In our quest to find new and interesting restaurants, we discovered Laut. Actually, I had noticed it back a couple of years ago, but then forgot about it. When I was alerted to it recently, and realized it was Malaysian, along with Singaporean and Thai, I immediately wanted to try it. It’s been some time since we’d had Malaysian food here in the city, since our favorite, Fatty Crab, closed several years ago.
Tucked away on a quiet block of 17th St., the unassuming storefront is easy to miss. It’s well worth seeking out. Apparently it’s attracted quite a following, as it was very busy on a recent weeknight.
The menu is quite extensive, and I hope to return to try more of their dishes.
We started with crispy wontons, which were a bit disappointing, but the fried calamari more than made up for it. In a light batter and interestingly spiced, they hit the spot. For the main course, we had the Singapore crispy soft-shell chili crab, delicious in a spicy tomato sauce, served with fried bao which was irresistible. The other main dish was Nasi Lemak, a dish we used to love at Fatty Crab. This version did not disappoint. Combining chicken, shrimp, pickled vegetables and coconut rice, it was a real treat.
To drink, we got a carafe of 3 Pals Punch, which is made with rum and Campari, and reminiscent of Sangria. Very good.
Though it has been in existence since 2019, chef/owner Alfred Portale was for 35 years the chef and part owner of the legendary Gotham Bar and Grill, Stanley and I only recently became aware or his new venture, and have now been there twice. Everything about Portale feels right, from the charming ambience to the luscious food to the attentive and cordial service. Though bustling, the sound level is quite tolerable.
With 9 appetizers, 5 pastas and 6 main courses. the menu is sufficiently varied that dining here multiple times would not become boring.
Dishes we loved include cauliflower salad, carpaccio, frutti di mare, lumache, agnolotti, bucatini, pork chop and duck breast. The chocolate mousse was exceptional, and the bomboloni were very good. Wine prices, while not low, did not carry too high a mark-up over retail.
We are looking forward to more dinners here.
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