Awards & Reviews

Reviews

Time Out, May 2, 2011

For a city as obsessed with food as Sydney is, it’s surprising how few good hole-in-the-wall joints we actually boast. Albee’s is a welcome addition to the small Malaysian food scene where dishes cooked with a nod to authenticity are prized above location and water views.

There are specials written in Chinese with obscure translations such as the mystifying ‘Rice Drops Serve in Hot Pot’. There are brusque staff who may or may not greet you with a bowl of complimentary broth (if none is forthcoming a gentle reminder should produce results). There are smoking woks, a few old aunties and boxes and boxes of produce. There’s also a fridge full of cold, sweet herbal tea (only $1 a glass) and if you ask nicely on your way out they’ll sell you a jug of it to take home.

The menu is short and sharp, with set meals that seem very popular with the predominantly Asian crowd. The nasi lemak pops with flavour. It’s a plate of coconut rice, beef rendang, oily onion sambal, flash-fried ikan bilis and peanuts balanced with five (count them) thin slices of cucumber. You might expect it to be a greasy mess but you’d be mistaken: the mix of flavour and texture is like a well balanced punch to the mouth.

Char kuey teow is a smoky jumble of flat rice noodles, bits of Chinese sausage, crunchy prawns and softly scrambled egg, all bound by a touch of chilli and a good glug of ketchup manis. Albee’s char kuey teow substitutes pippies for those hard-to-get blood cockles. It’s not the real deal, but full points for trying.

Vegetarians don’t miss out either. Stir-fried kangkong (water spinach) is a pungent, funky treat, and the imaginatively named Four Treasure Vegetable (green beans, okra, eggplant and petai beans) flavoured with chilli sambal is a jackpot of heat and freshness. The food’s fantastic and the prices are wallet-friendly. Check it out soon.

Sydney Morning Herald, February 2, 2010 – Stephanie Clifford-Smith

Sambal goreng

Although sambal means chilli relish and goreng means fried, sambal goreng doesn’t mean fried relish. Across Indonesia and Malaysia, the term identifies a whole class of dishes using a similar technique and whatever ingredients the cook has to hand. Broadly speaking they’re mostly curries, ranging from very wet and saucy to the drier type called sambal goreng kering. They all start with a spice paste. Beef, chicken, seafood, vegetables or tofu all make a fine sambal goreng and, given the intensity of flavour, rice or roti is a good idea to have alongside. If more chilli is needed, simply add some sambal.

1. Albee’s Kitchen

This might be a very simple place but it serves some of the best Malaysian food around. Laminate tables, plastic picture menus and specials scrawled on wall-mounted cardboard show Albee’s efforts are focused on the kitchen. Sambal petai prawns ($16.80) are firm and juicy, the pungent petai or “stinky beans” providing contrast in both colour and flavour. The sambal clings to, rather than drowns the prawns, while weeny bits of dried shrimp add chewiness and salt.

Sydney Morning Herald, April 30, 2011 – Catherine Keenan

Sambal I am

Moreish Malaysian packs them in with good food and low prices.

Let’s start by listing the occasions when you wouldn’t go to Albee’s Kitchen. You wouldn’t go in your best frock to celebrate your grandparents’ 50th anniversary. You wouldn’t take a client there, particularly a deep-pocketed one you were trying to impress. And you definitely wouldn’t take a date there. Not ever. Under any circumstances.

Albee’s is a place to take people who, for one reason or another, are stuck with you. It’s for taking partners, siblings, old friends and anyone who appreciates the siren call of a meal that costs less than $10. Don’t take anyone who hasn’t already seen you under harsh fluorescent lights.

The inside of Albee’s looks as if the owner went to a fire sale of second-hand office furniture, then threw everything that cost less than $20 into a bathroom. The place has the charm and acoustics of a public pool, with white tiles covering the walls. The decoration is restricted to some aged Tourism Malaysia posters and some freakishly kitsch cartoon rabbits pinned to one wall. I wouldn’t be surprised if, when the lights go out, their eyes flash hellish green and they go out marauding into the night.

Few people notice the rabbits, however, as their eyes are transfixed by the rows of A4 computer-printed notices, in Chinese and English, listing the menu items. The food is Malaysian with a dash of Chinese and the offerings are complex: asam laksa (Wednesday and Saturday), laksa Kuching Sarawak (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), beef rendang, bakuteh (herb soup), mi rebus (Thursday only), chicken in foil, lots of things with fish heads and the alarming-sounding Marmite chicken. ”It’s sweet,” the waitress says. ”With honey.”

There’s also cereal butter chicken and cereal butter king prawn. Despite asking, I never quite get to the bottom of those.

The place is packed when we arrive and remains packed when we leave. As soon as one person gets up to go, another takes their place. There’s a high turnover and I suspect most customers are from nearby.

You get the feeling they come in with regular orders.

Why wouldn’t you? The food is good, the prices are low and the service is – well, let’s just say you get your food. On chipped plastic plates, with floral decorations around the edge.

The chicken in foil, served on a hot plate, seems to be a favourite, though we don’t figure this out in time to order it. Instead, we get the excellent lobak, a seafood-and-pork roll wrapped in tofu skin, with a fantastically sharp chilli sauce. Our waitress urges us to have the pandan chicken, small chunks of spiced chicken on the bone, wrapped in pandan leaves and deep-fried. It’s the restaurant’s most popular dish, apparently, but while it’s good, it’s not our favourite.

That accolade goes to the sambal petai prawns, studded with petai (almond-shaped green beans, also known as smelly beans) and smothered in a fiery sambal. It’s sweet yet savoury and very moreish. The four treasures is even more lush, a glossy pile of eggplant, okra, french beans and petai in a darker, richer, fishier sambal.

There are a few good Malaysian restaurants around town these days, with the huge queues at Mamak in Chinatown showing how enthusiastic Sydneysiders can get about roti and curry sauce. Albee’s isn’t in Mamak’s league but it’s an authentic, reliable stand-by.

Next time we’re trying the char kway teow.