This past Sunday, five of us bloggers took a trip down to East Passyunk to explore the area and have brunch at a new authentic Malaysian restaurant, Sate Kampar. To no one’s surprise, it was fantastic and you should definitely make the trip if you’re bored with plain old french toast and waffles.
Sate Kampar is one of the hottest restaurants in Philly right now. Since its opening this summer, it has gotten tons of attention from reviewers, most of them raving about the exciting and different cuisine it brings to the Italian-dominated neighborhood. The owners, John and Angelina Branca, hail from the Malaysian town of Kampar and are first-time restaurant owners who wanted to bring an authentic taste of their culture to Philadelphia. Here, you can order a whole Malayan dwarf coconut and sip its juice through a straw, or if that’s not your thing, order off an extensive menu of coffee and tea drinks with differing ratios of condensed milk, coffee/tea, sugar, and milk (no espresso here!). The star of the dinner menu is sate, or juicy skewers of grilled meat with different dipping sauces, and their lightly sweet coconut-soaked rice is the perfect accompaniment. They also offer a variety of different rice-based dishes wrapped neatly in banana leaves, or simply artfully mounded on their adorable, rooster-lined plates.
Though the restaurant’s popularity means it can get crowded for dinner, we went for brunch and found a peaceful, establishment with only a few other diners. The interior of the restaurant was unexpectedly dim after our meandering in the sunshine, but its decor, with Malaysian paintings hanging on exposed brick walls, was very suggestive.
Once we got the menu, we were overwhelmed by indecision. Not that there was much on the brunch menu to choose from (there were only like 6 choices), but every dish had such unfamiliar names and seemed equally exciting to order, and it took us a while to choose. To add to that, sifting through the aforementioned extensive coffee and tea drink list took a bit of time, with options such as “pulled milk tea” and “cham” which is a mixture of coffee and tea.
I ended up getting the kopi, which was coffee with condensed milk, and I really enjoyed it. The condensed milk added a sweetness that I’ve been craving in my coffee, which I usually take black just because I want to be a black coffee drinker.
One blogger, Kameron, was warned away from ordering the plain tea because it was “very strong”, in the words of our server, so she got it with evaporated milk and sugar.
We each ordered different dishes, which, contrary to conventional brunch, were all savory. Nasi means “rice” in Malay, and most of the brunch menu dishes start their names with the word. I got the nasi lemak bungkus, a dish of coconut rice topped with a hard boiled egg, roasted peanuts, crispy fried anchovies, and a spicy sambal sauce, all packed into a folded banana leaf. I love foods that come wrapped in banana leaves because the packaging gives me the opportunity to be the first person to experience the dish’s cloud of aromas when I open the package. This dish was very flavorful, if a bit spicy for my wimpy-ass mouth, and I enjoyed it very much. It was just the right amount of food, not too little to leave me hungry, but not enough to give me a food baby.
The photographer of the group, Leah Sprague, ordered the nasi ulam, which was described as a “hearty salad of rice, aromatic herbs, shredded fish and toasted coconut with bean sprouts and sambal lemak”. She describes it as delicious, cheap ($7), full of interesting contrasting textures, adorable (see cute halloween themed ghost-shaped rice above), and nicely portioned.
Jennifer Higa, another blogger in the group, got the kerabu mee hoon, a light dish of delicate rice vermicelli noodles, julienned veggies, aromatic herbs, toasted coconut, shredded fish, all dressed with lime juice. She describes it as very light and refreshing, yet satisfying. “I would HIGHLY recommend!”
Finally, Kameron Fisher ordered the nasi ayam kurma, which was braised chicken and potatoes in coconut cream sauce over rice in a banana leaf. This was the richest of the dishes ordered, and it was curry-like, creamy and delicious.
Since we were in the neighborhood, we walked over to Artisan Patissier Boulanger, a French-Asian fusion pastry shop in East Passyunk, because I had heard that the pastry chef had recently been named a James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef. Since it was early afternoon, there weren’t too many pastries left, but we made sure to buy a few of their famous croissants.
I love almond croissants, so that’s what I got. Crispy, flaky, and sweet, I promised myself I wouldn’t eat the whole thing but caved after the first bite. We savored our sweet treats and then reluctantly headed back to campus.
So there you have it, two new places to put on your radar. Make some time to get off campus and try something new!
Sate Kampar, 1837 E. Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia
Artisan Boulanger Patissier, 1218 Mifflin St., Philadelphia
Post by Elena Crouch
Photos by Leah Sprague and Elena Crouch