This weekend took the passport to the opposite side of the globe from the Irish but just a short jaunt to Charlotte for me. Malaya Kitchen was the stop this weekend. It’s on Providence Rd in south Charlotte and in a strip center that’s like the UN of restaurants. There are 9 restaurants sharing a parking lot and I wrote them down because Wow; Pizza Hut, Cherry Blossom Chinese, Acropolis Café, Charlotte Café, Sushiya Japanese, Malaya Kitchen, Bella Fresco Italian Mediterranean, Qdoba Mexican, & Chile’s.
Back to Malaya Kitchen. The place is a restaurant and lounge and they have pretty subdued lighting suitable for a lounge so it wasn’t surprising most people were asking to be seated in a brighter area near the front window. The bar part of the main seating area rather than a separate section but the whole thing seems to work.
The menu has a lot of things you find on most southeast Asian fusion restaurants but they did have a few things identified as being Malaysian so I went with the popiah appetizer and beef rendang from the lunch menu. The rendang came with a salad, the first of 3 surprises, so I basically had a small 3 course lunch.
The salad was unremarkable but the popiah was interesting. It was a shrimp spring roll with a plum chili sauce over it. I got mine steamed but they also offer it fried. Oh yeah there was shredded lettuce and carrots on the plate too like some mini salad, surprise #2. It was still there the waiter took the plate away. The beef rendang was next.
Surprise #3, the rendang came with broccoli too. I know you’re thinking “look at all that broccoli” and shuddering kind of like I did but I have to say it wasn’t that bad. They were pretty tasteless but they were firm and a little crunchy so they had texture going for them. I got white rice but brown rice is an option as well in case you were wondering.
OK so the rendang is basically like a really really thick beef stew. This one had some potatoes in it and big chunks of beef that had been simmered in what the menu called exotic spices and coconut milk. It was a bit sweet and a little savory with no heat from spices. Personally I think it should have had some and based on the research for the recipe on the Tell Me More page it traditionally does bring the heat. In spite of that lack it was quite tasty. That pineapple slice was a fine garnish as well. It served to drive out the taste the broccoli did have plus was a nice palette cleanser at the end of the meal.
This is a decent place and the staff was very professional and the food tasted good. If I lived in the area I could see dropping by fairly often to dine or lounge.
This week I decided to take another stab at an Irish pub since I struck out the last time I tried. This time there must have been a leprechaun riding shotgun because my luck was great when I hit McHales Irish Pub in downtown Rock Hill. Not only did I get a space on the street almost in front of the place it wasn’t very busy either.
McHales has that pub feel, kind of dim with heavy wood furnishings stained dark and a couple of regulars sitting at the bar chatting with staff. As I said, I pretty much had the place to myself aside from the guys holding down the bar so the waitress was able to be attentive. She was attentive and friendly without being annoying.
Of course since I was in an Irish pub I had to get my standard pint of Guinness while I checked out the menu.
The menu was loaded with bar food but there were some more “Irish” dishes on the menu and I opted for a small bowl of potato soup and the corned beef and cabbage.
The potato soup was very good. It was creamy with diced skin on potatoes that were firm and not cooked to death. The cheddar and bacon were great garnishes. A little black pepper and it was about as good as you could ask for.
The shredded corned beef and cabbage came with some potato cakes and it looked quite good. My first taste was of the cabbage and it was disappointingly bland. Oh, wait just a second. Grabbing a fork full of the corned beef, “There it is!” A big old dose of salt. Either of these two by themselves would actually be off putting, however if you balanced each forkful with a bit of cabbage and a bit of the corned beef you had a winner. The potato cakes had a hint of cheese and were good but needed just a bit of onion to be great.
Overall I enjoyed the meal and the staff was very pleasant and attentive. It was heavy though and I’m going to have to go for a long walk to burn it off. Right after my nap.
Don’t forget to checkout the Tell Me More page for a recipe, some music and goods with an Irish theme.
Well this week was a bit interesting. I found a restaurant called the New Zealand Café and I thought Jackpot! Who would have thought we had a restaurant specializing in New Zealand food. I didn’t even know what that might be other than probably mutton so I was looking forward to it even if was in Matthews.
Imagine my surprise when I walked up and they are advertising $1.00 sushi. It’s a fairly small place but apparently quite popular as it was almost at capacity 10 minutes after opening and they have the tables squeezed in to maximize the seating potential. I got a seat and was provided with not one but four menus. There was the new sushi menu, the daily special sushi menu, the regular sushi menu and the everything else menu. I was beginning to suspect they might specialize in sushi. I like sushi but I just had some excellent fish for dinner so I opted for the everything else menu in the hopes of finding something New Zealand-y.
Not even one mutton dish and nothing else that felt unique to NZ. So with a bit of disappointment I ordered the New Zealand pork chop. While I was waiting I got a look at some of the sushi rolls and bento boxes being served to others and I have to say they looked pretty good. When my meal arrived it was on a tray, as you can see below, like the bento boxes and the way the pork was cooked it reminded me of what I had in Japan.
The pork chop was fried and served with onions and a mayonnaise sauce that turned out to be sweet which was a surprise and better than I expected. I went with noodles instead of rice and it came with salad, two fried shrimp and two chicken skewers. The meal was good but really felt much more Japanese than anything else.
I expect you could get all the items on the menu in New Zealand somewhere but nothing on the menu was uniquely New Zealandish. If I was in the area again and felt like grabbing some sushi I’d join the crowd and grab some here because it looked quite good and they had a huge variety.
On the other hand the Tell Me More page has a music video with some amazing scenic shots of New Zealand, plus a kid friendly recipe.
Like the title mentions there was a disappointing lack of hobbits for a place with New Zealand in the name.
This week’s culinary passport trip was to Greece as represented by Akropolis Kafe in Ballantyne. It’s a small place in a little square with several other restaurants and bars. You order at the counter and they bring it to you so it’s not a fancy joint. On the day I went they were having the opposite problem their mother country was in that they were lacking employees rather than jobs. They had a big help wanted sign on the door. When I walked in there was just one man in the place and he looked harried. He took my order while mentioning he didn’t know where his help disappeared to. As he was ringing me up she showed up and finished the transaction while he went to the kitchen to get things started on my meal.
The décor didn’t scream Greece but there were a couple of paintings on the wall intended to evoke that Greekish feel.
I ordered the Gyro & Shishkabob plate which came with a salad and fries. The baklava was sitting there taunting me so I had to get a piece to eat for vengeance. I had a choice between the pork or chicken and got the pork which came out nice as you can see below.
The shishkabob was tender and had been thoroughly marinated so the flavor was in every bite. The gyro meat was ok and once you threw it in the pita with some tzatziki sauce you had something going. I don’t really know why fries are included except as a filler and I didn’t bother to eat a one. So now I’m going to say something that I can barely believe I’m putting to words but I was most disappointed in the salad. It wasn’t bad but the lone olive, tomato slice and cucumber slice made it feel like some kind of weird orphan vegetable salad. There was enough tzatziki to dress the salad so didn’t even try the provided dressing. The baklava was quite good and very cinnamony. I will say my sister & brother-in-law team up to make one that’s better but I could be biased.
Overall the place wasn’t bad. In spite of any employee issue the staff present was very friendly and the food was solid if not exceptional. I’d go back if I was in the area but wouldn’t make a special trip.
You can check out their web site by clicking their name above and don’t forget to check out Tell Me More for a tzatziki recipe, music and more.