Day: October 9th, 2006

Skyway pearl noodles

Monday, October 9th, 2006 | All Things, Eats

Columbus Day! Controversy continues to surround this holiday, which is, in essence, a celebration of imperialist conquest. For now, though, I have the day off from work.

I scheduled an appointment with Tony, my latest hairdresser, and manager of a shop on Pell Street, a.k.a. Haircut Street. Does anyone other than the NYC guidebooks ever actually refer to it as such? (I don’t think so.) As usual, I was convinced into cutting my hair somewhat shorter than I had planned, but in the end, things worked out well enough. I don’t actually spend a lot of time thinking about my hair anyway.

I do spend quite a bit of time thinking about food, though, and earlier in the day, knowing that I was going to be in the neighborhood, I was already planning out what I would have for dinner. Beef noodle soup again? I do love them, but it seemed a bit much. Then I remembered a newish Malaysian place I had read about on the foodie boards — one, in fact, not too far from Super Taste.

So it was back past the Manhattan Bridge for me, along the gritty section of Canal Street. Here, at Canal and Bowery: the bronze-domed Citizen’s Savings Bank building (1924), now a branch of HSBC:


The restaurant is called Skyway, and it opened in the former site of another Malaysian Restaurant (now defunct Proton Saga) on the Chinatown/Lower East Side border off-Canal Street on Allen. It is named after the modernistic cable car system that opened in 1997, linking Malaysia’s Pahang lowlands with the Genting highlands resort. Seemingly odd inspiration for a restaurant, but hey, its predecessor was named for a car, after all.

Dining Room

Last year, the restaurant received a glowing review from the Village Voice’s Robert Sietsema. He dubbed the Fried Pearl Noodles “earthworms”-like in appearance, but “scrumptuous.” And Chowhounds agree that this unassuming, off-the-beaten path eatery serves up some of the best Malaysian fare in the city, at extremely gentle prices.

Creepy worm imagery notwithstanding, those noodles ($5.25) seemed as good a starting point as any. And they were as wonderful as advertised: plump and slightly chewy (in a good way), and thick with fried egg, squid, pork, shrimp, bean spouts, scallions and fried garlic flakes. Not being all that familiar with Malaysian food, I understand that the provenance of the dishes can vary widely: originating from several regions of Malaysia — from the more Thai-influenced west to the more Chinese-influenced east. Skyway’s menu appears to lean more heavily toward the Chinese end of the cuisine spectrum — and indeed you could just order a straightforward Chinese meal here — but the “traditional” Malaysian offerings (as I know them) are all represented, too: roti, satay, nasi lemak (“fatty rice” cooked in coconut milk, served with an array of accompaniments, like mashed chili anchovies, Malaysian pickle, fried egg and peanuts), asam laksa (asam = sweet, spicy and sour; laksa denotes a soup noodle-base, often spicy) and chili crab. Mmm… crab. Of note is the last (which by most accounts, is worth the relatively hefty $25 price tag), a baby oyster omelette and a spicy, crispy squid appetizer.

This night, though, I had only the stomach capacity for those noodles (and even then only half the dish) and a “Malaysian iced coffee” — which was potent, sweet and creamy, and served snow-cone like with a mound of shaved ice. Skyway also serves a wide variety of fruit juices: orange, watermelon, pineapple, carrot, lychee, rambutan, sooi pooi (sour plum), longan and coconut.

Pearl Noodles

I really must gather a larger group of friends together to get a proper sampling of this food, but so far, it all looks — and smells — very promising. The restaurant even has its own semi-private, bamboo-walled off table for just such a purpose. Who’s in?

Bonus photo feature: a shot I took as I was riding the skyway for which the restaurant is named. Back in late 2004, I rode those very cable cars, up… up… up… the steep, misty mountains to Genting, City of Entertainment. The system has been described as the “fastest in the world and longest in Southeast Asia”: the 2.1 mile journey takes just 11 minutes… interspersed, for me anyway, with 20-30 second intervals of sheer terror as the cars would creak and swing precariously over every pylon. But what a view!


Edited to add : The Village Voice’s Best of NYC 2006 issue just named Skyway most “Marvelous Malaysian.” (Super Taste still holds the title for “World Best Noodles,” though.)

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