Saturday, August 13, 2011

Malaysia Garden, Clayton by Big Fil

While there's nothing fancy about Malaysia Garden Restaurant I am quite the fan. It likely looked tired and rundown even when new, and the floor to ceiling windows along one whole wall give a stunning view of the (not) photogenic Dandenong train line.

For a down market restaurant I also like the incongruous way the waiting staff dress like extras from Singapore Airlines ads. I think that's part of the charm though, combining these disjointed elements with good if a little inconsistent food, large serves and low prices.

The menu is quite long and filled with Malaysian dishes rather than a pan-Asian mixture. While I think it tended more towards the Chinese Malaysian it did also have numerous ventures into Malay, Nyonya and Indian-Malaysian territory as well. To make sure we had enough room to sample desserts we were restricted to four mains between the five of us, resulting in later gnashing of teeth over the failure to try the laksa.

The one dish which I didn't particularly like was the gado gado. This Indonesian style salad comprises a variety of vegetables, some boiled egg, a peanut sauce and a few prawn chips, but to me the dish was more sauce than salad. I understand that a generous coating of sauce is the way its traditionally prepared, but its not my preferred way. Ms Counting her Calories also thought that it was a little lettuce heavy.

The other mains were all good though. The char kway teoh could have had more prawns and other non-noodle ingredients, but it did include cockles which you don't always see, and a generous amount of noodles with elements of wok hei showing through.

Better was the roti channai with beef rendang. The roti was a little oily and pre-cut rather than scrunched up, but the rendang was flavoursome and tender.

My favourite of the mains was the unusual fish nasi lemak. Coming wrapped in a banana leaf added to its appearance and I liked the way it smelt as you unwrapped the leaf. The flavours of the fish were also softer than the typical nasi lemak and the sambal less fiery, making it an excellent introduction to those who haven't had nasi lemak before.

Highlight of the night though were the desserts. The cendol was huge, more than adequate for all of us to share, cold and sweet and full of squiggly green worms.

Sago Pudding is a personal favourite. While I know it isn't to everyone's taste I love the texture of the little balls mixed in with the coconut milk. Malaysia Garden sells its version slightly warmed, and while not as generous in size as the cendol it was still enough for all to have a try.

The final dessert was Ms L's ice cream, reportedly very good and possibly home made.

About as non-pretentious as you can get, there is something about here which just calls to me. Its not because of the (admittedly good) food, the more than reasonable prices or the family style feel of the place, its all of these things combined with its just being a fun place to eat. The major issue, the ridiculously long menu meaning I will never be able to try all the dishes on offer!

Food - 7.5
Service - 6.5
Ambience - 6.5
Price - 8

Shop 4, 319 Clayton Road
Clayton, VIC 3168
Tel: (03) 9543 6841

Malaysia Garden on Urbanspoon

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