Nyonya Asian Cuisine is a little hard to categorize. Though it advertises itself as (among other things) “a spirited fusion of flavor”, to a large extent the menu is common to dozens of neighborhood American-Chinese eateries sprinkled throughout the United States, and whose cuisine, culture, and origins have been exhaustively documented by Jennifer 8 Lee. It does add some Thai and Malay touches, and various Nyonya “specials”, but these additions don’t dominate the cuisine. The additional foods and spices are more a garnish on the neighborhood Chinese concept as opposed to the center of the restaurant.
There are Malay restaurants in this town, such as Rasa Sayang and Penang, both good but really timid representations of Malaysian cuisine. I once had a Malay coworker of Chinese origin. She would share her food. I know what she ate, and I also know that anything she made for me that I could eat, she had to prepare specially. In short, it was the hottest cuisine I’ve ever been exposed to, and you can’t find a hint of that in Rasa Sayang or Penang.
I was curious about what Malay foods Nyonya might have, and honestly, how hot their food could get. I chose the hottest item on their menu and then didn’t say anything else about how I wanted it prepared. I ordered their rendang beef, the hottest item on their lunch menu.
To note, the inside of the restaurant is pretty. It’s clear within a moment’s glance that this restaurant goes out of their way to please people. If it’s the neighborhood Chinese, then in terms of service, it’s a best of breed. I saw tables where the meals were being served with brown rice instead of white rice. They just seemed to be going out of their way for their customers.
First to arrive was a salad. It was pretty, small squares of starch sitting atop good looking lettuce leaves. It wasn’t a huge portion, but lunch sides never are. Soon after, the Rendang beef arrived. It had just enough spice for me to say, that yes, they understand how to make foods hot. But as “medium heat” entrees go, a little on the mild side. It was though, a good dish, quite full of flavor.
I don’t want to make too much of a fuss about heat, because they have a “request” level of heat. If the staff here has any familarity with the more common 4 level heat scale used in this city (mild, medium, hot, ethnically hot), then they could easily make food I couldn’t eat. Their stock heat says more about their clientele than it does about how spicy they can make food.
As of the moment, and without more visits, all I can tell you is that Nyonya is cut above your local neighborhood restaurant. It will offer you hints of different flavors, a touch of Malay or Thai styles in an otherwise Chinese base cuisine. More than anything though, I just get the feeling they’re very willing here to go the extra mile to please customers. And so, I’d class them as a Chinese equivalent of a restaurant such as L’Thai Organic.
Verdict: If you want your General Tso’s with a side that offers a hint of coconut milk and lemongrass, and service that’s better than most, Nyonya is certainly a restaurant worth considering.
Nyonya Asian Cuisine
7294 Roswell Road
Sandy Springs, GA 30328