Dishin’: Malay Satay Hut

Special note (3/25/10): Malay Satay Hut, one of my top picks since I moved to Seattle in 1999, has been increasingly disappointing of late, and I have removed it from my list of favorite restaurants in the Seattle area. Last weekend, the food was flat. (Decent, to be sure, but not nearly as special as it once was.) This has been the trend, along with increased prices and diminished portion sizes. Most frustrating, the much-beloved baby squids have been AWOL recently, replaced with inferior squid steaks that the owner told me “are easier to cook.” Gone, also, are the long lines that I happily endured years ago. I hope that the restaurant can somehow rebound and return to its glory days.

We usually run from restaurants that have pictures on the menu. They remind us of steakhouse chains from our childhoods or Chinese takeout places where the food tastes like the box in which it’s packaged. But we find endless delight in staring at Malay Satay Hut’s full-color menu. If we could resist distraction, we’d laminate our takeout copy and hang it on the wall.

Explore the whole menu. Everything’s great, except for dessert, which we forgo. (If you want something sweet, a friend who’s a self-admitted spicy food wimp finds Nirvanic relief in an avocado shake.)

Start with the roti canai. Just order it. Look around and it seems everyone starts their meal with this wonder: a soft but crispy Indian fry bread, accompanied by an addictive curry dipping sauce that goes from sweet to hot in your mouth. Pillowy and perfect, roti canai is our idea of comfort food.

And be sure to get a vegetable dish, like the belachan string beans (the okra is also a good option). Vegetarians beware: as in much Southeast Asian cooking, the mouth-feel and fat of a little seafood or meat enhance the taste of the vegetables. Belachan preparation means stir-fried with shrimp paste (don’t try this at home if you fear an everlasting pungent odor), and some prawns provide a nice balance to the beans.

Dishin’ is having an unusually difficult time picking just one dish this time, and we have two recommendations for entrees. Malaysian Chinese pork chops always make it to our table. Don’t let their apparent simplicity fool you. One bite and you’ll marvel at the complexity of the sweet and yet seductively spiced chops, which are perfectly crisped but still tender, and appropriately garnished with fresh cilantro leaves. Toss your chopsticks. This is meat and bones, so don’t be afraid to eat with your hands—finger-licking good!

For you adventurous foodies: Check out the specials board. This is how we discovered baby squids. Order them as you wish; we like dry curry—perhaps our favorite dish of the restaurant. Squeamish about squid? These miniature versions are delectable, quickly stir-fried to a pleasing tenderness in a curry sauce that our friends frequently describe as intoxicating.

For taste and value, Malay Satay Hut is the jewel of the International District—and maybe all of Seattle. We call it Wild Ginger at one-third the price (and maybe one-third the atmosphere, which is fine by us) and three times the authenticity.

Originally posted at Seattlest (where “we” = me) on February 23, 2007. I couldn’t resist adding a few more photos here (in addition to the baby squid and the pork chops, you can see Singapore noodles, okra, eggplant and mango chicken), and will need to go back to get more (and better) photos sometime soon.

Malay Satay Hut on Urbanspoon

Malay Satay Hut (Redmond) on Urbanspoon

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3 Responses to “Dishin’: Malay Satay Hut”

  1. Brandon Dayawan
    July 24, 2009 at 9:28 am #

    Great review on the restaurant! Thanks for the tip on the baby squids! It’s my favorite restuarant and the comment with it being 1/3 the price and atmosphere of Wild Ginger is right on the money.

  2. Yanna
    March 17, 2010 at 9:34 pm #

    I just had dinner at Malay Satay, Portland location.
    I had the worst experience ever!!! The food was amazing, customer service – TERRIBLE!!!
    -100 points out of 100…
    I went up to the server, as i had a question about one dish, and instead of answering my question, the first thing he did was to wave his hand at me to show me the way back to my table and keep repeating: “sit down, sit down”, in a very mean, demanding way! Didnt answer my question, and all i got was: “sit down, sit down”, like 100 “sit down” in a minute.
    So, i sat down. Ate my meal, asked for the bill. I was having dinner with 4 other colleagues. No body wasnt buying anybody’s dinner, we were all paying for ourselves. The server, DID NOT ask us if we needed separate bills, put everything on one receipt, and when we asked him to split it in 5, he was acting all mad, was dividing the bill in 5, at the table, calling everybody’s order, and acting extremly mad about it, as it was our fault that he didnt ask one elementary question: will this all be on 1 bill?
    We left the restaurant with a sour impression of it. Even if they have good food, the inability to serve it, ruins it all.
    The server waiting on us tonight, should not be allowed to do customer service, he SUCKED big time! Rude, unprofessional, and not welcoming at all… The worst server EVER!!!
    too bad… i really liked their food, and other people who work there. After tonight, i dont have any desire to ever go back.

  3. admin
    March 18, 2010 at 8:16 am #

    Yanna, sorry to learn that you were unhappy with your experience. That sounds a bit unusual, but I’d suggest that if you have a bad experience, you should find a way to contact the manager to pass along your feedback. Good restaurants value constructive criticism.

    I will say that the onus should be on the customer to request separate bills before the general bill arrives. It’s not the restaurant’s responsibility to anticipate that need.

    The food has historically been quite special, though I’ve heard reports that it’s gone down lately, and I noticed a bit of slippage last time I was there. I’m scheduled to go back quite soon, so I’ll be interested to see how it is.

    Brandon, sadly, they weren’t serving baby squid the last two times I went, having switched to the squid steaks. I think that’s a bad mistake – and told them that.

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