With its well-stocked bar full of rhum agricole and tropical cocktails, this restaurant in Bushwick feels like an escape to the island of Réunion. Though the long bar, which runs the length of the candlelit room, is Maloya’s main draw, the homestyle food is also a great introduction to Indian Ocean créole cooking, making this a good choice for low-key drinks that might just turn into dinner.
Colorful posters of Réunion's mountains and beaches line the sea-green walls, and though your server might be wearing flannel, the zouk playlist and tropical fruit murals create a relaxed, summery atmosphere. Start with a well-mixed ti' punch before moving on to pours of rhum agricole or some French wine—and definitely get the assorted snack platter with your drinks. It comes in a woven basket with a little toy-sized pot of chutney, and should include the excellent pork samoussas, fragrant with combava (makrut) and the bonbon piment, and crunchy lima bean fritters.
You could stop there, but the entrees, all under $25, are worth delving into for a taste of subtly spiced créole cooking. Try the swordfish massalé, tender cubes of swordfish in a tamarind broth, or the housemade sausages in the rougail saucisses. Just don’t expect heavy seasoning or fancy plating. This is more like having a meal in a Réunionese home, complete with double-handed cooking pots, directly from the island.
You can get pours of about 20 different rhums, starting at $8 for 1oz. French wines start at $12 a glass, and cocktails, several of them made with rhum, start at $14. Start with the premixed ti’ punch, with agricole Réunion rhum, lime and sugar, then see where the evening takes you.
Choose an assortment of four appetizers to share with a couple of friends. We’d recommend the crispy little samoussas (get the pork, and the tuna), bonbon piment with hard crunchy shells, and the boulette morue: airy salt cod and potato fritters.
Get one of these gravy-style dishes per person, and share them. They come with fragrant rice and homestyle lentils or limas, and are subtly spiced. We’ve liked the espadon massalé, with tender cubes of swordfish poached in a tamarind broth, and the almost meatball-like texture of the sausages in the rougail saucisses. But the shrimp poached in vanilla creme fraiche, a créole version of beouf bourguignon, and the braised lamb leg—all of which come in at under $25—are on our bucket list.
Add the rougail citron and rougail dakatine as condiments to your meal. The first is a simple but punchy onion pickle with lime rind, and the second a gently spiced tomato-peanut chutney.
The homemade combava ice cream is lovely: dense and creamy, yet also milky tasting, with the subtle aftertaste of makrut lime. And the ginger version tastes like a gingersnap that’s been dipped in cream tea. Try one of the cakes—made with things like almond, rhum, yucca, or corn—and finish off with a shot of spice or citrus-infused rhum.