The Best Malaysian Restaurants In NYC guide image


The Best Malaysian Restaurants In NYC

We could eat nasi lemak, salted egg, and curry laksa for every meal. Thanks to this guide, you can too.

Our favorite thing about Malaysia is, obviously, Michelle Yeoh. But a close second is all of the fantastic food. With influences from Thai, Indian, Chinese, and Indonesian cuisines, most of the Malaysian restaurants on this list have menus so long we could dedicate our whole lives to getting through them. And after eating a ton of laksa and nasi lemak in the name of research, we wouldn't mind that at all. For breakfast of kopi and kaya toast, satisfying lunch deals, and big group dinners, these are the best Malaysian restaurants in NYC.


Taste Good Malaysian Cuisine

Before you read the rest of this list, call a couple friends and go to Taste Good. Not only does this Elmhurst spot serve some of the best Malaysian food in the five boroughs, they’re one of the best restaurants in the city, period. Photos of food—and not much else—plaster the walls to help you with the impossible task of choosing between pages of curries, seafood, and noodles. Everything arrives at the table in a fraction of the time it took you to decide what to order. We love the sizzling salted egg bean curd and potent Singapore kari laksa, but you should just get whatever speaks to you. As promised, everything tastes good.

If you spend a lot of time walking around downtown, add this Chinatown cafe to your list of casual places to duck into anytime to eat something really good—like their milo French toast, fish ball soup, anchovy pan mee, and an oyster omelet we'd like to elope with. It’s a small space with just a few tables for two (and one bigger one), but whether you stop by for morning kopi, lunch, or to eat their all-day breakfast for dinner, expect affordable food that holds its own against what you’d find at a full-service restaurant. Order from a laminated menu at the counter, get your dishware, eat happily, and then bus your own table.

Hainan Chicken House specializes in perfect Hainanese chicken, served wrapped up in a big square of butcher paper to evoke the feeling of a hawker stall. The whole chickens dangling in the window of this restaurant in Sunset Park, and the decorative wall tiles showcasing different chicken breeds should get you in the mood for their namesake dish. Make sure there's an order of their excellent curry laksa and the schmaltzy Hainanese chicken liver mousse on your table, too. On weekends, they rotate through worthwhile specials like Singapore Chili Crab—so pay attention to the whiteboard behind the counter.

Everyone (including us) seems to like Laut, a Union Square restaurant that serves Malaysian, Singaporean, and Thai food. Though it’s one of the more expensive options on this list, it’s always crowded and loud. Suspended signs with dish names make you feel like you’re eating in a side-street somewhere in Southeast Asia, and colorful murals only add to that feeling. Their Malaysian dishes include a nasi lemak that’s a painter’s palette of various funky, pickled, rich and crunchy things.

Originally sequestered behind an arcade on Bowery, West New Malaysia has been in our Chinatown rotation for years. It now spans two rooms, crammed with tables, that still fill up with regulars every night. You’re likely to become one of them once you try their crispy fried prawns with salted eggs—it’s one of the best things to eat in a neighborhood full of great food. Go here with a hungry group: The menu is huge, food comes out super fast, and if you come at lunch, lots of the entrees are available for under $15.

Nyonya is one of our favorite Malaysian spots in Manhattan, not only for the excellent food, but for the warm, lodge-like atmosphere you get to eat it in. We’d recommend coming with a few people: the homey, dark wood dining room is deceptively large, extending to a back area full of big round tables. But even if you bring a smaller party, get the glorious platter of cold Hainanese chicken, the fresh okra and shrimp stir-fry, and tangy asam laksa. You’ll be glad you have leftovers. Keep in mind it's cash-only.

For decades, Malay is where people in Flushing have gone when they're in the mood for no-nonsense, homestyle Malaysian cooking that isn’t trying to be anything other than tasty. Basically, grandma’s house. The longstanding local favorite still gets crowded with families by dinnertime. Squeeze into a table with a small group and try the rich curry laksa, BBQ skate, and big platters of crispy lobak. Keep in mind that it's cash-only for orders under $20.

Out of the handful of Malaysian restaurants in Elmhurst, we go to Coco specifically for its comforting bowls of curry. You can get it with chicken, roti canai, as shrimp curry laksa, or in a hearty fish casserole—and each variation nails the perfect mix of sweet and spicy. The small restaurant is full-service, but it feels a bit like like a wooden-walled stall tucked into a larger market, so you can easily hide out there with your headphones, or have a quiet conversation over milky kopis. Check out the jade jewelry for sale in the back before you leave.

If Malay is grandma’s house, PappaRich feels more like a party, and it's where the next generation goes for the modern Malaysian experience. This bright, expansive restaurant is on the second floor of a mall, with terrace seating overlooking busy downtown Flushing. Big groups pile into booths that are fitted with buzzers for when you need a refill on your lychee soda. (Despite the rowdy energy, they don’t serve alcohol here.) While the food doesn't have the home-cooked quality of some other spots, they do a good job with the classics. Get some flaky roti canai, mixed satay, and seafood curry laksa for the group.

Around the corner from Taste Good in Elmhurst, Pulau Pinang specializes in Malaysian-style Chinese food, and it’s a good choice for a last-minute group dinner without the logistical migraine. This no-frills spot has plenty of large round tables, and a big parking lot that it shares with a supermarket. The prices are on the lower side, and it gets pretty lively, with people sharing hearty plates of crispy lobak and hokkien mee with a rich soy sauce gravy.

Out of a bunch of Malaysian spots in Bensonhurst’s Chinatown, Little House Restoran is our favorite for its unbeatable deals. The $10 lunch sets come with generously portioned noodle, rice, or nasi lemak options, a milk tea, and a dessert. Dinner sets, which actually run all day, also include an appetizer for a total of $15. The brightly lit, tile-floored space almost looks like a fast casual restaurant—but there’s plenty of room, so it’s a good option for last minute, walk-in groups. Get the fabulous salted egg chow fun and dense fish ball curry.

Padi is a food stall inside Urban Hawker—the Midtown food hall that grew out of an Anthony Bourdain fever dream and is modeled on hawker stalls from Singapore. In Singapore, Padi is actually a sit-down Malaysian restaurant, but here on 50th Street they serve their chicken gulai, sweetish beef rendang, and smoky chicken satay in convenient lunch hour portions. Their longtong, with rice cakes, potatoes, fishcakes and boiled eggs in a creamy coconut curry, is a great one-bowl meal. Afterwards, stop by the Lady Wong counter for rainbow kuih and cassava cake.

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photo credit: Teddy Wolff

The Best Malaysian Restaurants In NYC guide image

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