Malay Malay spins Asian with Tropical Twist
Jul 03, 2016 12:52PM
● By John Ennis
Like Houston, Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. Chinese, Thai and Indian all come together on one menu here. Add a healthy dose of tropical island ingredients like ultra fresh seafood, coconut, pineapple and green mango and you have something uniquely surprising and satisfying.
Malay Malay, which opened three months ago, is the second restaurant from the families behind Chinatown’s top-rated Mamak (9889 Bellaire Blvd. in Houston). Their new outpost brings Mamak's upscale street-food concept to a south suburban audience.
Co-owner April Wang is excited to introduce South Houston to Malaysian cuisine, with its island-fresh flavors. “Malaysian cuisine is different from Chinese and Thai, but it’s familiar at the same time,” she said. “People are delighted to find something new!”
Inside, Malay Malay’s airy space shows high style without being pretentious. Rich, natural wood tables and modern, large-format prints make for an inviting environment.
To the right of the entrance, the bar area beckons with its warmly lit glass canopy. Behind the long wooden bar, talented mixologists blend creative cocktails like the Red Lotus (Absolut Vodka, Soho Lychee, cranberry and pineapple juices); the Malaysia Mule, which adds color to its kick, thanks to a shot of Midori; and the Malay Malay Bloody Mary, infused with sriracha and soy sauce.
Fortunately, the staff also knows when to leave well enough alone. The boozy Mai Thai is made by the book and opens a portal to your happy place in the tropics.
For those going for the opposite effect, industrial strength iced coffee and five-times brewed iced tea will put a spring in your step. You have been warned.
The daily lunch specials are an ideal way to sample representative dishes like pineapple chicken, beef rendang (a chili con carne-like dish) or sweet-spicy mango shrimp. Each selection comes with delicate fried rice, an egg roll and the soup of the day. They offer 23 options for around $8.
At both lunch and dinner, the kitchen turns out expertly crafted, gorgeously presented dishes ranging from potent curries and smoky satay skewers to banana leaf-wrapped barbecue fish and refreshing tropical desserts like coconut custard. Entree prices average around $12.
Top-quality ingredients like local Gulf shrimp and live Maine lobster are showcased throughout the menu. The ethereal tofu is made in house. Family recipes for beef rendang and flaming pork spare ribs are down-home delicious. Most plates are large enough to share, which would be wise if just to sample as many flavor combinations as possible.
Happy hour arrives early during the week, running from 2:30 to 6 p.m. Appetizers are $1 off, and beer and house wines arrive at a bargain ($1.50 and $4 respectively). Mixed drinks go down nice and easy at $4.50. However, the $6.50 specialty drinks (see above) are where it’s really at.
Malay Malay and Mamak are a family affair. April Wang and her husband, Mitchell, run the front of the house while her sister, Deena Gao and her husband, Ngai Keong Tham, take care of business in the kitchen. The familial harmony can be felt and tasted at either of their humming locations.
All together, Malay Malay makes an undeniable case for stepping outside the box. It offers rare, authentic Asian cuisine tailor made for Houstonians: eclectic, bold, fresh and satisfying.
Malay Malay Malaysian Restaurant 2508 S. Gulf Freeway League City (Just north of FM 646) 281-678-8838 • malaymalay.com Sunday - Thursday: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Friday - Saturday: 11 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.
- By Jason Goodrich