Food and Wine Events
Chateaubriand

Malaysia Kopitiam

It was a gloomy, cold and rainy evening when I was walking down M Street, and I was looking for a place to get out of the rain, as well as a quick bite to eat. I passed Camelot.

Hmmm...I hear they have good burgers there.

Then I passed Malaysia Kopitiam. Since I might be the only person who hasn't been there, I figured it was about time I tried it out. It was on Washingtonian's Cheap Eats last year, it gets very positive reviews from just about every food critic and gets very good word of mouth. Just a couple weeks ago, I was talking to a friend who said he went there and had a great meal. This was someone whose opinion in food I respect very much, so I figured I'd better try it.

Malaysia Kopitiam is on the the basement level, but it's hard to miss with the big sign above its door. Since it was 5:30, the restaurant was pretty empty. The only people there were one couple and what seemed to be a bunch of family members of the restaurant staff and owners. I recognized one of the owners from the pictures and articles hung on the wall out front. My first impression of the interior of the restaurant was that of one of the restaurants on the Food Network's Restaurant Makeover, before the makeover. It just goes to show that looks aren't everything.

I sat at a table by myself. The server handed me a menu...no, not a menu, a three-ring binder. The menu comes in two parts, the regular menu with the list of dishes and prices, and then a three-ring binder with the pictures of the dishes. I found this very convenient when ordering because the descriptions on the menu were not the best at explaining what the dishes are actually like.

This first trip, I wasn't so happy with my choice of appetizer. The roti canai, or flaky layered Indian bread with spicy Malaysian curry chicken, would've been great except for the rubbery chicken. The sauce was a wonderful hot-spicy blend and the bread couldn't have been better. I loved how buttery and flaky it was. A friend of mine later told me this was their favorite dish at Malaysian Kopitiam. I guess I just had a bad batch of chicken -- mine was fatty and over-cooked.

The spicy tamarind beef, on the other hand, was pretty good, but wasn't anything to write home about. Unlike the chicken, the beef was lean and tender. This beef was cooked for a long time, and had a consistency of the beef that I make in a slow cooker all day. I'd say that it was either brisket, hanger or skirt steak.

Out of the kindness of my heart, I ordered some takeout for Amy, and chose extremely unwisely for her entree. I think of all the dishes on the menu, I chose the most bland and unsatisfying of them all -- vegetarian stir-fried mix noodle. I'm not sure why, but I think I chose the dish that's on the menu for the unadventurous vegetarian diner who thinks they're a vegetarian, but doesn't want to try any "weird" vegetables because they're actually just a picky eater. Yeah, I'd say that about sums it up.

On the other hand, the appetizer that I chose for her made me want to return a second time. It was a little spring roll called a Po Pia. This was a thin crepe filled with jicama (pronounced hick-e-mah), lettuce, eggs, dried shrimp, and topped with a hoisin sauce. I'm not sure what it was that made these rolls so good, but I'm pretty sure it was the hoisin sauce. As I ate them back at our apartment I said to myself, "Well, if these are this good after sitting in these takeout containers for a half hour, then I've got to try these fresh in the restaurant!"

This is going to be another one of those reviews where I describe each dish I ate in detail...If you are short on time, you should stop reading now. :)

I returned a week later with Amy and Noah and had a great time with him there. Malaysia Kopitiam, I have to say, is very baby friendly. They have high chairs, the restaurant staff were very friendly to Noah, and the casual atmosphere makes me feel at ease having Noah there. Especially since Noah's been getting experimental with the volume of his voice lately. 

My choices of dishes was better this visit. Maybe it was Amy's influence over the ordering, but we ordered some really incredible dishes. Of course we started with some of those incredible Po Pias which were sooo good -- fresh and hot unlike my first time eating them cold after takeout.

The raja chicken was an very similar to the General Tso's chicken that you find at every Chinese takeout joint. Somehow, the chicken seemed to have this double-fried chicken texture to it, almost like they'd fried the chicken without the breading really quick, dipped it in batter and fried it again. It'll be hard to get crappy MSG-y Chinese takeout ever again after eating this dish.

We also ordered some curry pork rib noodle. Imagine pork ribs so tender you could suck the meat right off the bone. Now add curry sauce and rice noodles.

Yeah, I want to go back too.

Both meals were under $40 after tip and this is with us ordering beer (Singhas to be exact.) I really wish I'd gone to Malaysia Kopitiam before now. Perhaps I'll head back there this weekend.

Malaysia Kopitiam
1827 M Street NW
Washington DC 20036
Map
(202) 833-6232

Hours:
Mon - Thu: 11:30 am - 10:00 pm
Fri - Sat: 11:30 am - 11:00 pm
Sun: 12:00 noon to 10:00 pm

Dress Code: Casual
Parking: No Valet. If you time it right, there is a ton of parking that opens up on M street right around 6:30PM
Closest Metro: Dupont Circle or Farragut North
Reservations: Not Taken
Amy's Bathroom rating: Need for improvement. They were a little rundown, but hey, you're not going here for the ambiance.
Baby-Friendly Rating: 3 out of 4 diapers. A casual environment, friendly and accommodating wait staff make this place ideal for taking an infant to. Noah had a meltdown after about an hour and a half and no one even batted an eye. The rundown bathrooms mean there's NO place to change a diaper though.

Comments

LS

This place has the best seafood curry soup. I think its the S2 soup. A big bowl of curry/coconut milk broth, with veggies and shrimp paste made into shapes adn fried (I know it sounds weird, but it is great), lots of noodles and bean sprouts--I could happily eat this every day. Try it next time you go.

merseydotes

How did you not get the curry laksa? It's SO delish.

