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Restaurants

Restoran Malaysia

Posted by Catherine / Reviewed on October 20, 2008 / review policy

RestoranRoti Canai. Teh Tarik. Rendang Daging. Crispy Ayam Goreng. Slurpy Laksa. Chewy Bakso Ikan.

That's a short list of foods that I was beginning to believe weren't available in Toronto. (Okay, so if the bakso ikan weren't available, I was okay with that. I has no love for fish balls.)

About a gabillion years ago, I lived for a year in Indonesia. With lots of side trips to Malaysia, I fell deeply deeply in love with Southeast Asian food and food culture. Night markets and roadside stalls, gorgeous richly flavourful dishes you eat with your hands, and a granularity in specialization that amazes me. No, not that stall, you want the one two down... they make the best martabak. That one prepares only tofu in the style of this particular city, and that's where you go for great es kacang. Bright lights and generators, satay, sticky air, and the heady smoke off a hundred clove cigarettes. Heaven.

But this damned global village exposes your taste buds to new and fantastic flavours, and then puts them an expensive plane ride (carbon emissions) and pile of vacation time (self-employed) away. With deep conviction in Toronto's food options, I was hoping I would come home and be able find many of the same dishes. No. such. luck. One gado-gado on a Thai menu does not a Southeast Asian menu make.

Lots of people who live downtown think anything worth eating/seeing/doing is also downtown. Ironically, lots of people who live downtown also grew up in the 'burbs. And many of us need to get over our suburbaphobia if we're going to try some of Toronto's best food (if only it were nearer a subway line).

A couple of weeks ago, I mooched a ride to Richmond Hill to check out a recommended Malaysian restaurant -- aptly named "Restoran Malaysia". That trip is on a short list of the best mooching I've ever done.

Restoran Malaysia has the kind of menu that makes me nostalgically weepy. Every page (and there are a lot of pages) had several items I just had to have. Ordering actually became a problem, as we were suddenly acutely aware of how far away from home we were, the physical limitations of stomach size, and how much one could reasonably doggie bag.

We (begrudgingly) settled on just the following items: Indonesian Fried Rice, Medan Fried Chicken, Rendang Daging, Roti Canai, Kuay Teow and some Tehs and Kopis. Much too short a list to satisfy our ambitious cravings, but definitely amounting an almost insurmountable pile of food.
Roti Canai
Roti Canai (pronounced "chanai") are soft flatbreads served with a spicy curry, served in stalls throughout Malaysia, and eaten throughout the day - often at the extreme ends, early in the morning accompanied by a strong sweet cup of coffee or tea, or late at night to satisfy afterdark munchies.

Roti Canai is listed at Restoran Malaysia as an appetizer, though they note that in Malaysia it's eaten at any time. If Restoran Malaysia was nearer my house (and open for breakfast) I would be there every morning, dipping my roti and sipping teh tarik. A boiled egg and a piece of toast is all very well and good, but come on. Roti Canai ftw!
Nasi Goreng
After the stomach warm-up of scrumptious roti, everything arrived promptly and at once, overwhelming our table with fantastic smells and textures. Each dish held its own for interest. Done well, a fried rice dish (like the Indonesian Nasi Goring above) is complex and delicious, not just filler. Comes with shrimp chips. That actually taste like, wait for it, shrimp.
Kuay Teow
My two co-diners got into a bit of a turf war over the Penang Fried Kuay Teow (even though technically it had been my choice). It was perfectly prepared, and substantial in quantity. Negotiations over who got to finish it devolved into light name calling, and veiled threats about withholding the drive home.
Medan Fried Chicken
Happily Restoran Malaysia's Medan Fried Chicken is as gorgeous as it is in Medan. Soft nubs of chicken in a light but flavourful coating.

And, best of all, Rendang Daging.
Rendang Daging
Rendang is proof of the idea that it's not the cut of meat, but what you do with it. A slow-cooked preparation that results in a richly flavourful falls-apart-when-your-fork-even-goes-near-it succulent piece of meat. There's so much flavour in a rendang daging (meat rendang) that it makes other approaches to meat prep seem a bit flaccid. I ate the leftovers cold, straight outta the tupperware, and they were awesome.

