Kedai Makan is always busy. We’re talking gym after New Year’s or floral-printed tuxedo busy. In a town where truly packed restaurants are an anomaly, this one deserves its sardine tin status. The waits are long, but once you finally sit down, you’ll feel like you’ve been initiated into a secret society. Only, instead of paying dues and being forced to sing songs to the tune of “She’ll Be Coming ’Round The Mountain,” you get to eat amazing Malaysian food.
This place first started out in 2012 as a farmers market pop-up. The fried rice, flatbread, and curries were such a hit that they opened a walk-up window on Capitol Hill, where the late-night crowd found their second dinner after too many mules at Montana next door. And now, Kedai Makan lives at the bottom of a brick apartment building around the corner from where the sidewalk stand used to be.
When you first walk in, what hits you first is the smell. It’s a combination of warm curry spices, fried chicken, and raw shallots. Your eyes might water from the fumes, just in time for the host to quote you a wait time of about two hours. Convenient—there are already tears dripping down your face.
Even though you’ll be tempted to give up and go home, it will behoove you to drink cocktails nearby until a “your table is ready” text comes through. Because once your elbows are on the table among the paper lanterns and teal walls, and crispy chicken, mushroom noodles, and lamb curry are working together like instruments in an orchestra, you’ll kick yourself for even considering walking away from a meal here. While you’re at it, go ahead and kick yourself for considering even walking away from the Campari-spiked jungle bird cocktail.
There are so many different ingredients at play on this menu, and the sum of their parts is outstanding. If you come with a few others, start with the turmeric net bread with lamb curry. Then, there are the rice dishes, mushroom pan mee noodles, and the incredible fried chicken you’ll want to take to a deserted island. The shallots that made you cry when you walked in show up on nearly every entree, but in fried form—and they’re delicious.
Your friends who haven’t been here won’t be able to relate. “OK, sure, it’s fried rice, but it’s operating on another level that fried rice usually doesn’t compete at,” you might say to them after dinner. They’ll shrug between bites of celery, because in this elaborate vision, they’re eating dry crudite and listening to Sheryl Crow. Kedai Makan is like seeing the Grand Canyon, riding a roller coaster, or smoking weed: it’s hard to understand what the hype is all about until you experience it. Once you do, it’ll become clear that you just completed a Seattle rite of passage, and anyone who doesn’t get it will just have to go on this sambal and fried shallot-filled ride themselves.
This eggy net bread is infused with tumeric and looks a lot like a folded up basketball hoop. It tastes awesome, particularly when covered in the accompanying braised lamb curry. We wish the lamb came in a larger format, but then it would make the decision of what to order even harder.
Mushroom Pan Mee
We don’t really want to use the word dazzling here, but when you mix together this bowl of noodles with a soft-poached egg, hunks of shiitake and criminis, soy sauce, scallions, sesame oil, and fried shallots, the result is meaty, savory, and immensely comforting. It’s dazzling.
Nasi Goreng Kedai
Enter the best fried rice in Seattle. It’s fluffy, with a rich flavor only achievable with the combination of kecap manis (Indonesian soy sauce), a runny fried egg, and crispy shallots. There’s some tofu, sprouts, and greens in there too, which provide a nice fresh crunch.
Nasi Biryani Ayam
Some people feel lucky to be alive when they look out at a mountaintop or watch their kids graduate college and get married. But we feel lucky to be alive when we’re pouring spot-on creamy curry all over this tapioca flour-battered chicken. It’s outstanding (and 100% gluten-free).
Claypot Tau Yew Bak
The star anise-spiced pork belly dish has an awesome flavor (especially when you spoon the sauce over basmati rice), but the belly itself is a little too chewy and therefore forgettable. You won’t be missing out if you don’t order this.