While Albuquerque has come a long way toward becoming a cultural melting pot, a dramatic dearth still exists when it comes to a pot of another sort–the pot in which enculturated diners might find simmering some of the world’s most flavorful cuisine: Ethiopian, Basque, Russian, Hawaiian and Malaysian, for example. Fortunately, more cosmopolitan dining destinations such as Las Vegas are only a short flight away.
Las Vegas diners have embraced the Satay Malaysian Grille, the first Chinatown area restaurant to feature the fragrant spices, pungent curries and distinctive flavor combinations that have long made Malaysian cuisine a favorite of savvy diners. Talk about a melting pot. The population of Malaysia is comprised heavily of ethnic Chinese and Indians so it stands to reason that their cuisines would play a major culinary influence in the development of their cuisine. Proximity to Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam certainly wielded some influence as well.
The Satay Grille is named for the popular grilled skewers with which aficionados of Thai cuisine are familiar. Regarded as “street food” throughout the Far East, satay has become a popular American favorite, perhaps because of its similarity to the skewers prepared on many a barbecue grill.
A satay combination at the Satay Grille yields six marinated and grilled over an open flame skewers (three of chicken and three of beef) of perhaps the most moist, tender and delicious satay you’ve ever experienced. The satay is so thick that in comparison, satay served in some Thai restaurants may resemble emaciated strips of carne seca (beef jerky). The accompanying peanut sauce is also thick, punctuated subtly with curry and other spices. Unlike some peanut sauce we’ve had elsewhere, it was not at all cloying.
A visit to a Malaysian restaurant isn’t complete without an order of Roti Canai, a rich, multi-layered bread which resembles Indian naan, not only because it is served in wedges, but because of its texture. Unlike naan which tends to be somewhat flat and dry, roti is almost buttery in its composition and is more fluffy than flat. The roti is served with a pungent and delicious red curry sans coconut milk.
The appetizer menu includes items listed as “Indian style,” “Thai style” and even “Filipino style.” Filipino style would be the lumpia, deep-fried egg rolls stuffed with minced pork, beef, shrimp and shiitake mushrooms. The cigar shaped lumpia are served with the sweet chili sauce which is ubiquitous in Far East cuisine.
One dish sure to please even the most ardent of curry enthusiasts is the curry laksa, a soup concoction featuring both thick yellow noodles and vermicelli in a thin broth of heady red curry with just a subtle coconut influence. The soup also includes shredded chicken, fish ball, fried tofu and bean sprouts, all served in a swimming pool sized bowl. It is quite simply one of the two or three best curry-based soups I’ve ever savored despite somewhat chewy, non-white chicken pieces.
Noodle nuts could take the easy route and order Pad Thai, the traditional Thai noodle dish, but the more adventurous diner will order Char Kueh Teow, Penang style flat rice noodles stir-fried with chives, bean sprouts and eggs. It’s rather similar to Pad Thai without the almost dessert-like sweetness of the dish.
You’ll want to save your sweet tooth for the Satay Grille’s dessert offerings, the most popular among Malaysians being roti gula, which features the aforementioned Indian style bread topped with brown sugar and condensed milk. This dessert is both savory and sweet in almost equal proportions. It’s a wonderful way to finish a memorable meal.
Satay Grille is sure to become an even more popular dining destination as word of mouth spreads among adventurous diners. It is one of the three very best Malaysian restaurants in which I’ve dined, a true find!
Satay Malaysian Grille
3755 Spring Mountain Road, Suite 102
Las Vegas, NV
LATEST VISIT: 9 June 2006
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET:Rotay Canai, Lumpia, Satay Combo, Curry Laksa, Char Kueh Teow, Roti Gula