I opted in for sambal belachan to go with our meal. A warning to the fair stomached, if you waste your hot sauce or sambal "a dollar will be charged onto your bill". I used up every bit, and could (read: should) have also bought a bottle to take home.
Sambal
We had all gorged so thoroughly on our mains that dessert was a bit of a non-starter. Dessert's not the focus of Malaysian cuisine, but if you can manage to fit in one more drink, a frothy teh or kopi tarik is a perfect finisher.

In my opinion, teh tarik is one of the best hot drinks Toronto (or anywhere) has to offer. Teh tarik literally means "pulled" tea, referring to how the tea is poured back and forth from height between two containers, aerating the tea, changing the temperature and flavour.
Kopi and Teh Tarik
The result is a warm creamy drink with a slightly earthy taste. The pouring is important, but a big part of the magic is the evaporated/condensed milk. It's a luscious combination - devilishly dark caffeine and sweet milk.

You can opt for your tea or coffee (teh or kopi) un-tariked as well. It will arrive at your table looking something like Vietnamese coffee, with the black coffee sitting on top of the treasure trove of condensed milk at the bottom. Stirring kopi is a simple but great pleasure. Swirling syrupy sweetness up into the bitter coffee. Enak sekali.

Restoran Malaysia laid out an enormously satisfying meal, which we enjoyed a couple of times over via our leftovers. The food was outstanding, delivering on every hope and expectation, in a comfortable but nicely appointed space with attentive but unobtrusive service. Selamat Menjamu Selera!
Restoran Malaysia mural

All photos generously taken by Patrick Smith, who will work for Laksa.

Discussion

22 Comments

apetimberlake / October 21, 2008 at 11:32 am
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Nice review!
Great looking grub!
Paul / October 21, 2008 at 12:17 pm
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Wow, excellent review... too bad I have nobody to mooch rides from! I had roti canai for breakfast in Penang once... awesome.
Heather / October 21, 2008 at 12:32 pm
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Oh yumm!

It's hard to explain the goodness of Malaysian food to people who haven't traveled there.

Come to think of it, it's hard to explain the unique goodness of Malaysia to people who haven't traveled there.
frank / October 21, 2008 at 12:48 pm
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This has definitely been on my short-list for awhile. It sucks that i'm vehicularly challenged so i'll just have to use your review as bait.

Malaysian and Indonesian cuisine are seriously under-represented in T.O. and it's comforting that the ones that do it (Restoran Malaysia, Matahari Grill) are shining examples.

I'll definitely agree with you that there's a certain charm of eating at a night market stall which is this food's natural habitat.

For anyone interested in Indonesian food and willing to trek to the 'burbs in the other direction there's a monthly food festival in Mississauga that should sate your cravings:

http://www.unicas.ca/warungkopi.html

Thanks for the review Catherine!
Disparishun / October 21, 2008 at 12:53 pm
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For those just wondering where we're talking about, it's Bayview and Major Mac -- take <a href="http://www.yrt.ca/maps/navigators/91.pdf";>the YRT 91</a> from Finch subway.
Disparishun / October 21, 2008 at 12:55 pm
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... 'cause, while you can always mooch rides, there's this whole public transit thingy. Very handy for the carless.
Joshua / October 21, 2008 at 04:12 pm
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This is now on a very short list of places to go. Oh man, now I am really missing SE Asia... to be back in Penang for a night....
Jerrold / October 21, 2008 at 04:13 pm
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My most fond memories of my travels to Malaysia involve friends around the table... sharing Penangoodness!
AC / October 21, 2008 at 07:15 pm
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Thanks a lot, jerks -- this excellent restaurant was crowded enough BEFORE your review...

