After years of hearing recommendations for it, I finally decided to hit perennial Washingtonian Cheap Eats favorite Malaysia Koptiam, on M Street, between 18th and 19th, with Mark for a lunch date. The fact that the restaurant was sandwiched between Camelot "Show Bar" and a psychic shop did not necessarily dampen our appetites, although I think maybe we may have lowered our expectations a bit...in any event, what we found down the stairs was some pretty decent and filling food at reasonably cheap prices.
The interior of the restaurant helped us maintain our lowered expectations, as it was dark and cluttered with an ecclectic assortment of knickknacks (oh, hello...deer). While the decor left me a little unsettled, what did impress me was the menu, a veritable bible of Malaysian food offerings (an amalgamation of Malay, Chinese and Indian influences), which included a photo of each item. I've often wished that more restaurants would add photos to their menus, as it is particularly helpful in situations like this, where we were a little unfamiliar with the cuisine.
We started with the satay chicken (below), which, while not winning any awards for creativity, was very well executed. The chicken was juicy and seasoned nicely, and went well with the slightly sweet peanut sauce.
We also got an order of the roti canai, a flat-layer Indian bread seved with a bowl of Malaysian curry chicken (below). The combination of the flaky warm bread with the slightly spicy and creamy curry was a winner, probably the favorite dish of the meal.
Because I will order some sort of noodles 7 out of 10 times I eat at an Asian restaurant, and eat soup for half my meals, I ended up with the seafood noodle soup, with shrimp, fish cakes and fish balls in chicken broth (below). I wish that I had gone off the script - the soup wasn't bad, but it was a bit bland and boring. Still, it was enough to fill me up.
Mark did a much better job of choosing, going with the curry beef noodle, topped with curry gravy (below). The thick and rich curry was satisfying and flavorful (if a little heavy for the heat of summer '10), and the beef was fairly tender.
I'm not going to go out of my way to go back to Malaysia Kopitiam, but it'll definitely do in a pinch if you are looking for a cheap, relatively tasty and filling meal. I bet the ladies of Camelot would agree with me.