Six chowhounds showed up at Nonya Bistro on a nice sunny day in Milpitas. Company was delightful as always. We had the following dishes and tab came to $15 each, which I thought was fairly good value.
Roti Canai – Indian bread in the classic Bay Area style, flaky and folded over. Served with a tasty curry, good but a little inferior to the version at Banyan Garden in Union City.
Char kueh teow – I thought this had a really good flavor. Noodles were not clumped together – a problem I sometimes find with pan-fried kueh teow if you use the wrong kind.
Lamb Rendang - This dish I would not order again. The sauce looked and tasted like it was made with a curry powder (big no-no when you’re making rendang) and not a very good one at that. It also had okra, green beans and cauliflower which really makes it a totally different dish.
Sarang seafood – I thought this dish was interesting although the taro root “nest” did not have a really good taste or consistency – did they really use taro powder? I probably would not order it again.
Eggplant Malaysian – Big slices of Chinese eggplant cooked in a aromatic paste with a hint of belacan (fermented shrimp paste– like stinky tofu!), dried shrimp, garlic and possibly shallots. I would definitely order this again.
Hainanese Chicken – I thought this was decent although I would liked a little more meat on the bones! The ginger chili sauce was quite good although I’ve always felt that it is hard to mess up on the sauce!
Mango prawn - This isn’t really a traditional Malaysian dish but I had a really good version of it at Banana Leaf, and had it recently at Champa Garden so I thought it would be interesting to compare. Sauce had the right amount of tanginess and heat – if anything the portion was a bit too small and the mango needed to be a little bit bigger as well rather than julienne strips.
Chicken Rice & Coconut Rice – I thought they did a really poor job here. Both were dry and a little al dente. The former needed more chicken fat and the latter more coconut milk. Or maybe they did not use good jasmine rice! No hint of pandan in either. Could it be day old?
Bubor Cha Cha – this was on the house – a popular tea-time item in Malaysia. Pieces of taro and sweet potato swimming in a light coconut broth. I happen to like this a lot – just brings back all those warm memories of lazy Sunday afternoons and a simmering pot of coconut-y goodness..
Personally, I would have picked a different name for the restaurant rather than Nonya – though few in the Bay Area would appreciate the difference. There weren’t any items on the menu that I could consider to be classic Nonya dishes – Inche Kabin, Curry Kapitan, Otak Otak to name a few. Apparently all the cooks are from Ipoh, a Malaysian town known for really good regional food, but definitely not nonya! I think it is challenging to offer all the traditional Malaysian dishes and to make a decent job of all of them.
As an aside, a few of us are planning a scouting trip to a new Indonesian restaurant (the former Indonesia of SF) in Berkeley on University and will report back!