Last week, I went along to the re-launch of Jalan Malaysia on Woodville Road in Cathays, Cardiff, formerly known as Cafe Malaysia. I have fond memories of Cafe Malaysia, having attended a supper club there a couple of years ago with Masterchef 2010 winner, Dhruv Baker, and so I naturally had high hopes for Jalan Malaysia.
Restaurant owner and chef, Shang Teao explained that the rebrand was necessary for a number of reasons; the former name of Cafe Malaysia often led to the restaurant being mistaken for a traditional British café that served breakfast and brunch, and the restaurant’s former target market was Malaysian students, making it a seasonal business. ‘Jalan’ translates as ‘street’ in Malay, and Teao thought this was a more accurate reflection of the food he dreamt of dishing up in his restaurant.
The rebrand was touch for Teao. After renaming the restaurant in July of last year, two months later he overhauled the entire menu (having spent 11 months developing it beforehand), removing popular dishes like curry mee and laksa, to enable the restaurant to focus solely on Malaysia’s national dish, nasi lemak (spiced meat, fish or veg with coconut rice, hard-boiled egg, cucumber, and fried anchovy, roasted peanut and sweet chilli sambal). Regular customers kept coming in looking for their favourite dishes from the old menu, and Teao kept having to turn them away. Now, however, he is optimistic to see new types of customers visiting his restaurant to sample the range of new dishes on offer.
The restaurant front is an eclectic display of corrugated steel and white neon lighting. Inside, the walls are painted a crisp white, with intricate sketches and thought-provoking quotes scrawled on in black paint.
To start, we shared a selection of dishes from the ‘Little Cravings’ section of the menu, consisting of a crispy mini vegetable spring roll, mildly spiced curry-infused fish cake, succulent fish ball, and my personal favourite, a chicken and vegetable-stuffed crispy dumpling; all of which come served with either sweet chilli sauce or hot chilli sauce, and are priced at £3.50.
Having polished off our starters, we shared a sample of one of the main course nasi lemak dishes (priced from £8.95 – £16.95), king prawn okra sambal; a tantalising combination of juicy king prawns fried with tender okra in a spicy shrimp and sweet chilli, tamarind-infused sauce. With the consistency of a thick curry, the sambal was a deep red in colour and fairly spicy to taste, without being too over-powering; it depends on the level of spice you can handle in your food, really.
The fried anchovy, roasted peanut and sweet chilli sambal was extremely more-ish. The anchovies had a deep, fishy flavour which reminded me of the taste of Bombay duck, and their crunchy texture paired well with the slightly salty peanuts, while the chilli introduced fiery tones to the mix. I wish there was an option to order a bowl of this as a starter; it was so tasty, we could easily have eaten more of it.
For our main course, we decided to order two dishes and share them. First up, the beef rendang was a rich, spice-laden concoction of melt-in-your-mouth beef in coconut milk with aromatic lemongrass, lime leaves and chilli, topped with caramelised ground coconut. This was quite hot in terms of spice level, and it was a little too much for my friend, Sarah, so I ended up eating most of this in the end – which was completely fine by me, as it was irresistible!
Meanwhile, just looking at the turmeric fried chicken was enough to make us drool. A large chicken thigh and drumstick in a light, deep golden brown turmeric-flavoured batter, served in a vibrant, reddish-brown sauce. I will most likely order this when I next visit the restaurant.
After my recent visit to Jalan Malaysia, two years on since my first visit when it was known as Cafe Malaysia, it’s great to see that the restaurant is still just as good as it was back then – if not better!
I was invited to Jalan Malaysia and we received complimentary food and drink, as well as a discount on main course menu items. However, I was not obliged to write a positive review of my experience.