Nyonya House, Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre, 300 Point Cook Rd, Point Cook. Phone: 9394 8881
Nyonya House is in Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre, so we keep our expectations prudently in check.
No matter the ambitions, we fully expect the necessity of also serving coffee, cake, breakfast and more to compromise – perhaps seriously – the nature of the Malaysian food on offer.
We are dead wrong.
As becomes apparent as we scan the long, illustrated menu (see below), and as is confirmed when we enjoy a fine lunch.
This is some serious stuff going on here, the Malaysian menu seeming to have quite a notable Singaporean influence.
All the expected bases and dishes are covered, but there are a few unusual and intriguing items as well.
But with a couple of exceptions, we stick to standard dishes.
Our choices are served promptly and the service from a handful of different staff members is full of smiles and patience with our many questions.
The decor and ambiance are bog standard shopping centre, but the food vibe is of a much loftier standard.
Char koay teow ($11.80) is average in a good way.
It’s less greasy than the norm and light on wok hei, but the spice level is a little higher than normal and the $2 extra we pay for inclusion of Chinese sausage is well spent.
Jala are lace-like crepes – see recipe here.
They’re so delicate – eating them is akin to enjoying a meal of Sri Lankan hoppers.
We have them with chicken curry sauce for $6.80, but they’re also available as a full serve with chicken curry for $12.80. Maybe next time!
Chicken nasi goreng ($12.80) is OK, but as ever seems to me just glorified fried rice with not much zing. Still, it suffices as a base for all else on our table.
Achar ($6.80) is fantastic.
All Malaysian restaurants should serve this, but we don’t see it that often.
More to the point, this is a great version – sweet and sour, crunchy, and it’s a good-sized serving, too, with plenty to go round a table of four.
Beef rendang ($16.80) is another big hit with everyone at our table.
Yet it’s unlike any previous rendang any of us have tried.
There’s no discernible coconut, for starters.
Instead, the rich, smooth gravy is heavy with black pepper, while the large chunks of beef are fat-free, firm and even a little crusty on some of the extremities.
It comes across as curried, Asian-style take on a hearty beef stew from Italy or central Europe.
For company today we have Courtney and James.
We met them at the Paella Party, where they told me they routinely rely on Consider The Sauce and Footscray Food Blog to know where to go to eat.
My immediate thought on being told that was: “Stuff that! Time to rope these guys into helping us do some of the heavy lifting!”
Turns out they’re definitely not your passive blog readers, are in fact zealous and adventurous in pursuit of mostly cheap but always funky foodiness, and are thoroughly hip to and appreciative of Malaysian food.
Even better, as the four of us chow down it becomes clear that we have more than food in common, with the conversation zooming from science fiction and fantasy writing to anime and manga, various football codes, politics, travel, films, comics and more.
I even come away from our meal with a short but enticing list of books titles to explore.
Meeting them was a gas; having lunch with them has been even better.
James and I mostly leave the “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” over our desserts to Bennie and Courtney.
Sago pudding ($2) is quite firm but very nice, with the caramelised sugar adding a lusty touch.
Iced kachang ($5.80) is all about Bennie, with no comment from his dad necessary.
Muar chee ($5.80) are cute, bursty, gnocchi-like dumplings made from glutinous rice and coated with finely chopped peanuts and sugar and sesame seeds.
Courtney loves them; I’ll sit on the fence.
What a find Nyonya House is – it strikes me as easily the equal or better of anything thing in Flemington, or Melbourne generally.
There’s plenty of scope to be more adventurous on future visits.
I’m keen to try out some of the one-for-lunch dishes such as laksa, chicken rice or the aforementioned jala with chicken curry.
And I wonder how crash-hot the $13.80 lobak or the $4.80 wonton soup might be …