The Cooking Channel says "Stay Hungry." To hell with that.

Cincinnati Bites
Mark Anthony Salad from Europa

Posted Sunday, December 16, 2012
Note: the following review is for a restaurant that has since closed.

A new Malaysian restaurant in Mason aims to capitalize on Cincinnati's increasingly adventurous palate. Called, "Straits of Malacca," the restaurant is named for the narrow strip of water connecting the Pacific and Indian Oceans between West Malaysia and the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.

Vital Malaysian ports like Malacca City and George Town have long intersected the routes of many foreign trade merchants, who have slothed off bits and pieces of their culture along the way. The result is a country with a simmering, stewy melting pot of Malaysian, Thai, Chinese, Indian, English, Dutch and Portuguese influences, making Malaysian cuisine one of the most diverse in the world.

Straits of Malacca offers three sets of menus and three very different dining experiences that represent, for all intent and purpose, a trio of restaurants housed under one roof. There is Tioman Cafe, a smaller, self-contained kitchen and dining area catering to mostly the lunch crowd; Blue Intan, a tapas bar serving exotic snacks and drinks; and Langkawi Spice, a significantly more formal, upscale and pricier dining setting for dinner.

For our visit, we chose the leisurely Tioman Cafe, entering an impressively renovated art deco building that had once been, not too long ago, Mason's City Building and jail. The Tioman Cafe's menu, while abbreviated, offers plenty of unique flavors most Cincinnatians will discover for the first time --but don't be afraid: there's plenty of familiar fare for the less adventurous.

Chicken Curry Puff
Egg Tart

Ordering at the counter, we started off with a flaky Chicken Curry Puff, a beautifully golden triangular pastry filled with a mildly spicy chicken and potato mixture. I was fascinated by tiny rows of custard-like egg tarts gleaming back at me from behind the display case, so I eagerly pointed at one to split with my girlfriend.

Our lunch entrees included the Asam Laksa, a spicy rice noodle dish with a mackerel-infused broth topped with whisps of fresh cucumber, finely-diced pineapple, jalapenos, onions and mint. The unlikely combination reflects a dish that ranked 7th on CNN's "World's 50 Most Delicious Foods" list. My girlfriend chose another Malaysian favorite from the weekend lunch special: Claypot Chicken with rice and mushrooms.

Asam Laksa from Straits of Malacca
Claypot Chicken with Rice and Mushrooms from Straits of Malacca

The bowl of Asam Laksa was handsomely presented, peppered with bits of mackerel and decorated with mint leaves and jalapeno slices. The bits of pineapple lent a curious sweetness that somehow complemented the fishy broth. Though advertised as a spicy entree, I found the Asam Laksa rather mild, albeit complex and delicious. The mackerel element reminded me of Sicilian dishes we've enjoyed, which similarly make effective use of sweet-and-savory combinations like anchovies and raisins.

My girlfriend's Claypot Chicken offered an equally colorful and mouth-watering presentation, with hearty Asian vegetables, shiitake mushrooms and onions nestled comfortably amid ample hunks of chicken on a bed of sticky rice. The dish also seemed in need of more spice, but perhaps that opinion is based on inaccurate, pre-conceived notions of what Malaysian food should be rather than the reality.

Whatever the case, Straits of Malacca is a welcome window into a larger culinary world, beckoning patrons to experience exotic flavors from a land nearly 10,000 miles away.

Straits of Malacca on Urbanspoon
Straits of Malacca

Price: Moderately Expensive ($11 - $16 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 3.0 out of 43.0 stars






Other Recent Reviews

  1. Mediterranean Musings at Milya Cafe
    -posted Sunday, July 16, 2017
  2. Pastrami Impressions: Shapiro's Delicatessen
    -posted Wednesday, July 5, 2017
  3. Chinese Impressions: Fortune Noodle House
    -posted Saturday, June 10, 2017
  4. A Pleasant Ridge: Grand Central Delicatessen
    -posted Monday, May 29, 2017
  5. A Lobster Oasis: Court Street Lobster Bar
    -posted Sunday, May 7, 2017
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From Tabitha about Tickle Pickle:
    Haha, love your comment: " If you were deemed "different" in high school, dressed "weird" or regularly got beat up only to go on to have a decidedly higher net worth and confidence level than the rest of your abusive, judgmental peers, Northside is your home away from home." I know I saw a Groupon for Tickle Pickle recently - might have to check if that's still available!
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:33 PM
  • From Tabitha about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    This is definitely going on the list. Thanks for posting. Do they also have margaritas?
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:23 PM
  • From holly may about Urban Grill on Main:
    This is Israeli couscous, the super tiny stuff is Moroccan. I personally prefer the Israeli (also known as "pearl".)
    posted: Fri., Mar 24th, 2017 @ 4:28 AM
  • From Sommer about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    We really love having Chilango so close to us in the Kings area!!! We have gone a few times and you are right - the Chicken Tinga is the best chicken taco you can get in Cincinnati!!! Thanks for reviewing this little neighborhood gem!
    posted: Tue., Mar 21st, 2017 @ 9:12 AM
  • From Tabitha about Lalo:
    But...do they have margaritas?
    posted: Thu., Jan 12th, 2017 @ 12:32 PM
  • From Cincinnati Bites about Swad Indian:
    @MJ: I heard family members of those who'd run Dusmesh now work out of the former Amol India in Clifton. It's called, Grill of India (http://grillofindiaoh.com/).
    posted: Thu., Dec 29th, 2016 @ 11:45 PM
  • From mj about Swad Indian:
    It seems Swad has changed hands. Have not see the former Dusmesh owners in my last visit (10/1/2016) and the food is just ok. Wonder where they went this time?
    posted: Wed., Dec 28th, 2016 @ 8:22 AM
  • From Rachel about Bamboo Kitchen:
    Hey there,
    I would recommend Basil Thai and Bangkok Terrace. They have wonderful Thai foods there :)
    posted: Sat., Nov 19th, 2016 @ 11:28 AM
  • From Tabitha about Maplewood Kitchen and Bar:
    Looks good - I definitely have been wanting to try this place!
    posted: Wed., Nov 9th, 2016 @ 2:55 PM
  • From Georgia about Maplewood Kitchen and Bar:
    So you order and pay at the counter before you get your food and they expect you to tip? That's not right.
    posted: Tue., Oct 25th, 2016 @ 10:19 AM
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design