“Happy happy joy joy!”
The blackboard message at the entrance of Malaysia Menu brings back childhood memories – us kids dancing to the chant around the lounge room after hearing good news.
It’s also the message on Anna Wong’s face as she greets us, beaming with genuine warmth. I’m laughing as I repeat the words.
“Yes,” she laughs, “the children wrote the message.”
It’s a great start to our dining experience at Malaysia Menu.
The restaurant is unpretentious, simple but clean; the sort of ‘cheap and cheerful’ dining experience you’d find in Little Bourke Street or Dixon Street – utilitarian plastic-coated cloths, paintings of China, Hong Kong and KL on the walls, bright lighting, and a drinks fridge settled in near the bar, but we’re not daunted. We’re here for food, not funky décor.
Malaysia’s population includes over 6 million Chinese and 2 million Indians, so Malaysian cuisine is a melting pot of many cultures. We’re in for a treat!
A look at the menu warms our heart with promise. Where else can you score Peking Duck (2 courses) for $30, Singapore Chilli Bugs for under $30, a banquet for $26 or a deluxe banquet for $38? But will the food live up to our mounting expectation?
Enjoying our BYO wine, we prepare for the onslaught: arguably the best Roti Channai we’ve ever tasted, flaky and light; Steamed Dim Sum made in house, plump and flavoursome; a plate piled high with crisp Soft Shell Crab, another with succulent Pork Spare Ribs. With most entrées priced at $6.80 and mains well under $20, they’re generous serves. A look at the takeaway menu shows that those prices are several dollars cheaper again!
Sticky fingers, sitting beside me, can hardly contain his food lust.
“Listen to that wok go!” He draws my attention to the distant sound of a gas burner, furiously ripping through the meals.
Anna’s husband Frankie is the maestro in the kitchen. Frankie’s heritage brings Chinese as well as Malaysian into the mix. He’s spent his whole life in restaurants, training in Malaysia, running the kitchen in Michael’s Oriental (note photo of Frankie with Alexander Downer near the entrance), before opening Taste of Mas and then Malaysia Menu 10 years ago. It’s a rich culinary history, and he pumps out the flash fried dishes at lightning speed.
“We’ve got visitors tomorrow,” the Main Squeeze adds. “You’re working, so let’s dine here again!”
I can tell that he’s spied his favourite dish on the menu – BBQ Duck in Plum Sauce. He’ll bypass the Peking Duck, still in recovery from his Hong Kong ‘1 course PD’ experience where he demanded that the waitress ‘bring the rest of the duck – I paid for it!’ I’m still busting with laughter…
Friday night is a bustling, busy affair, takeaways shooting out the door, and an eclectic mix of diners. But the service is still as friendly, with many diners greeted by name. Anna tells us that their patrons include many regulars: locals, interstate as well as international travellers who dine here on their annual visit.
The proof of Frankie’s skill is the food: clean and fresh, not too fatty or oily, generous portions of tasty Malaysian Chinese dishes – glistening, fresh tender prawns; crisp sesame-dotted beef strip ‘worms’; rich plump BBQ duck… It’s even possible to order Singaporean Chilli Crab if you phone ahead!
If we were to make a list of the Gold Coast’s ‘Best Cheap Eats’, Malaysia Menu would be right up near the top of our list. Not cheap in quality, it’s fabulous value dining to enjoy any night of the week! ‘Homely’? Yes, but with genuine happy service to match. Maybe next time we might enjoy the 2 course Peking Duck? Happy happy joy joy!
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