LAUT, located on the outskirts of Union Square and perpendicular to the bustling 5th avenue shopping strip, is a Singaporean, Thai, and Malaysian ‘fusion’ restaurant owned by Chef Salil Mehta. This was my first visit to LAUT, who earned a prestigious Michelin star almost five years ago, and it certainly won’t be my last. That decision came instantly after I stepped inside and the friendly host/waiter greeted me with a warm, genuine smile, and was reconfirmed after my last bite. I was seated at a cozy table by the window and was served ice water in an instant.
According to the restaurant’s homepage, Laut, in Bahasa Melayu (Malay Language), translates to Sea. These straits or seas of these coastal cities played a crucial role in the region’s history, navigating traders and travelers from all over the world. During my dining experience, I was navigated through a range of local favorites, fresh spices, sweet and savory plates, and traditional street foods.
They were very attentive with refilling my water glass throughout my meal. For my beverage, I chose the Bandung: a rose flavored milk beverage over ice ($4), that according to the menu helps respiratory elements and is a good source of fiber. Served with a similar presentation to a Thai Iced Tea, this is the drink you may offer for your date on your first lunch outing. It is lovely, lightly sweet romantic drink that is perfect on a warm, sunny spring day. Other beverages included fresh sugarcane juice ($6), Thai Iced Tea, Fresh Ginger Ale, Mexican Coca-Cola, Lemon Iced Tea (unsweetened) and fresh Lemonade (sweetened).
Cocktails included a Ginger Pineapple Martini with fresh pineapple and candied ginger, Spiked Thai Iced Tea with Kahlúa and Disaronno. There was also a selection of hot and cold sake, Malbec, Merlot, a Lychee Martini, Mojitos, a drink called Lucky Buddha 888, and a Singapore Cosmo.
I guided through their extensive menu, which consisted of a variety of noodle soups, roti, curry, wok fry noddles, as well as a diverse dessert list. The first dish I tasted was an appetizer, Chicken Poppers: homemade curry, chili paso, and spices ($8.50); followed by the Roti Canai served with a spicy curry dip ($8). The menu had an extensive assortment of roti, including dessert roti such as an ‘Elvis’ Peanut Butter and Banana. The chicken poppers were very fresh and had a lovely melody of spices and a pleasant amount of heat entwined in each bite. The poppers were garnished with fresh cilantro and cooling cucumbers.
The roti was served as a very thin, crispy flatbread, modeled into its own sculpture form. The curry dip was fairly mild and had a milky, coconut under-taste which I appreciated. This is a great starter for sharing between two people; or if you are both hungry, order two roti and share.
My entree was the Noodes, Mee Goreng with chicken: egg noodles with bean sprouts, tofu, shrimp fritters, tomatoes, eggs & fried shallots with home made shrimp paste chili sauce ($13). The noodles were pure magic in my mouth! The fragrance of the chili sauce enrobing the noodles and chicken was in full force. When you look on top of my noodle dish, that disc-shaped piece is called a shrimp fritter, that was very tasty. For the noodles, think high-class lo-mein. If you like lo-mein, you will love this dish. It was very filling, and I could only finish half of the portion.
Popular dishes include their Pad Thai, ask Lemmak, and Drunken Man noodles with onion, bell peppers, basil leaves, chili and fish sauce. LAUT also has a “Health is Wealth” menu section Grilled Shrimp, and a Satay Noodle Bowl, Kale and Sweet Potato, with chicken/fish ball.
According to multiple sources, including Zagat and Serious Eats, LAUT cooks up the best Malaysian food in Manhattan. I could not make that executive decision as I have just begun my journey of discovering Malaysian and Southeast Asian fusion restaurants in the city, but a majority of the ingredients are fresh, the spices are intense with flavor, the atmosphere is rustic, authentic and welcoming, and the food is aesthetically presented on eclectic plates. I was especially fond if the signage on the walls that reminded me of strolling through a food market at an SM Mall.
LAUT is open seen days a week, serving lunch Monday thru Friday from 11:30am-3:15pm, and dinner Monday thru Thursday 5pm-9:45pm, Saturday 1pm-10:15pm, and Sunday 1pm-9:45pm.
http://lautnyc.com // 212-206-8989