You might think that I'd eat Malaysian/Singaporean food more than I do since those are my favorite countries to eat in and I'm frequently trying to reproduce the cuisine in my cramped kitchen, but I dine on Chinese and Thai fare way more often. Much of the fun of Malaysian fare is the hawker or food court experience, the caliber of the cooking itself and cheap cheap prices. It doesn't quite translate in NYC.
James and I did a Mott and Canal after work meet-up to see what struck our fancies. I couldn't make a restaurant decision (I've noticed one of the many downsides of my not-so-new-anymore job is that it has made me exhausted and indecisive) earlier so wandering seemed like a good antidote.
I'd eaten at Singapore Café, twice before, though not recently, and it appears to be under new management. They now have two menus, one Chinese and the other "Asian fusion" which contains the Singaporean stuff. That's an interesting tactic. I guess they think that no one knows what Singaporean food is because they explain it to you without being prompted, and it appeared that most diners were eating Chinese food either because they were Chinese or because they were tourists (yes, I'm generalizing).
We had adequate versions of char kway teow, roti canai, grilled chicken in pandan leaves and beef rendang. I'm sure purists would find nitpicking points galore, but it was about what I'd expected going in. It's wise to be wary of restaurants that offer two cuisines because it's likely one is going to suffer. I don't even know if there are any Malay-run Malaysian or Singaporean restaurants in NYC. It's a more Chinese-y kind of city, I think.
My only complaint was the hovering service, which I realize sounds petty considering many consider Chinatown the epitome of brusqueness (I do not). Everyone watched us like a hawk, filled drinks too frequently and generally made me self-conscious. Two of the waitresses kept staring at my feet and I couldn't figure out why. I was too unnerved to snap photos, primarily because I was convinced that it would lead the host to think we were tourists who'd never seen Singaporean food and he'd come over and school us. Maybe I'm just an unfriendly crab but I'm a leave me alone kind of person.
Singapore Cafe * 69 Mott St., New York, NY