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Sentosa Has Sensational Malaysian Cooking


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Sentosa Has Sensational Malaysian Cooking

Reynold | Oct 4, 2009 12:23 PM

Sentosa’s modern interior (photo 1) is more slicked-up than most spots in the neighborhood. Lots of panels, right angles, indirect lighting, all give the place a high-end look. Upon entering you will see a sign forbidding outside food and drink. However, we learned when booking that they do permit BYOB for a $6 corkage fee. They do sell beer and wine.

Our party of seven dug right into a wide range of choices. The classic appetizer Roti Canai ($3.50, photo 2) came as a feathery light pancake – crispy and slightly sweet – to dip into a coconut curry sauce with a piece of chicken submerged in it. We went nuts, it was so good, and quickly ordered two more. The Ipoh Bean Sprouts with Salted Fish ($6, photo 3) was routine and didn’t seem to have much flavor of salted fish. Looking at the check later, we realized that they gave us the non-salted-fish appetizer version instead of the $10 entrée we had ordered. The bland Baby Oyster Omelette ($10, photo 4) contrasted nicely with some of the more pungent items on the table.

Pleasantly pungent would describe the Satay Tofu appetizer ($7, photo 5), a shell of crispy fried tofu topped with cucumber and bean sprouts, and garnished with sauce and crumbled peanuts. This ravishing dish disappeared in record time. Kang Kung Belacan ($11, photo 6) merits special mention for its depth of flavor, somewhat dark. It is a vegetable called convolus, that looks like spinach stems – it was sautéed with fermented shrimp paste and spices. The convolus’s flavor was pleasant but not pronounced, and made a nice delivery system for the other ingredients. Off Topic Comment: If I were to take a cooking class at Sentosa, this would be the first dish I’d want to learn, and then apply the treatment to other greens. There are vegetables in America that I’d call light or bright (lettuce, snow peas, zucchini) which taste best when you simply bring out their own natural flavor, and those that are dark (green beans, broccoli, asparagus) which respond really well to some of the seasonings used in Vietnam, Malaysia, and nearby countries (anchovies, shrimp paste, fermented black beans, oyster sauce, whole cumin, whole coriander—not all at once, of course!).

Back to business. We ramped up our adventure with Chicken Feet with Chinese Mushroom Casserole ($10, photo 7). It turned out fairly basic, just braised/sauteed chicken feet – which were tender and tasty to some of us anyway - - with the usual snow peas, sliced carrots, and Chinese cabbage. Indian Mee Goreng ($7, photo 8) was a standout: stir fried egg noodles in dried squid sauce with tofu, potato, shrimp, eggs, peanuts, and bean sprouts. All the great foods in one dish! As if that weren’t enough, it came garnished with scallions and a wedge of lime. Next came Nasi Lemak ($7, photo 9), a fairly spicy and totally delicious regional specialty of coconut rice flavored with screwpine leaves and cloves, with dollops of anchovy, curried chicken, preserved vegetables, peanuts, and hardboiled egg.

Chicken Rendang ($10, photo 10) came next. It was perfectly OK if not distinctive. Unfortunately they pander to Americans by using all white meat chunks of chicken breast in a sauce with lemongrass, chili paste, and coconut curry. Nyonya Clam in Casserole seemed a touch overpriced at $15 (photo 11) and most of our party agreed that it was far too spicy to enjoy with our wine and the other items on the table. We did in fact request “not spicy” for all items when we ordered, but as a practical matter that can’t always happen. Malaysian Pork Chop ($11, photo 12) was voted the worst entry of the evening – breaded and fried pieces of pork, and the breading concealed not just meat but hunks of fat, and besides it was too sweet. So there.

Then somebody had the bright idea, why just have rice (which we had on the table) when you can have Seafood Fried Rice ($8, photo 13)? Basically mostly squid and scallops, as best I can recall, on the order of blandly flavorful comfort food. Asam Laksa ($6.50, photo 14) was at the opposite end of the spectrum, a spicy and sour noodle soup with fish flakes. It was a bit too sour for most people’s tastes. By then I was not remotely able to consume any more food, so it is now sitting in my refrigerator waiting to be sampled soon. The Eggplant with Salted Fish Casserole ($14, photo 15) – I think it was pretty good but will have to go back again to make sure.

Amazing how overloaded diners can pick themselves right up when dessert comes along (some of us, anyway). Ice Kacang ABC ($4, photo 16) is an amazing concoction not to be missed even if you are not a dessert fan. There is shaved ice, red bean, corn, palm seeds, jelly, red rose syrup, and coconut milk. We all raved. Finally, we had the Coconut Pudding ($7, photo 17) which looks touristy with the cute paper umbrella on the sculpted coconut. Unfortunately I did not take a picture of the inside. The pudding was delightful, especially the part you scrape from the sides, which gets more cooking and is quite dense.

Our server Janice was fluent in English, very attentive, and helpful with explanations. The staff seems very well trained and focused. We bought one bottle of Lockwood wine off the menu ($26) and paid two corkage fees for our own bottles ($12). The bill came to $201.43. With tip we paid $35 per person for a sumptuous repast that will result in a return visit in the very near future.

39-07 Prince St, Queens, NY 11354

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