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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Mon–Thu 11:30am–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 11:30am–11:00pm
Sun noon–10:00pm

Features Veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


1827 M St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 833-6232
Malaysia Kopitiam
Fairly legit Southeast Asian food just where you’d expect to find it: at a hole in the wall

People are always looking for the quintessential ethnic food experience. Well here it is, right in the heart of Dupont Circle. The run-down décor isn’t worth bashing—it’s irrelevant. You don’t come here for the vinyl booths or the Malaysian knickknacks. You come for the terrific food.

Go with a group of friends, preferably adventurous and open-minded ones. The menu here goes on and on and on, and once you think you’re done reading through it, you flip it over…and there’s more. It’s a good thing that there’s a charming picture binder to go along with the menu, each page of which contains a piece of Malaysian advice. For example: “If you have eaten too much hot food, to get rid of the sting in your mouth, turn your plate several times until the sting is gone.” Sound advice. Or order a glass of milk.

Malaysian food is a melting pot of Singaporean and Straits cuisine, along with some Indonesian, Indian, and Chinese. Start with roti canai (a delicate pancake fried with indulgent ghee and served alongside a bowl of creamy chicken-and-potato curry). From the Indonesian side there’s satay (slightly charred and smoky but still tender, served with an addictive peanut sauce). Then move on to bigger and heartier dishes. Hot, creamy chicken rendang is generously spiced with curry and coconut milk, while mee goreng, with noodles, bean sprouts, shrimp, tomato, and tofu, is spicy and tangy and sweet all at once. The expertly stir-fried kai lan—Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce—is crunchy and juicy, and accompanies the heavier curry dishes quite nicely, although it lacks the authentic spices and flavors of Malaysia. In general, we wish there were more fermented shrimp paste flavors in many of the dishes. One of the very few strikes against this place is a crispy squid salad that’s desperately seeking squid.

For dessert, get the ABC shaved ice: red beans, corn, tapioca, peanuts, sugar and milk. It may look like a random assortment of leftovers served over ice, but its variety of textures, temperatures, and flavors make for an exciting and unpredictable ending to an authentic and undoubtedly enjoyable meal here.

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