100 Best Restaurants 2008: Malaysia Kopitiam

No. 99: Malaysia Kopitiam

Cuisine: The 100-plus-item menu of Malaysian fare—a cuisine influenced by the cooking of India and China—ranges from street food to elaborate preparations such as baked herb chicken, which must be ordered 24 hours in advance. The menu includes photos of every dish.

Mood: Owners Leslie and Penny Phoon—Penny is the chef—have created a quasi–South Seas oasis in this underground eatery with straw-hut decor.

Best for: Office lunches and celebrations; dinner with a crowd; eating cheaply and well in the high-priced heart of downtown.

Best dishes: Crunchy okra with dried-shrimp paste; roti canai, Indian-style flatbread to dip in creamy chicken curry; sambal shrimp with peppers; lo bak, a crispy roll stuffed with pork and jícama; a wonderfully chewy oyster omelet; crispy Raja Chicken with vermicelli; herb chicken stuffed with shrimp, Chinese sausages, herbs, and mushrooms.

Insider tips: If you’re dining with a group or celebrating a special occasion, ask Penny Phoon to create a customized banquet. Even if it’s not a special occasion, prices are so low that you can experiment and fashion your own mini-banquet. Noodle dishes are the menu’s weakest link.

Service: ••

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.