Makan Malaysian Cafe @ Denver

Yesterday, I talked about my favorite Asian food place in Denver. Today, I’m going to take it one step further by talking about my favorite Malaysian food place in Denver. Actually, it is not difficult to choose, because there is only one Malaysian food restaurant in Denver as far as I know of. Hahahaha! 😀

I am talking specifically about Malaysian restaurant. Asian restaurants offering some Malaysian dishes don’t count.

I am talking about Makan Malaysian Cafe. I discovered this place by chance on my previous visit to Colorado in late 2013. I was (as usual) searching for Asian food restaurants in Denver, reading all the good reviews while filtering away those left by Americans. After all, it is hard not to notice the word Makan and Malaysian when you are, well, a Malaysian.

For the non-Malaysian readers, here’s an explanation of what Makan is. Makan is a word in Malay language.

Menu1

Before this, I have always only hanged out at the west side of Denver, the city Denver. This Makan place however, is located on the east side, the residential side of Denver. The cafe itself looks unassuming on the outside, and is nestled in one of those narrow housing streets. Put it simply, this isn’t a place you want to attempt to find without the help of technology (GPS).

makan1
Picture from Google+

The inside of the cafe is by no means big. There are two longer tables and a few smaller tables. Their max capacity is probably about 30 people. One section of the cafe is an open kitchen where the cook prepares some of the dishes.

According to the reviews that I read in Google+, this place is always packed to the brim on weekdays lunch and dinner hours. Apparently this place is highly acclaimed among the local Denver community. Usually, that means we should keep our expectations in check, except that there were also some reviews by supposingly Malaysian and Singaporean students in Colorado giving this place a double thumbs up.

makan2
Picture from Google+

Fortunately, when we went, it was a quiet weekend afternoon. I know, it is hard for a Malaysian to grasp the concept of a quiet weekend afternoon when eating out.

The restaurant is co-owned between a Malaysian woman and an American man. The woman cooks and the man serves. The man was delighted when we (me and a colleague) told him that we are Malaysians here on business. Since we were basically the only customers there, he started chatting us up and imparted some information upon us.

Apparently, the Malaysian woman is from Johor and she moved to Australia for a few years before moving to Aspen and finally Denver. She is not a professionally trained chef, all her cooking experience were from home before they opened this cafe. If I remember my facts correctly, they are not husband and wife, just business partners.

I’ll give you a quick peek at parts of their menu. You can get the full menu here. Yes, they too, have a website. In fact they also have official Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Menu3

Menu4

The menu looks right, doesn’t it? There is nothing weird in the menu as far as a Malaysian is concerned.

Okay, the food. So.. what did we have?

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Nasi Lemak

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Mee Siam

My verdict? Authenticity 9 out of 10. The nasi lemak tasted exactly like what you will get in a cafe in Malaysia, the rice properly rich with santan (coconut milk) and pandan leaves fragrance. We could do with a bit more sambal on the side though. And the mee siam could maybe be a little drier, it was a tad too wet to what I’m used to. I’m not sure if it is because this is Johor’s version though, maybe Johor’s mee siam is wet. And when a Malaysian gives a verdict about about the authenticity of a Malaysian food restaurant, you trust that verdict absolutely.

My only grouch with this place is the price. How do I say this? You see, from the menu, the price is alright. I mean, it is alright as far as food in America is concerned. If you eat out in the US, $10 to $15 is what you would typically pay for a plate of food. Please don’t comment about how expensive it is using Malaysian standards, like how even RM10 is expensive for nasi lemak, or how RM35 for nasi lemak is cut throat. If you plan to comment that way, I would reply you upfront that it is stupid to compare that way.

What then, am I not so happy about with regards to the price? You see, I have been to the US frequent enough and long enough that I am comfortable paying $10 for a plate of food. I understand the differences between dining in America versus dining in Malaysia. But, I am also used to my plate overflowing with food. My typical $10 plate of dish would usually be filled with meat or fish or shrimps. American prices for American portions.

The food in this cafe though, you pay American prices for Malaysian portions. I mean, look at the nasi lemak. $10.50 for that: a bowl of rice, a few slices of cucumber, an egg, and a bit of peanuts/fried anchovies, that does seem a bit stingy and not very good value for money. I was actually disappointed that they wanted to charge that $3.50 extra for the kari ayam (curry chicken) side. For $10.50 I thought it was fair if they throw in the kari ayam or rendang side as a default. Then it would seem tally compared to other restaurants in America.

Still… if I ever travel to Colorado again and stay for more than a few weeks, I would probably patronize this cafe again. After all, this is the only place that can satisfy my cravings when I think of home..

If you want the address and phone number of this place, it is in their website, link above.

18 Comments

    • Standard nasi lemak is that plain, just that a plain nasi lemak for that price felt quite steep.

  1. Oh yes, I have to agree that the portion size is small. And for that price, I would expect more than just the nasi, ikan bilis/peanuts and cucumbe. Besides, I had to look really hard to spot the sambal 😀

    • Yeah, the sambal was really stingy in portion. Maybe that’s what the Americans prefer. We didn’t try to ask for more because they have a separate item called Side Sambal in the menu, so it won’t be a complimentary top up I think..

  2. I am no food expert of any means but the portion size looks rather small for American standards. I only ate Chinese food in the States once. My husband and I both ordered a serving a fried rice each [US$10 each]. It was absolutely huge and we realized we should have ordered only one.

    • I can imagine your shocked faces LOL! 😀

      I am surprised that you were caught off guard. Is it different in Canada? I would’ve thought food portions wise, both countries would be similar.

  3. Menu looks ok wor, typical Msian favourites.. But under Rice & Noodles I only see the nasi lemak wor..And I see you guys had mee siam.. Got curry mee, prawn mee also ahh? The nasi lemak looks good too, I prefer mine with some fried chicken 🙂

    • I just snip parts of the menu. The full menu you have to click on the link to see. They have laksa (the curry version) too 🙂

  4. Nasi lemak sure looked good, so much rice, American serving! Cheap! We have more expensive ones at our cafes and restaurants – the worst would be one mi missus bought for RM25 at KLIA! Tsk! Tsk! Mee Siam looks good too, so much ingredient…I can see prawns.

  5. You are really a true blue Malaysian to seek out this place. In my almost 4 years of living in UK, I have never eaten a M’sian dish, never been to M’sian Hall although I do buy from chinese and Indian takeaways so no nasi lemak for me at that time.

    Back to this cafe, I am impressed that the woman can cook so many dishes alone for this cafe when she is not a trained chef and can keep the business going for so long. Hopefully she will keep the business going for a long long time to satisfy M’sians in Denver.

    • She is not only satisfying Malaysians. By the looks of it, she is satisfying many other Asians and Americans alike. When I see this cafe, it makes me wonder why those fake localized Asian food restaurants can thrive. After all, it does seem that Americans can handle authentic Asian stuff.

    • Strangely, I only see very positive reviews from the Americans. I wonder why they did not find the small portion at full price bad.

        • I don’t know, maybe, but I highly doubt it. In my experiences so far, Americans don’t have that inferiority complex like we do. If it is a plate of food, it should cost similarly, regardless of whether it is a steak or Chinese or Ethiopian cuisine.

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