After Anthony Bourdain visited Laut, Salil Mehta hoped more foodies — rather than the usual after-work crowd — would flock to his well-regarded Union Square restaurant. “So I started keeping pig intestines on the menu,” he told us. “And three weeks went by and only one person ordered it.”
At Pasar Malam, his new Williamsburg restaurant named after Malaysia’s night markets, the Indian native hopes to attract a more adventurous clientele. After all, Williamsburgers are “very well educated in terms of flavors, in terms of understanding the cuisine,” he says.
Unlike at Laut, where the menu is half Thai, half Malaysian and the bestsellers are pad thai and green curry, the dishes here are mostly Malay classics with unique twists: the chili crab, for instance, is made with a soft-shell rather than hard-shell crab, and the Hainanese chicken rice is made with crispy rather than steamed chicken. Though the food isn’t knock-your-socks-off spicy, says Mehta, the Nasi Lemak will have you reaching for one of the place’s herb-packed “holistic” Chinese drinks, or a cooling soymilk and grass jelly drink named Michael Jackson for its black-and-white color.
“If it’s not a good one, you’re not sweating,” says Mehta of Malaysia’s national dish, a combination of coconut rice, pandan leaves, pickled vegetables and house-made anchovy sambal.
Aside from a few placards advertising that item and others, the 60-seat dining room isn’t heavily modeled after Panang’s celebrated night markets, where individual stalls surround a food court. But there are clever touches: an antique kinetophones is tucked into one wall, there’s a gong on the bar and a “talking” mask of an Indian god for when sake shots are ordered, and there’s an open kitchen/“roti station” in the back, where you can watch your pancakes being flipped and filled with secret ingredients like Saltines and s’mores. (There’s an Elvis Roti containing, what else, peanut butter and banana).
When Pasar Malam gets its liquor license, it’ll offer cocktails that incorporate ingredients like 100Plus (a popular Malaysian energy drink) and freshly pressed cane juice. In the meantime, check out the interior by clicking through the slideshow above and peep the menu below.
Pasar Malam, 208 Grand St. bet. Bedford and Driggs Aves.; 718-487-4576