Considering how astoundingly popular Southeast Asian cuisine is in Brooklyn nowadays, you’d think the borough would already be fully saturated with true Malaysian restaurants. Actually, you’d kind of swear that it was, since we’re already intimately acquainted with so many of the cuisine’s staple dishes—think Roti, Pad Thai and Satay—owing to its melting pot of culinary influences, like Chinese, Indian and Thai. And yet, there are precious few area eateries that can claim to be strictly Malaysian, save Nyonya, which currently boasts three small outposts throughout the city, and now Pasar Malam, a totally legit Williamsburg newcomer from shockingly young (27-years-old!) but undeniably talented chef, Salil Mehta, and his co-owner and wife, Stacey.
The couple is also behind Union Square’s Michelin-starred Laut, which, while not short on authentic offerings, is somewhat underserved by the Forever 21 tastes of Union Square. That’s why they’ve been encouraged to find that their Brooklyn customers have been naturally gravitating towards all of their personally preferred items on the menu, meaning that the prerequisite Pad Thai has been getting very little love, compared to national dishes such as Nasi Lemak and Asam Laksa, as well as an array of regional street food specialties (Pasar Malam is Malay for Night Market).
Choose from one of nine different rotis (dig the battered, neon, food court-style signage hanging over the open kitchen), from the popular, flaky Indian pancake known as Roti Canai, served with spicy coconut curry for dipping, to a hot pepper and onion-studded version known as Roti Telur, to Roti Tisu, a towering crispy cone layered with sweet chocolate drinking powder for dessert, a guaranteed kid (or inner-kid) pleaser, which for all intents and purposes, looks like it should have a lit sparkler jutting out of the burnished top.
We felt equally celebratory about an (entrée-sized) appetizer of massive, exquisitely tender head-on shrimp, dusted with a savory blend of chili, garlic and curry leaf, as well as the papaya salad alternative called Rojak, a jumble of shrimp paste-dressed goodies such as green mango, apple, jicama, pineapple and chewy chunks of torn crueler bread, finished with ginger flower sesame and peanut. And the Singapore Chili Crab is a revelation, sparing customers a sauce-splattered wrestling match with the standard, rock hard crustaceans by swapping in sweet, yielding soft shells, crowning a flavorful puddle of aromatic tomato puree and trails of silky, broken egg, meant to be mopped up with the accompanying rounds of fluffy, steamed mantou.
The restaurant has also just launched brunch, providing a welcome alternative to the tired, Western-style repast of eggs, waffles and pancakes. Most of the aforementioned items will be available, along with a edible tip-of-the-hat to America—a groaning combo platter featuring a folded omelet, chicken wings, flecks of bacon, sliced cherry tomatoes, crunchy cubes of fruit and a sizable mound of appealingly greasy fried rice.
With dishes this delicious, we’re admittedly curious to see what Pasar Malam can do with omi-present menu mainstays like Green Curry, and the persistently one-note sugar noodles known as Pad Thai.
208 Grand Street, Williamsburg