Anya

I love Malaysia Kopitiam. My family spent a lot of time in Malaysia over the years, so they know good Malaysian food, and this has long been a favorite. The roti canai (and if you want to impress the waiters, thats pronounced roti CHAN-eye with a nice flipped "r" at the beginning) is a favorite of mine - but I almost never eat the chicken. The satay there is the best I've ever had, and the rendang is also very good (beef and I think they have other meats too). An unusual favorite of mine is the salty fish and chicken fried rice, though when they say salty they mean it! Its an acquired taste. Also try the Malaysian coffee or tea, hot or iced. I enjoy this restaurant most with a large group, so you can pass all the dishes around family-style! (and for the record, they make the Washingtonian list just about EVERY year, not just this one!)

Jason

You know, I thought they were on the Cheap Eats list in previous years, but I just recently threw out my historical copies so I couldn't verify. :)

Thanks for the other recs everyone! Now I have even more dishes to try.

Janet

This is a good restaurant to try in a group, as long as you aren't looking for high class and fancy decor. But they usually have enough room for you, and then you get to try a little bit of lots of dishes.

Babak Minovi

I second the call for beef Rendang. The appetizer sampler/meal is also a great way to get to know the menu.

KeithA

I've been their twice and I'd recommend the stuffed lotus root dish for something that you won't find in most other Asian restaurants. It is delicious and unique. Also, it worth mentioning that the portions for the entrees are very generous.

Leah

I am singaporean, and these things are Po Piah's, and yes, I love them too. I think what makes them so good is the shrimp paste mixed with grounded peanut that they use... as far as I know it isn't Hoisin sauce (what IS that actually, no one I know at home seems to use it). If you like Po Piah you will probably like another vege-type dish that has the same grounded peanut and shrimp paste base, it's a salad-type dish (apparently it's indian) called Rojak and it's got the most gorgeous mix of fried fritters, sliced cucumbers, "tau pok" (this is a brown er, not vegetable.. ah i really cannot describe this in english), bean sprouts and a whole lot of other yummy raw vegetables tossed in the shrimp paste/grounded peanut sauce.

Curry Laksa is always good too - and it has the same 'taupok' thing I cannot describe.

Damn I miss home food. There's nothing to eat in cambridge.

Jadxia

Penang is on the corner of the same block, much more expensive but they do a great roti canai, poh-piah, and yummy coconut/mango curries. How bout a comparison test?

Andrew


This is one of our favorite DC restaurants regardless of price. The roti canai appetizer is mouthwatering and a great start to the meal. I almost always get the combo plate with the satay, rice, chicken rendang, achar, .. This is a great sampling of tastes and is only $7.95! This restaurant is much better than Nooshi if you're looking for spicy and authentic southeast asian cuisine.

Priya (mzzmi)

This is one of my favs. I enjoy curried noodles and ofc the roti canai- just awesome!

Rich517

I've been both to Penang and Malaysia Kopitiam.

Penang has a much more upscale feel. The decor and ambiance in Penang is very stylish and well done. I have usually gone to Penang during lunch and ordered off their lunch specials. The lunch specials are a pretty good deal. The dishes I have ordered at Penang have been decent to very good. I would recommend Penang if you are looking for ambiance and style or on a date with someone who enjoys style and ambiance, for business meeting and for lunches.

At Malaysia Kopitiam, the decor and style don't come close to Penang. However, the foor at Malaysia Kopitiam can be outstanding. The dishes have a more homestyle stick to your ribs feel to them. I would recommend Malaysia Kopitiam to the foodies and the adventurous. I personally prefer Malaysia Kopitiam to Penang.

Wicky Theena

Reading all the good things about MK my daughter and I went there for lunch 06/28/09, the reception by one male waiter was good, food came in time, but the female waitress was rude, in fact when I paid, she came back and asked for more tips showing me that the gratuity was 15 - 20%, I was shocked with the way she brought it up, I had to redo the credit receipt that I was given, I feel violated that someone should demand being paid more for the 40 minutes of the time we were there, they brought our food, we paid for that and some tips we are never going back there

James Fogerty

We as diners should understand that when we eat out we should tip accordingly. I worked as server to put myself to school. I am an Attorney today so we have to show some respect to the servers too.
As a server I was paid less than $3 .oo per hour. The IRS assumes we make 16% of our sales as tips. A server in my place of work I have to tip out the Busboy 10 % of an estimated tip of 16% , another 10% to the Food Runner and 10% to the bartender. This makes a total tip out of 30% from the estimated 16%. I was taxed about 20% of the70% estimated tip.
So assuming someone spends 100.00 and they tip me $6.00.
I would have tipped out 30% of the assumed tip from $100.00 which is $16.00 so 30% 0f $16 is $4.80. minus this from the $6.00 tip that I received, I would have made only $1.20. from the $100.00 check.
A Diner is not only tipping the sever as the Server has to share the tips with 3 other groups plus pay taxes.
Please do the Maths.


When a person with a Server's experience dine out ,our tips are never less than 20%.
if i am not happy I shall still tip 15% BUT I am never returning to the restaurant ever again.
Why I still tip 15% , it is because I do not want the server to have to PAY for my meal.
If I want to be cheap or if I can not afford to eat out I would go to a Fast food Joint or eat at home.

Please remember , no one works for free.
Slavery has been abolished in the USA for a very, very long time. Hey, we now even have a Black President.

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