The highly animated host at Malaysia Boleh had greeted us with a furrowed brow and much gesticulation. We were late, and he was scoping the room for an empty table. There were none on a busy Saturday night, so after we took an elevator ride to the Stardust Bar on the 39th floor of the Umeda Sky Building, and followed that with a stroll through the Westin Osaka, we were finally back at the restaurant having a glass of wine.
Abandoning the lengthy menu for suggestions from the waiter, we started with the fried tofu covered in an omelet and a simple Malay Salad of raw fresh vegetables. Both came with peanut sauce and satisfied our urge for satay. Our Nasi Goreng was a reminder of how simple ingredients can be combined to create a feast, and we were almost tempted to order a second helping of the fried Kang Kong with Balacan (water spinach with spicy sauce), as it was tasty enough to have as a main dish.
One of the house specialties we would recommend is a whole deep fried mackerel on banana leaves with a soya, chili or curry sauce - it is not only delicious, but it also adds a sense of occasion. You'll find a selection of noodle, rice and curry dishes as well as delicacies like sauteed frogs legs and fish head soup. While Malaysia Boleh will fulfill some of your cravings for exotic food from the South, hard-core sambal fans should ask that the chef give them an extra blast, as even the dishes notated as hot are mild at most.
While you are finishing your second or third Anchor beer and perhaps another dish with peanut sauce dressing, you can watch the movie playing on one wall or the television on the opposite side, and listen to young crooners belt out old numbers overhead. This may sound cacophonous but the movie and the TV have the sound turned down, so there is a relaxed, energetic rhythm to it all, and the food remains the star attraction.
Boleh means "You can do it!" in Malay, and our congenial host, Tanimura Katsumi, also has time to oversee the running of two beauty salons in Osaka as well as collecting money for charities in Thailand. Tanimura`s mother is Thai and he travels there frequently, looking for ingredients to improve on the already robust flavours his chefs serve every day. Malaysia Boleh is a melange of South East Asian flavours, design and attitude with a Japanese twist. You can do it!
Malaysia Boleh has a Japanese/ English menu. Dinner for two, including drinks, is around 6,000 yen.
by Justin Ellis