For the past year, I let out a purely involuntary low moan of despair every time I drove past the blackened, burned-out shell of the Malay Satay Hut. If I was driving with someone else, they'd usually let out an answering moan. It's been a long year, and we are so very glad it's back; it's just that good.

I grabbed my friend X, and we headed over to the restaurant to celebrate. It's no longer a bare room lit in harsh fluorescents, but an actual dining room, fitted out in wood and brick, with a kind of tiki hut where the open kitchen used to be. So what? The food is the same. X and I ordered enough for four people, and settled in for a long lunch.

We started, as usual, with roti canai ($2.50), soft Indian flatbread served with a potato curry that's mostly Indian ("Is one order of roti enough?" X asked, rather anxiously). Three cuisines fuse under the heading of Malaysian food, which means that while something tastes predominantly of Thai or Chinese or Indian food, there are sometimes fugitive flavors that cross the one over the other over the other--the intense sweetness possible in Chinese food joining the slower, more lumbering heat and weight of Indian and the brightness of Thai that we identify with cilantro and fish sauce.

Contrasts abound. Prawn Mee ($5.50) is a soup that's both spicy and pleasantly fishy, with noodles and firm, mild fish balls; Hokkien Mee ($6.75) is an immense pile of fat noodles that dares to pair beef with seafood. (Perhaps noodles both in and out of soup was overkill, in retrospect.) My personal favorite arrived: Belachan okra ($9.95), a generous dish of okra sautéed in pungent shrimp paste (which fries up so nicely, with full, salty flavor); the okra pods aren't a bit slimy, and the seeds burst in your mouth like caviar.

We followed that with Malaysian Chinese pork chops ($9.25), thin slices of pork with just enough bone attached to give you a handhold, covered in sweet, sticky (and somehow also crisp) coating. X pointed out that eating these pork chops was almost like eating dessert; I took another one.

There were not as many leftovers as you might think.

Malay Satay Hut 212 12th Ave S (International District), 324-4091 or 323-6604. Open daily 11 am-11 pm.

Support The Stranger