Albee's Kitchen

282 Beamish St, Campsie, New South Wales

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Catherine Keenan

Moreish Malaysian packs them in with good food and low prices.

Let's start by listing the occasions when you wouldn't go to Albee's Kitchen. You wouldn't go in your best frock to celebrate your grandparents' 50th anniversary. You wouldn't take a client there, particularly a deep-pocketed one you were trying to impress. And you definitely wouldn't take a date there. Not ever. Under any circumstances.

Albee's is a place to take people who, for one reason or another, are stuck with you. It's for taking partners, siblings, old friends and anyone who appreciates the siren call of a meal that costs less than $10. Don't take anyone who hasn't already seen you under harsh fluorescent lights.

The inside of Albee's looks as if the owner went to a fire sale of second-hand office furniture, then threw everything that cost less than $20 into a bathroom. The place has the charm and acoustics of a public pool, with white tiles covering the walls. The decoration is restricted to some aged Tourism Malaysia posters and some freakishly kitsch cartoon rabbits pinned to one wall. I wouldn't be surprised if, when the lights go out, their eyes flash hellish green and they go out marauding into the night.

Few people notice the rabbits, however, as their eyes are transfixed by the rows of A4 computer-printed notices, in Chinese and English, listing the menu items. The food is Malaysian with a dash of Chinese and the offerings are complex: asam laksa (Wednesday and Saturday), laksa Kuching Sarawak (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), beef rendang, bakuteh (herb soup), mi rebus (Thursday only), chicken in foil, lots of things with fish heads and the alarming-sounding Marmite chicken. ''It's sweet,'' the waitress says. ''With honey.''

There's also cereal butter chicken and cereal butter king prawn. Despite asking, I never quite get to the bottom of those.

The place is packed when we arrive and remains packed when we leave. As soon as one person gets up to go, another takes their place. There's a high turnover and I suspect most customers are from nearby.

You get the feeling they come in with regular orders.

Why wouldn't you? The food is good, the prices are low and the service is - well, let's just say you get your food. On chipped plastic plates, with floral decorations around the edge.

The chicken in foil, served on a hot plate, seems to be a favourite, though we don't figure this out in time to order it. Instead, we get the excellent lobak, a seafood-and-pork roll wrapped in tofu skin, with a fantastically sharp chilli sauce. Our waitress urges us to have the pandan chicken, small chunks of spiced chicken on the bone, wrapped in pandan leaves and deep-fried. It's the restaurant's most popular dish, apparently, but while it's good, it's not our favourite.

That accolade goes to the sambal petai prawns, studded with petai (almond-shaped green beans, also known as smelly beans) and smothered in a fiery sambal. It's sweet yet savoury and very moreish. The four treasures is even more lush, a glossy pile of eggplant, okra, french beans and petai in a darker, richer, fishier sambal.

There are a few good Malaysian restaurants around town these days, with the huge queues at Mamak in Chinatown showing how enthusiastic Sydneysiders can get about roti and curry sauce. Albee's isn't in Mamak's league but it's an authentic, reliable stand-by.

Next time we're trying the char kway teow.

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282 Beamish St, Campsie, New South Wales

  • 02 9718 8302
  • Cuisine - Malaysian
  • Opening Hours - Sun-Mon 10am-10pm
  • Author - Catherine Keenan
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