In my last post I questioned the hype of Bakery Nouveau(even though I used to enjoy it). I do often like the anti-crowd mentality. Although, trying to be unique, in itself is a fallacy. But let’s avoid that conundrum for now. Focus instead on a small Malaysian restaurant on Capitol Hill called Kedai Makan.
Let’s avoid the terms “hidden gem“, “tucked away treasure” and other cliché terms bloggers and food writers use to make a place sound like a diamond in the rough. Capitol Hill is gold mine of places to eat. All of which are often magnificent. Yet, I did not visit those places tonight. No, tonight, I visited Kedai Makan and had an amazing meal.
After spending about 15 minutes try to park(thank you Seattle for becoming overcrowded so fast..). I finally found a spot a few blocks away and quickly hustled to through the rain soaked streets. It was still pouring pretty heavily when I turned the corner on Bellevue and Olive and opened their door. Heads up, they don’t take reservations!
Entering in, the smells alone…wait…let me again avoid the cliché blogger “the place smelled” and so on…
Oh the Smells!
One thing that caught my eye as a chef was all the Cook Books they had on their shelves. Some places do it to show off, so they buy the newest, shiniest, and over priced volumes of “NOMA” or “Fill In New Number one Restaurant Here”. Great, you are reading books of food you are not cooking at your restaurant…
I wonder if these are read?
These books, they were all about Malaysian, Thai, Chinese and other Asian styles of cooking. It brought me back to the Herbfarm. After service was over, we might gather in the small two person office(by that I mean it only fit two people in it) and pour over some book for new ideas. We were always trying to push boundaries and learn about the classic techniques. It would seem that the cooks at Kedai Makan are trying to do the same. That is a great sign. It means they are at least trying to base their recipes in tradition, foods that have lasted for good reason. Good food isn’t complicated, it is simple.
The menu was the ideal single page, all with dishes I had never heard before. Roti Jala, Nasi Goreng Kambing, Roti Babi and so on. All dish names I had never heard before. Possibly because I lack culture, or because Seattle is finally getting some great new styles of food moving in! Don’t get me wrong, I love pho. However, there are so many new countries and food styles I would love to try.
Looking at the prices, the prices seemed very reasonable. Yes, Seattle doesn’t exactly offer the $2 street food prices of Taiwan or Vietnam. So finding a place charging less than $18 dollars for dinner is a rare find.
I split three plates with my ex-boss who I had asked to join me. The first dish was Roti Jala, which was translated as net bread. My ex-boss and I assumed it would be like a Indian or Nepali style flat bread. This was not the case.
Roti Jala and Lamb Curry (Net Bread)
What we got was literally bread in a net form. It was stained yellow with turmeric and served with a cup of Lamb Curry. This was fascinating! Seven years of cooking and having all forms of flat bread and I had never seen anything like this. It wasn’t just perplexing in sense of structure. It was also a complexly delicious dish. The flavors of curry and spice from the lamb and turmeric from the bread layered together and danced. Like two partners that had been moving to the beat of flavor for years, these two food elements skillfully tantalized my tongue. Each movement of their feet threw my mouth into gleeful turmoil. I was getting excited for our main courses after only one bite of this flat bread. The flavors were border line partying in my mouth. I wish my stomach was bigger sometimes…
How they managed to turn something and plain as “bread” into something so exciting is amazing!
Now for the next two dishes, we split the main courses. We ordered the Pork Belly and the Chili Pan Mee.
Spiced Pork Belly and Pickled Serranoes
They were both great, but my favorite was the Pork Belly. It was golden brown, crispy and covered in just a light dusting of five spice. The slight sweetness that the five spice brought out of the whole dish set it all off. The cheap cut of meat is so often only seen as breakfast material. However, it served such a great purpose in a dish filled with vegetables. Each bite brought out new flavors in the green beans. The salty and crispy meat croutons were perfect. Like a salad, the beans almost were only getting in the way….I spent most of the rest of my night searching for hidden morsels of pork belly in the green beans.
Now, just because the Pork Belly was my favorite, doesn’t mean the Chili Pan Mee wasn’t good. In fact, when you have hand made wheat noodles going into your final product. Chances are, you have a good product. Why else would you spend the time making the noodle from scratch.
Chili Pan Mee
When it came it, it reminded me of a Korean Bibimbap. It had vegetables, a mountain of ground pork, onions and came with a side of dry sambal. It had a slightly preserved fishy flavor from what I assumed was fish sauce that really brought out the meatiness of the pork.The noodles had great texture and the whole combination of flavors were a combination of new and old. Growing up with Eastern European food that relies on the heavy hitters(Larger flavor and high fat), it is nice to get dishes with explosive pops of every which flavor. Funky fish sauce, crispy pork, tangy vingar, spicy pepper, curry, etc. It takes such skill to bring dishes like this together. They can’t just fall out of the sky. Nope, they have to be crafted, layer by layer. This was really beyond just a great meal!
The Best Part
The best part of the whole experience? Well, imagine not having to spend $40+ just for two entrees and an appetizer in Seattle. Yeah, blows your mind right? You mean my entrée was under $13 dollars for dinner. That is crazy talk.
For the flavor, and price, this places deserves more than just word of mouth. You should come have a try! How often do you get to visit a different country in your own town. Yes, it won’t ever be good as the food in Malaysia. If you never plan to go. Then this will make a great substitute. The flavors at this Malaysian restaurant layer beautiful. Everything is smooth, spicy, crispy, complex and each flavor played with is crafted for you! They dance, sing, and move to some unspoken music. They have solo jams on your tongue and play head banging, classic, baroque and indie all at once!
This was a great recommendation from a friend. If you have some place you think I should visit, write me a message or comment. I would love to hear from you!
Just as a parting picture, I also love cool furniture!
This is straight out of a book somewhere