going for it that I've enjoyed as a neighborhood resident (the building itself/roofdeck, salsa, fajitas, cheap brunch).

I remain the optimist and hope everyone can get along.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, I'm sprinting down T street in heels, late meeting edemuth and mdt at Straits of Malaya, when a blinged-out gold Camry pulls out of a blind alley and almost knocks me over. Emboldened with the rage of the righteous, I start yelling,

"Watch where you're going, you as...."

He is agitated and embarrased. He cuts me off:

"Your fly is unbuttoned."

Chastened and sails pretty much windless, I go on to Straits and meet Erin and Mike on the roof.

With apologies for being late, I order a Tsing Tao. We look at the menu. We talk about the pedigree of Malaysian food (interesting: as you'd expect, it's basically Chinese, but with spicings borrowed from all over SE Asia, particularly southern India). We agonize over the menu, which is long and delicious-looking. We sit and bask in the setting sun.

We eat shrimp chips and pickle-y, crunchy acar, and the wonderful five-spice rolls - cross-sections revealing a murky millefiori of deeply spiced speckles and bits, encircled by a band of miraculously frizzled-crisp wrapper and set off with a bracingly sour tamarind sauce. I could eat these every day for the rest of my life and not get tired of them. That complicated spice combination echoes and reverberates in my mile-a-minute brain.

Second beer. The #8 and the #12 being requisites, we choose one more to round out entrees: the tamarind chicken. I make a fool of myself by stacking up the silver plate stands when the food comes out, thinkng that they're unused votive candleholders or something. The #12, curry chicken with eggplants, is the standout and the favorite at the table. I love eggplant cooked this way - melting, creamy flesh that has managed to Hoover up every iota of ginger in the sauce, against the snap of the still-firm skin. The (excellent) carrots have nothing on these little satchels of punch and contrast.

The #8 is a close second; the tamarind chicken is only a little dissapointing - very subtly flavored with only a whiff of tamarind. The tomatoes could have been cooked a little more - but that wouldn't have improved on their intrinsic mealiness (no excuse this late in the summer). The rice that accompanies each entree is deliciously gummy and swollen with sauce. Everything has only a tiny gloss of oil, and clean, distinct flavors.

The service is friendly and unobtrusive. Larry Tan, in a Hawaiian shirt that gives him thirty thousand cool points before he's even said anything, stops by and inquires how our meal was in the sincerest way possible. The roof deck is bustling with customers and servers; every few minutes the doorway inside is darkened by a server bringing out a handled bowl of delicious looking and smelling food. It is breezy and dark; the table next to us has lost something and a group effort among servers and Larry and the diners has everyone on the floor, looking around for whatever it is that the big-earringed girl has dropped. It's funny, and I'm full and comfortable and happy.

I laugh, and turn to finish my beer, and I realize....

my fly is still unbuttoned. Confidential to edemuth and mdt: I'm really not usually such an idiot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×