Our discovery of Nyonya was ultimately the result of a discussion over dinner at Fatty Crab. I was eating there with friends well versed in Malaysian cuisine, and they insisted that while Fatty Crab may be good, it's a travesty to enjoy it without knowing the real deal. Hence, a Nyonya dinner was put on the books, and the experts were going to show us the way. We're glad they did.
Nyonya is well known as one of the few real Malaysian restaurants in New York City. It is loved equally among people who were raised on food like this, and those that more casually enjoy cuisine of the region. The menu is huge, and you will find traditional Malaysian dishes like Nasi Lamak and Prawn Mee, but you'll also see Phad Thai and other more well known items. The food is excellent, and everything is cheap, which means plenty of room left in your budget for Tiger beers. After a few visits, we've decided our friends were right. We won't exactly be running back to Fatty Crab to drop four times the money on an "interpretation" of the real thing.
Apparently this is reflective of the Indian influence in Malaysian food, which makes sense as it's a thin pancake, very similar to naan. The chicken curry sauce that comes along with it is amazing. I want to take shots of it. Off of Padma.
A noodle soup with shrimp in a spicy shrimp broth. This is a huge portion of food, and could easily be a meal in itself, but we recommend sharing.
A Malaysian staple, this is coconut rice, chicken, anchovies, sambal chili paste and a fried egg. I can see how that might not sound good on paper, but this is amazing, and might be my favorite thing in the house.
Beef cooked with traditional Malaysian spices. Fatty Crab's version of this was done with short rib, and the sauce was super intense, not particularly in a good way. Nyonya's rendang is much more balanced, much more subtle, and much better.
I've only had okra the southern way - battered, fried, or swimming around in a giant pot of gumbo. These were either steamed or sautéed and cut into bite size pieces. Okra isn't for everyone, but if you like it, you love it here.
Recommended to me by a waitress when I asked about popular dishes at Nyonya (on a visit without experts to guide me). This is in the fried noodles section, and was similar to phad thai, but with a Thai chili sauce rather than a peanut sauce. It was excellent, though not as exciting as the more traditional Malaysian stuff.