When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out — and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant:BP Street Cafe Location: 1845 East Broadway Road, Tempe Open: About two months Eats: Malaysian cuisine Price: $10 and under/person
There aren't many places in the Valley to get Malaysian food (in fact, if you know of any besides this one, do share), but don't let an unfamiliarity with this Southeast Asian country's food deter you from visiting BP Street Cafe. You'll find the restaurant in a Tempe strip mall on the southeast corner of Broadway Road and McClintock Drive, though it's largely blocked from view at the intersection by a Burger King. A lack of a permanent signage only makes things more confusing.
Nevertheless, once you find your way to the casual restaurant, you'll be happy to see a menu of Malaysian fare that's both impressive and approachable to first-time diners. Alongside some basic Malaysian dishes, such as roti canai, laksa, and curry chicken, you'll find more recognizable (which isn't to say boring) choices including sambal fried rice and fried chicken wings.
Beverage options include coconut water, soda, and iced tea, but if you're looking for something sweet, the pineapple drink ($1.50) is a good choice. With chunks of pineapple and a lightly sugary taste, it's just the thing you're going to want to cool the spice of the Malaysian cuisine. We also enjoyed the tea tarik, or Indian pulled tea ($2). It can be ordered hot or cold. In either case, it is similar to Thai tea or Thai iced tea, a rich mixture of black tea and milk.
To accompany the drinks, you'll have a choice between two appetizers — we suggest you try both. The first is an order of roti canai ($2.50), a popular Malaysian dish often enjoyed as breakfast or a snack. The Indian-inspired flatbread features tissue-thin layers of buttery dough that's incredibly elastic and light. On the side you'll get a rich, spicy chicken and potato curry just barely tinged with a hint of coconut. If you rip and dip (as we did), no one will call you out for the infraction, but more adept diners probably will use a fork and spoon to pull off pieces of bread and spoon the curry on top. For the record, it tastes just as good either way.
The second starter will be an order of fried chicken wings ($3.50). Unlike the dry-on-the-inside, sauce-soaked chicken arms you're used to, these wings come covered in a thin, spicy, crisp batter that gives way to moist chicken meat. The accompanying side of sambal (one of several you're likely to encounter during your visit) is the least-spicy version. If you've never tried this Malaysian condiment, this version falls somewhere along the lines of a very spicy take on sweet and sour sauce, with a nice heat and a vinegary flavor. (The owner says she calls this sauce "Papa sauce" because it's the one her father likes, so if you want to ensure you get the least spicy sambal, ask for it by that name.)
Speaking of sambal, if you like it, then you should probably order the sambal fried rice ($7). You'll get a generous portion of rice mixed with shrimp, chicken, eggs, and vegetables covered in the spicy, pungent sauce. In this form — as opposed to when it's used as a dipping — you'll get to appreciate the sauce's heat without experiencing the sensation of it burning off your lips. The texture of the rice is also worth noting. The owner says her mother insisted she cook fried rice until the grains "jumped off the pan," meaning the fried rice here comes extra crispy.
For a noodle option, we tried the mee siam ($6.50). The stir-fried rice noodles come covered in a very mild dry curry, and reminded us vaguely of Filipino pancit bihon. Intermingled with thin noodles you'll find a few shrimp and vegetables, but the chicken and hard-boiled eggs come on the side. The chicken offers the same crispy, spiced batter as the chicken wings.
Our least favorite dish had to be the pork chop and rice ($7), a simple plate of rice and pork covered in the same batter. Though the meat was moist, the simplicity of the dish made in pale in comparison to the other options. It did come with a side of "Mama sauce" sambal, a thicker, spicier version of the accouterments that was closer to a chile paste than an actual sauce.
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As far as ornamentation goes, BP Street Cafe offers almost none. The restaurant's tables and chairs are handsome and look new, but bare brown walls and lack of décor ensure that you're probably only coming here for the food. On the upside, the restaurant's located just a few miles from Arizona State University's Tempe campus, and already attracts a customer base of young Malaysian diners, according to the owner.