To many, artisan cheese and shiny, new condo towers are seen as being iconically Brooklyn, but locals know that it’s hard to beat the commercial strips under the elevated tracks in terms of embodying this borough. Bensonhurst’s 86th Street is an emblem of the latter.
The shops along 86th Street have undergone a transformation in recent years as Bensonhurst’s rapidly changing demographics have ushered out many of the stretch’s longstanding Italian, and more recently Russian stores, replacing them with a wide range of Asian outlets — including Nyonya.
The shop stands out from neighboring restaurants with its wood-paneled exterior and a chic, windowed extension jutting out from the corner property onto Bay 34th Street. Across the street and down the block are an assortment of 99 cent stores, a pizza shop, and Chinese supermarkets. Nyonya is unique in the area for being modern and upscale: a sit-down, Zagat-rated Malaysian restaurant with a Manhattan location (as well as one in Boro Park).
Inside, the decor matches the front: wood-paneled with a simple, traditional layout spanning a ground seating area and an elevated area that boast both character and a fun and accessible Malaysian vibe.
On the menu, multiple appetizers are marked “Please ask server for advice before you order!!!” including the crispy pork intestines, Nyonya rojak, and kerabu chicken feet. When we asked our server, the warning turned out to be a smile and a reminder that, “it’s spicy”.
Most of the menu, however, will read as fairly familiar to those only used to Americanized Chinese food. There are plenty of dishes with rice noodles and spring rolls, the twist being that they also feature squid, or other types of foreign seafood.
For a starter, we got the coconut drink, which was served out a coconut and was most excellent, and roti — a must — which proved to have a slow-burning spicy flavor with crispy thin bread and fresh sauce. (For those not in the know, when eating roti you treat it like tortilla chips, dipping it into your sauce like salsa. Just rip and dip!)
Our main plates were all delicious, heavy on the sauce and noodles, and simultaneously familiar-seeming yet original-tasting from any other dishes we’ve had before.
The service was exceptionally fast, and while the waitstaff didn’t speak great English, they were kind and tried their best to be helpful. Note: Nyonya is cash only.
Where: 2322 86th Street
Hours: Open Monday through Thursday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., and from 11 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays
Phone: (718) 265-0888
Kid Friendly? Yes