You’re halfway ’round the world when you walk into Golden Leaf, a new Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown. It’s decorated to evoke a Southeast Asian seaside kampong (village) with giant glass murals of turquoise water and palm trees. Burnished rocks peek through the wooden slats of the raised floor and the tables and chairs look as if they’ve been constructed of wicker fronds. Except for the incongruous 1970s r & b background music, you’d think you were at a beach resort on the Strait of Malacca.
Malaysian – with its Indian, Chinese, Thai and indigenous influences – is true fusion cuisine. And Golden Leaf is a striking setting in which to enjoy this vibrantly colorful and robustly seasoned fare. If only the kitchen didn’t hold back on the spices. Presumably the staff thinks the vivid flavors of Malay cooking may overwhelm non-Malays.
Malaysian-style, stir-fried radish cake ($5.95) – a mix of gooey, Chinese sausage-studded radish cake, shrimp, sprouts and scallions – seems deliberately under-soy sauced. The chicken curry in which you dunk flaky ($3.50) crepe isn’t as fiery as it might be. And tempura-light, fried anchovy ($6.50) aren’t really anchovies – they’re less-assertive fried whitebait.