Little Malaysia is a bit of a survivor in the Melbourne CBD food world. It's listed in my 1992 Cheap Eats Guide and coming up to its 25th anniversary birthday. Surprisingly some of my Malaysian friends who work in town hadn't heard of it, but it seemed a good spot to take a colleague about to head off to Malaysia for the first time.
Located over split levels Little Malaysia has a slight retro vibe going. The interior is a bit more upmarket than most cheap Chinatown eateries but still a little cramped. Not too bad when we visited and it was maybe two thirds full but I am not sure how it would feel if completely full, you may find yourself involved in your neighbours' conversations.
The menu contains most of the usual Malaysian favourites - roti, laksa, hokkien noodles, satays. We went for the chicken and salted fish fried rice, roti telur with lamb curry and the char kway teoh.
The chicken and salty fish fried rice was to me the dish of the day. It was salty but not overpoweringly so and the chicken pieces nicely cooked. I think they used fresh rice as well rather than yesterday's (last weeks?) steamed rice as it was quite light and fluffy. I was a bit dubious when we ordered this as I had been planning to order the nasi goreng and didn't think Snooze would like it (not being big on salty food), but it was her favourite dish as well.
PJ's favourite and the other dish we all liked was the roti telur. This comprised an onion and egg filled roti, sort of like an onion and egg fried pocket. Tearing chunks off to dip in the curry sauce is a bit of slightly messy fun, and the lamb curry was adequately tender. Not quite as good as the stretchy/chewy roti chanai that I've had here before, but not far off.
The only disappointing dish was my choice, the char kway teoh. This had a really common problem for CKTs in Melbourne. The noodles themselves were a bit soggy and tasteless and the clams and XO sauce overpowered some of the other flavours. I have a theory about this.
Back in Malaysia the dish is cooked very quickly using very hot woks. This way everything cooks very quickly and you get a slight charring on some of the noodles, adding both taste and texture. The woks here don't seem to have the same jet fired burners and to add flavour sometimes extra sauce is added, making the noodles a little soggy and disguising some of the other flavours in the dish.
It's not exactly like home but still a decent introduction to Malaysian food. From what we tried (and admittedly we haven't tried the laksa, nasi lemak or desserts) it's a safe, slightly muted Melbournised version of classic Malaysian food. Still its quite tasty and excluding the CKT I'd happily order any of the dishes we tried again.
Food - 7
Service - 6.5
Ambience - 7
Price - 6.5
26 Liverpool St
Tel: (03) 9662 1678