MOST RECENT DINNERS
Our First Dinner, at Nyonya
As you enter Nyonya, a Malaysian restaurant in the nebulous, ever-expanding border-region of Chinatown, you are funneled past an open stretch of kitchen into a large, windowless room that resembles a subterranean tiki hut (but in a good way). Round tables capable of holding parties of ten or so populate the back of the wood-heavy space, often noisy and bustling with multiethnic post-work crowds. Nyonya doesn’t actually serve a traditional Malaysian menu, but rather nyonya or peranakan cuisine: a 400-year-old amalgam of Chinese cooking techniques and Malaysian ingredients that yields remarkably complex dishes centered around belacan (a dried shrimp paste), shallots, candlenuts, and chili peppers. Standouts include the Assam fish head casserole ($14.95)—more of a thick soup than a casserole—and the Nyonya house special crab ($12.95). The Chicken Feet with Chinese Mushrooms ($7.95) come in a rich broth heavy with the taste of star-anise, and Assam Ikan Bilis ($8.95) has just enough bittersweet tamarind paste to balance out the strong flavor of fried anchovies. Portions are reasonable, prices are cheap, and after a few Tiger beers you may find yourself temporarily transported to more tropical climes than Grand Street normally allows.