Makan Malaysian Cafe opens on South Pearl Street
Pearl Street Harbor, as one chef deemed it when South Pearl Street, once a destination restaurant row, had lost Pearl Street Grill, OTOTO and India's Pearl within days of each other, has a new dining den, and after having dinner there on Monday night, I'm inclined to move in.
Makan Malaysian Cafe, a blond-wooded, honeydew-hued, one-room shrine to the cooking of Southeast Asia, its cuisine rooted in the cultures and histories of China, Indonesia and India, is marked by roti and curry puffs, curried chicken and beef rendang, laksa and fried anchovies -- and sambal, the dangerously hot chile paste that doubles as a sunburn when it thrashes your tongue.
This is the kind of food that I love, with names that require a pronunciation guide, exotic ingredients that often reek of funk but soon become insatiable cravings and spices that I want as aromatic mists in my kitchen.
When I stopped in, owner-chef Karen Wee Lin Beckman had just put out a fire, thanks to a small mishap with the bamboo steamers for her siu mai -- "We opened today at 5, and it didn't take long for opening night drama to set in," she joked -- but when I arrived, the pace was peaceful and the food, which is chronicled on the following pages, blew me away.