Oh well, I still have a couple more secret eateries your reviewing drones haven't yet discovered, mwa-ha-hah :->
Steve / October 21, 2008 at 07:50 pm
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I am currently living in Singapore but now I feel just a bit easier about moving home (if I ever do) because I can get some the food that I've grown to love so much!
SJB / October 24, 2008 at 01:39 pm
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oh my god, i miss my national food(malaysian food). finaly fine this webside but still can"t go there to far. u shoule open one in toronto. miss the "ROJACK","ROTI CANAI". u guys have the 'NASI MAMAK'. mmmmmmmmm miss all of this malaysian food. last time im in malaysia hmm 4 years ago. anyway, im from malaysia(kota kinabalu sabah) live in canada for 7 years now. 'jumpa lagi'.
Sudha / May 3, 2009 at 04:14 pm
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This is a must visit restaurant in Toronto. The food is fantastically Malaysian. We travel here from Etobicoke regularly to have a taste of Malaysia. I myself love Malysian food and have now opened a "Malaysian Delight" stall at Dr. Fleas at Hwy 27 and Albion and we serve Ice Kachang, Chendol and delights such as Kueh lapis, Kari Puff, and a variety of Malaysian Kueh. Please visit us on Saturdays and Sundays every week. We also cater to birthdays and other functions. 416-2482897 to speak to us.
rebeccac / May 11, 2009 at 12:11 pm
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its true.. there are some great restaurants that are not downtown.

my friends and i frequent this restaurant a lot (i live uptown) and the food is always excellent. the teh tarik is rich and delicious. the lunch menu is great - all the popular dishes at a portion of the price (slightly smaller portions than dinner but still enough to fill you)
PATEL NARENDRA M / January 27, 2010 at 04:50 pm
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hallo i visit malaysia 2 times and i visit midwally maga mall at ANPURNA RESTURANT IT IS REALLY NICE VEG RESTURANT I NEVER FORGET THIS RESTURANT IN MY LIFE. IT REALLY NICE RESTURANT AND ALL THOSE MONEY GOING TO PEOPLE NOT ABLE TO LIVE LIVE AND SEE THE WORLD I REALLY EMPRESS.WHEN I CAME WITH MY FAMAILY I REALLY SHOW THAT RESTURENT TO MY FAMAILY....
THANK YOU
mrsleny replying to a comment from SJB / March 28, 2010 at 09:40 pm
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Visited KK last year. Had a fabulous time. Best vacation ever. Stayed in KK for several days before going to Danum Valley. Unfortunately did not climb Mt. Kinabalu ... perhaps next time.
Tricia / August 13, 2010 at 07:11 pm
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Roti....canai. Yummy, doughy, savoury, sweet,chewy, crispy dipped in curry. Almost makes me want to weep. Had a curry chicken noodle soup once that was heaven for my head cold. My husband always gets the Nasi Goring. We've been going for years before they did the reno. Prices seem a little steep now but we go occasionally as a treat. Friendly service, nice surroundings, good food. Did I mention the roti canai?
Suhar / December 5, 2010 at 01:00 pm
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Yo dudes ma going dis wek yo so ya yo
ima go in diz stor to buy diz frood :P <--- like my faze
ahahahah yo yo uhh yeah
soo yo yo peeps
in the hizzle to the shizzle
yo
peace out
YOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
BA hehehe
Suhar / December 5, 2010 at 01:03 pm
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AHAHAHHAHA
what the ****
r u talking about :P
WEIRD MUCH
what up y'all doing something coolio
y'all kno im from texas yeahhh
yoooo
what up dog
ima go back with ma houres y'all
alight im out peace
Loserr / December 5, 2010 at 01:12 pm
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hey what are you talking about
nice art work sooo soooo
i realyy dont like this resturtant s oo dont goo okk
WARNING
do not go
everrrrr
okkkkk
okkk
okkk
okok
okk
ok
ok
REPLYYYY PEOPLE OF PLANET 1
ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh
im a creature from planet 1

alright k thanks for all your work ha ah bye
Hoggy / December 5, 2010 at 01:14 pm
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Sorry people of earth
kc bink replying to a comment from apetimberlake / April 6, 2013 at 10:49 pm
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Good food. waiters are very friendly but the owner lady is the pinnacle of rudeness. She refuses to accommodate any requests. In case you have issues...heavens save you.
JJ / September 8, 2014 at 02:29 am
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Live about 5 minutes away from this place, great food, always busy if that's any indicator of quality , no regrets! :)

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