I've been eating my way through the Malaysian restaurants of Manhattan's Chinatown, and while I don't quite think Jaya Malaysian Restaurant is the best, it does have more than a few things going for it. There's the extent of the menu: page after page of noodles and curries, soups and desserts. There are long outdoor tables, pleasant to eat at in September, even if the view isn't exactly scenic. And there's the fact that almost the entire menu is cheaper at lunch. No single page of throwaway lunch specials here.
I appreciated, for instance, that you could get a lunch-sized portion of beef rendang ($5.95) at a lunchtime price; most Malaysian restaurants I've been to only have the dish as a full, $13-14 entree. The long-stewed beef curry is best when the meat is tender and nearly dry, the coconut milk base rich with flavors of cinnamon and chiles and cloves. This version was a little less tender and less deeply spiced than I would've liked; but as a hearty, satisfying lunch entree with a decent amount of heat, no real complaints.
We preferred the Hokkien noodles ($6.95), a mighty pile we couldn't come close to finishing. The thick egg noodles are braised in a thick, slightly sweet soy-based sauce made rich and slick with pork fat, cubes of which are dotted throughout. The noodles themselves are a little soft, but we like the bitter greens and firm rings of squid, tail-on shrimp and spongy fish balls that soaked up the sauce. It's a dish we'd be okay ordering again—that is, if it weren't for the hundred other things to try.
Jaya Malaysian Restaurant
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