A bowl of Indian Mee Goreng.

Photo courtesy Rasa

A bowl of Indian Mee Goreng.

Native About New York: Bad Heads and Good Malaysian

Booming in this steel box. Frantic bodies dash to dingy railcars they’ll never catch. Others, the late runners, dive through sliding blades and crash into a crowd of irritable city-goers gripping bags and coffee cups and smartphones and brightly lit tablets. … A man on a train pleads for change. Riders immediately eye their phones like a surgeon on a body as he begs, or they look straight ahead into the nothing; the black window above soiled orange seats. At this moment, this New York minute, a man, wild from drink or maybe bath salts, bellows madness (or maybe philosophy) at the end of the car. Yes. There is very little difference between the high head and the philosopher. Which is true … And, well, yeah, this sort of screed to go on for pages, but, right now, we need to focus on the pleasant and the pleasing. Enough with the bad head. On to the good Malaysian. Let’s talk Rasa, a new restaurant in Gotham, a few doors down from Analogue, the Native lounge. Grab the notes, which are stained here and there in a sauce for dipping. With the curry potato sauce came a plate of Roti Canai – a warm fluffy fry bread-like appetizer and a bottle of sake cider, also served warm in a white vase. …

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Smokey Bear Historic Park

DIRECT FROM THE MOTTLED NOTES: I drink the liquid softly, feeling it run down into my throat, into my chest on this cold New York night. Pouring another shot now, gently, not spilling a drop. Waiters clad in black skillfully balance bowls on their arms as I grab, grip and dip the Roti Canai into the sauce. Damn. All over the page, but worth it. Malaysian fry bread – more. I need more. Can’t. Satay chicken’s on it’s way. More sake cider then. Satay chicken’s arrived; not on a skewer, served with several slices of raw cucumber, coated in a spicy peanut sauce – succulent, slightly crunchy, definitely not dry … I can come here for the goddamn appetizers alone, and then be on my way.

Suddenly, co-owner Michael Lai sits with me at this two-seater wooden table up against the wall, and he tells me about how he’s been in New York City for the last 30 years and that his joy in life is to watch his patrons polish their plates. Later, his wife, Camie, joins me and brings with her the ingredients that had just arrived from home in Malaysia. Although they, Michael and Camie, can purchase some of these integral elements here in NYC, they believe the quality, the purity of what they get fresh off the plane is what makes their dishes “like home” – and I’ll have to take their word for it since I’ve never been to Malaysia … yet if this is a sample of what I could expect should/when/if I make it there, then I’m sold. Bring the sake.

A bowl of Rendang Beef. (Photo courtesy Rasa.)

Photo courtesy Rasa.

A bowl of Rendang Beef.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE NOTES: Entrée on its way: Rendang Beef. Sake cider almost gone, but still kicks. A pair of 20-something women to my right laugh loudly over red wine (maybe merlot) and talk shit about a guy who just won’t commit. The bastard. Oh well. Rendang Beef’s here now served in a bowl. First bite of a strip: Jesus … soft. … My teeth, a butter knife. The beef like butter, but the fat is chewy, so avoid that. The sauce, a balanced companion. Michael says it take approximately four hours to make this sauce. Another dish is on its way, he said, zipping by – the coup de grâce. What’s next? What more could he bring me? And how much more could I handle?

Tapioca pudding to end the delectable experience then. I wrap my lips around the first spoonful to taste a sweet and almost sour combo. I chase the balls in my mouth with my tongue and wonder if this is going to get more erotic. … Oh well. I don’t care. It’s food, and there’s little difference between good sex and fine food. Serotonin runneth heavily on this night, I remember thinking and smirking. Yes, when the sex sucks I want something to give me the same high. So I will visit Rasa again and remember that, after all, places and experiences like this is why people move to this city, this metropolis of stories and skyscrapers and ambition and sadness and jubilation. And it all can come crashing down on your heavy skull if you, the New Yorker, fail to take the time to sit back under the black of the subway window, get off in The West Village or SoHo or Park Slope, Brooklyn, and consume the bevy of exotic flavors this mad concrete cavern has to offer. Rasa’s a good start, chum. Cheers.

A Malaysian cupcake. (Photo courtesy of Rasa.)

Photo courtesy of Rasa.

A Malaysian cupcake.

 

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Native About New York: Bad Heads and Good Malaysian

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