Six hounds checked out this Malaysian restaurant last night. We went with low expectations and were pleasantly surprised with an extremely pleasant meal. Golden Leaf has been open for about 6 months and its worth the trip. Its located in Chinatown, on Hudson Street - next door to Ginza and across the street from Wings Kitchen. As one hound stated, if he never went back to Penang or Aneka Resa for Malaysian and only ate at Golden Leaf, he would be fine with that.
Short summary: appetizers were amazing. Main courses were very good and desserts were poor.
Décor: Lovely room. This used to be Lei Jing restaurant. A totally forgettable restaurant whose only point of interest is the building it was located in. Back in the day, this building was the center of the Chinatown community. Then the Southeast Expressway was built and the building got cut in half (literally). Kneeland Street now forever separates the business and residential sections of Chinatown. Back to GL. The room was on the smallish side. There was also an upstairs. The wooden floor was slightly raised with glass inlays. You could look down into the floor to see rocks underneath the floorboards. There was also a mural of the sea along the back wall. The rectangular tables were glass with delicate leaf etchings. While these tables were pretty to look at, they were really annoying to be seated at. They had these poorly placed table legs as well as a lower shelf. Every few minutes, I would bang my leg into the table, jostling it. Personally, I prefer round tables. Also, the plates were too small. Very pretty but not serviceable. We all wanted to pile the food on our plates, which just wasn't possible. But, the staff graciously changed the plates in between courses.
Appetizers: Its worth coming here for appetizers alone. We had:
Roti Canai superior to Penangs version. The pancake was slightly greasier than Penangs version. However, it was much lighter. And, the grease wasnt a bad thing. Furthermore, the sauce had more depth and complexity to it. This sauce was finger lickin good.
House Special Fried Tofu this dish was outstanding. Deep fried tofu. Crispy on the outside while the inside was soft and creamy. Mouth melting tofu. The outside had a very light crust. Its hard to describe. Different from tempura, lighter but with a discernable crunch.
Otak-Otak Malay style BBQ Fishcake an Asian version of a tamale. Again, absolutely scrumptious. Think about a fishball log. There was a subtle flavor of lemongrass infused within and chunks of shrimp throughout the fish cake. It was wrapped in a pandan leaf (I think).
Fried Anchovy this was good. It was addicting. But, if I didnt get it again, that would be ok too. The chef has a delicate hand with the fryer. Light crispy crust. Not much anchovy taste to it. But, tasty pieces of fried dough.
Charcoal Grilled Whole Calamari forgettable. Nothing special. A shame, I had high expectations. The squid was cooked perfectly, not chewy. However, there was no flavor to it.
Malaysian Style Stir Fried Radish Cake delicious. Cubes of radish, similar to fried turnip cakes in Chinese restaurants. However, these cubes were much smaller, about an inch, with bean sprouts and a bean sauce. There was a spicy after bite to it.
The tofu, fishcake, anchovies had the same spicy sweet sauce. I would have preferred a bit more heat to the sauce. The host obligingly provided us with additional hot sauce.
Entrees: - This menu could be explored in much greater depth.
Salty Fish with Tofu and Chicken this dish started off as a disappointment. The pieces of chicken were overcooked and there were no discernable pieces of salty fish. But, after an inquiry, the host pointed out the minute pieces of fish. But, the tofu and sauce were fantastic. As the night went on, the tofu became infused with the lovely salty, soy taste. And, the tofu, again, was the light creamy and mouth melting stuff. Next time, I would ask them not to put the chicken in. It just got in the way.
Beef Rendang Very tender cubes of beef in a curry sauce. It had a nice flavor, but some hounds commented that they liked the dry sauce as Dok Bua better than this version. This version was superior to Penangs though.
Chow Kueh Teow noodle dish that hit the spot. The pieces of squid were perfectly cooked and carried the flavors nicely. Unlike other versions, these noodles were skinny so that they were easier to eat. And, this version was not swimming in grease.
Golden Leaf ice or something like that their version of ABC ice. The syrup with the ice tasted like maple syrup but the jelly, beans, etc, had no real taste.
Fried peanuts with dough essentially, it was a flattened version of roti canai with chopped up peanuts in it. Dry and not good. It needed a scoop of ice cream or something.
Black rice and red bean soup again, this dish was very bland.
I wish we could have tried more entrees, but the appetizer menu had too many tantalizing choices. The kitchen was downstairs. What a pain for the staff. Next to the kitchen was a big tank of fresh fish. That is on the must try list.
The service was extremely gracious and accommodating. The place was very empty, which was a shame. The quality of food was very high and this place deserves to be hopping with food lovers. For 6 of us, the bill came to $240 including tip. Food alone was only $100 and the rest, well, that went towards liquid sustenance. So, if you want Malaysian in Chinatown, this is the place to go.
20 Hudson Street