Sunday, January 14, 2007

Dish on Dining: Malacca (Update: Closed)

South Asian-Style Restaurant Makes a Move
4039 18th St., San Francisco (before Feb. 1, 2007)
2367 Market St., San Francisco (after Feb. 1, 2007)
Castro neighborhood
Lunch, M-F, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Brunch, Sat-Sun, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner daily, 5-10 p.m. (until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday)

UPDATE: This restaurant closed in 2007

I was planning to do my review of this Castro restaurant after I returned from my trip to Vietnam. But then I found out Malacca was moving, so my review would be old hat by the time you read it.

Malacca, named after an ancient empire in South Asia that is now modern-day Malaysia, calls itself a restaurant featuring fusion styles of Malaysia, Thailand, China, India and Portugal. (Any restaurant that still uses the word fusion is probably still stuck in the '80s.) Its owner, Suchitra Hutachinda, is also behind Crave restaurant that opened last year on Market Street, also in the Castro. But Crave didn't really win over many fans (and if you read my review, you'd know I wasn't one of its fans either). So you won't be surprised to hear that Crave is disappearing and Malacca will move from its 18th Street location to the prime Market Street venue.
I first went to Malacca for brunch, and it wasn't bustling with patrons like most brunch spots. My friend had suggested it because he'd been there for dinner and wanted to see what I thought. For brunch, they had the traditional menu of omelets, pancakes, French toasts and eggs benedicts. And then they'd spice it up by calling it the "Malacca."

So not to argue, I ordered the Malaccan crepes (with Thai green curry) and my friend had the Malaccan eggs benedict. The dishes arrived oddly looking like plastic food -- for some reason everything looked soooo yellow or soooo green. Despite the presentation, I dug into my crepes, which I found edible but not enjoyable. The crepes tasted too sweet and the sauces too thick.

Because Malacca isn't necessarily known for brunch (as the near empty dining room demonstrated), I decided to give it another try for dinner. So I returned tonight to see if the fusion worked better at night.

I ordered the Basil Prawns as a starter. Four deep-fried shrimp came with a green dipping sauce which I assumed (and hoped) was the basil. The menu said it was a tamarind-cashew dipping sauce. Although the prawns, made with shredded phyllo dough, tasted like a Triscuit cracker, it was enjoyable. (I couldn't really say that when they first arrived to the table because they came with a whiff of bad seafood, which always turns me off.)
For my entree, I ordered the Rendang Beef Curry -- pan-seared top sirloin topped with a red curry sauce and served with kaffir lime leaves, yellow rice and green beans. The meat was tender and delightful and the curry sauce was nicely spicy. I wasn't that impressed with the rice, which was basic fried rice using butter to make it "yellow" and the green beans came with too many slices of red onions for my taste. But still, I felt it was a nice meal overall.

While Malacca didn't transport me to ancient Malaysia, it was a decent meal despite the odd, strong coloring of its food. It's probably a smarter move that when choosing between Malacca and Crave, that Malacca should be the one to survive.

Single guy rating: 2.25 stars (perfect for new foodies who like colorful food)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

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