Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Straits Cafe

694 Doncaster Rd
Doncaster, VIC 3108

Straits Cafe is the last place you would expect to find a good Malaysian meal. Located amongst a dilapidated strip of shops along Doncaster Road, the only indication that it isn’t playing jump-rope with bankruptcy is the customers bursting out of the front door whenever the sign on the window says ‘open’. 

Step inside (if you can) and you’ll find a bustling, family-run canteen serving up a concise but authentic selection of Malaysian dishes for both dining in and taking away. The packed, utilitarian space smells like a wok due to the open kitchen, which is usually delicious but the smoke can sometimes lead to a symphony of coughing, so don’t wear your good clothes here.

Hainanese Chicken Rice ($10.9)
Hainanese Chicken Rice ($10.9)
The Hainanese Chicken Rice ($10.9) is a must-order dish. The presentation may be a tad sloppy, but you can’t argue with silky poached chicken in a light sesame soy sauce, served with a glistening mound of fragrant chicken rice and crunchy vegetables, all washed down with a bowl of clear broth. It is so good that practically every single person at my pharmacy (which happens to be right next door) has had it at some point and sung its praise.

Assam Laksa ($9.9)
Assam Laksa ($9.9) is definitely an acquired taste. A far cry from the mellow spices and coconut cream of a curry laksa, the soup in a traditional Assam laksa is dark, sour and fishy, as the main ingredients used are tamarind and mackerel. The thick, syrupy brew swam with fat rice noodles that struggle away from the chopsticks, as well as the cleaner additions of mint, onion, cucumber and pineapple. Each mouthful stung the tastebuds with its cacophony of sour, pungent and herbal flavours; it is not for the faint-hearted.    

There was however an unfortunate twenty minutes between our chicken rice and laksa arriving, and once the latter was finally placed in front of us, we found the noodles to be in gluey clumps, probably from over-cooking. But given how busy the restaurant was during the lunch rush, and the fact that the whole meal felt more like sitting in grandma’s kitchen as she plonks a sloshing bowl of noodles in front of you, whilst lamenting how thin you’ve gotten since she last saw you, I am going to happily forgive the little mishap and carry on enjoying their fantastic home-cooked meals on my work breaks. 

Rating: 14/20 - just like grandma never made.

Straits Cafe on Urbanspoon


  1. I don't live far from this place and have heard decent things about it so I should probably give it a go sometime - might have to pick a time when it's not so busy, though!

    PS. Love your photos. What camera and lens are you using? :)

    1. Straits Cafe has gotten the nod of approval from all the Malaysian (and Asian) people at my work place so it's definitely worth a visit. You can call ahead for take-away, which might help you beat the rush :)

      And thanks so much, the camera I use is a Pentax K100D (I think), and the lens...... says Ricoh on the front? And has numbers on the bottom that say 100919? I'm a bit of a camera noob actually.