New York City has recently seen a large number of restaurant closures due to rent increases. Some of them I missed dearly, others not so much. For the original location of Kopitiam, a modest Malaysian operation on the border between Lower East Side and Chinatown, I was fairly disappointed on my visit with my wife in 2017 (see my review here https://kenscale.com/2017/10/23/kopitiam/), so I didn’t pay much attention when I heard of the shop (it was not really a “restaurant” with a tiny counter) closing. Later on, chef-owner Kyo Pang partnered with a restaurateur to open a bigger space in the same vicinity, and ever seen it has been getting positive reviews left and right. Could the second time be a charm? After we went to visit a friend at a nearby gallery, I decided that we would try the Kopitiam 2.0. The space has certainly become much bigger than the tiny joint before, and the service was running more efficiently. More importantly, our meal was a much more improved and satisfactory one.
One of the highlights of Kopitiam’s menu is this Malaysian national dish called nasi lemak consisting of coconut rice, fried anchovies with peanuts, cucumbers and hard boiled egg. On our last visit, the flavor was a little too overpowering but this time it was more balanced and therefore became a nice complementary dish to everything else we had ordered. On the other hand, another signature Malaysian dish chilled spicy sesame noodles (another underwhelming dish on our last visit) could’ve been added more spicy kick to stand out on its own. There were other new dishes on this visit that we had a lot to like. Jun’s (as well as my) favorite of the night was a dish of mushrooms (called “criss cross ‘shrooms”) with curry leaf, red chilies and shredded coconut where the distinctly Malaysian flavor really stood out.
We also very much enjoyed the pandan chicken, consisting of two minced chicken triangles wrapped with pandan leaves. The chicken’s texture was surprisingly quite pleasant on every bite, and it worked quite well with the nasi lemak. The oyster omelet with seafood sauce (which we had forgotten to take a photo of) was also a solid addition to our meal. By the time we were done with the savory dishes, we realized that we had over-ordered and didn’t have room for the Malaysian style French toast (based on milo, a chocolate and malt powder used for beverages in Malaysia, and with condensed milk added on top). I tried the toast the day after our visit after putting it into a microwave; it was a guilt-inducing yet nevertheless very addictively delicious morning snack.
Kopitiam doesn’t accept reservations and the dining space can get pretty crowded during peak times, but the turnover is pretty quick with the counter service, so you won’t have to wait too long. The restaurant doesn’t serve any alcohol but there are some traditional Malaysian coffeehouse drinks that you should consider (because it was dinnertime, we didn’t order any coffee or tea). The bright and playful dining space, despite making you feel a little cramped at times, still contributes to a nice, casual environment where you can bring a large group to share a lot of dishes together. Jun and I don’t often pay a second visit to a restaurant where we didn’t have a good experience last time, but I’m glad we made it to Kopitiam 2.0. Perhaps having a more comfortable space to operate helped with the consistency and improvement of the kitchen’s execution. I certainly would be glad to come back again another time.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.0/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 151 East Broadway, New York, NY 10002
Telephone: (646) 609-3785