As someone who was born in Malaysia and has widely traveled and eaten her way through Southeast Asia, I was delighted to hear a restaurant called Pahang, after Malaysia’s third-largest state, had set up shop on Bloomfield Ave in Verona. With readers asking to know more about it, I was only too happy to oblige, even as I appreciated the surrealism of the task – little-known Pahang (plucked out of Malaysia), in the thick of Verona (ditto, out of Italy), in New Jersey. A neat microcosm of the three continents I’ve lived in. Serendipity? No matter, I was ravenous.
First, some context. Pahang the state, which comprises one million ethnic Malays and indigenous people (known as Bumiputeras), is also a fifth Chinese and seven percent Indian – factors which hugely shape the spicing and variety of the state’s cuisine, and of Malaysian food in general.
The visit to Pahang restaurant was a nostalgic one for me culinarily; for objectivity, I brought along a born-and-bred New Yorker friend who lives in Montclair and, thank goodness, was as motivated as I to find another Asian-food winner in the area. We had recently risked life and limb on Rt 10 to visit Penang on East Hanover, only to come away somewhat let down by our choices that day.
So, with renewed appetite, we walked into the cantaloupe and avocado-themed tropical-style interior of Pahang, which has been open since May, having parked easily across the restaurant and bought ourselves an hour at the meter for a mere 25 cents.
We made no reservations for lunch, indeed the restaurant was quiet, being as it was a Monday. More food for us then. I ask if we can have smaller portions as it was our first visit and as we were eager to try a number of dishes. Beyanka, the chef’s cheerful wife, politely obliged.
Perusing the impressive lunch and regular menus, we notice an entire section with several pages of Japanese food, including sushi, wraps and salads. As keen on Japanese as I am, I focus on the cuisine relevant to the restaurant’s name.
We start with Roti Canai (pronounced cha-nai) – an Indian-inspired flaky bread which also goes by the name of prata, served with chicken curry. This is typical of street food in Malaysia and Singapore, and I felt it could be a benchmark of things to come. The bread was perfect, hot off the griddle, light and fluffy, not greasy, and the tasty chicken curry had tender chunks of the bird in it. Big thumbs-up there.
Second is a fresh duck wrap, stuffed with with mango and vegetables and served with a hoisin-and-plum sauce, which, you guessed it, derives from Malaysia’s Chinese influences. The duck was a little gamey (sometimes the nature of duck) but this is somewhat mitigated by the sweetness of the mango and pleasing bite of the vegetables, all wrapped to picture perfection. Gordon Ramsay would be proud.
Gado gado is next – a popular street food in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, this is a salad comprising sliced boiled egg, served cold, along with crisp and green, lightly blanched French beans, tomatoes, fried tofu slices, Chinese turnip, Chinese cabbage and topped with a spicy peanut sauce. We both loved this salad and are already determined to make it a regular item on future visits. It’s crunchy, fresh, sweet and the variety of textures keeps it interesting. I love that it’s a complete meal with its egg and nutty sauce, and would have been quite happy having it alone for lunch.
For our mains, we pick a couple of dishes that are typically Malaysian. Beef rendang, a dark, sweet curry of beef which hails from Minangkabau in Indonesia, is one. I would gather that this dish varies from place to place, for it appeared to lack the tamarind-lemongrass factor I have come to expect, as well as the note of galangal. However, as beef curries go, it was delicious, the portions were generous, and the meat was tender and not grisly. If you’ve traveled through Asia, you will know that’s three points in your favor; it’s just not easy to coax quality flesh out of a scrawny cow that’s been fed a modest-calorie Asian diet.
Along with the curry came the Pahang Char Kway Teow, a stir-fried noodle dish chock full of bean sprouts, which the chef happily made substitutions for (I am allergic to shellfish and he used chicken instead, after also offering beef). We were both delighted at the mini wok the noodles were served in, topped off with a chive-blossom garnish. The dish was delicious and the chef mercifully went easy on the stir-fry oil.
Our meal had condiment companions. One, a fiery little dish of chopped bird’s-eye chilis which even I, accustomed to all manner of chillification, shied away from.
The second was a crunchy, dry chilli-and-shrimp sambal, like a dry chutney, which I’d recommend that one tries as it is authentically Malaysian. Although, like anchovies, it could be an acquired taste.
Overall, we were happy with the food, extremely so with the service, and would rate Pahang 3.5 stars out of 5. We were charmed by the boyish-faced chef, Tuck Cheng, 43, who met his wife Beyanka eight years ago, coincidentally, in a branch of the Penang restaurant in Long Island. After a few years of running that restaurant, they were hoping to open a new restaurant in the Greater New York Area. A friend recommended Verona, and one day, while driving through the city, they spotted a For Sale sign by the previous Chinese restaurant occupying the spot on Bloomfield Ave. With no Malaysian restaurant anywhere in the vicinity, they zeroed in and swooped it up.
Tuck Cheng and Beyanka are hoping to have their online menu up and running soon, but for those of you who have been, like me, on the lookout for a tasty Asian restaurant that does deliveries, your search ends here. Pahang will deliver, free of charge, to Montclair, Verona, Cedar Grove, West Orange, Glen Ridge and Bloomfield.
(Photos by Bernadette Baum)
Pahang Asian Cuisine
575 Bloomfield Ave
Verona, NJ 07044
Looks really tasty.
I was just wondering about this place the other day…. The Gado gado sounds good good!
Montclair had a good Malaysian restaurant for several years, Taste Of Asia. It was in the block of shops across from Whole Foods where Belgiovine’s is located. Unfortunately they moved out to Chatham somewhere around 2003.
Nice to know that there’s a new one a bit closer to home.
Thank you Bernadette Baum for the high-quality photos! I may actually visit the restaurant to see if the food tastes as good as it looks …
I would love it if, when reviewing restaurants on Blmfd. Ave, that you give us a cross street or landmark, along with the address.
Thanks for the suggestion Gail — I added a map link, so you can see the cross streets.
The food looks great. I like the fact they deliver. We’ll have to try them.
Thank you Jim, I really enjoyed doing those photos!
Thank you, Liz.
Excellent photos! Thank you for the thoughtful review. I’m definitely interested in checking this place out.
Thank you banana split! Please do go, I’m waiting for a decent grace period before I shamelessly return
My husband and I have been frequenting Pahang, and we love it!! (His parents are from Indonesia so he is very familiar with this type of cuisine.) Everything we have tried so far, we have really enjoyed. The Beef Rendang is definitely our favorite. It is very tasty, and the beef is tender and not grisly as mentioned in the review. We also enjoy the Satay (we get chicken) with peanut sauce. The chicken is very tender and not fatty. My husband enjoys the Sambal as well. The owners are so pleasant and make you feel very welcomed.
Thanks for your feedback Cathy. Aren’t the owners sweethearts? Good to know about the satay, which I wanted to try but there was only so much we could eat!
I’ve worked in Malaysia and Singapore in the 80’s making my taste buds fine tuned to oriental cuisine to that part of the Asia and boy, Pahang did brought back memories of yesteryears. I’ve sampled several dozen Malaysian-style cooking from the Taste of Asia in Montclair, to Penang Restaurants in East Hanover, Edison, Lodi and several branches in NYC but neither offer anything close to Pahang. The food is authentic, customer is top-notched and personalized, the place is strategic and although I live in Short Hills, I’d rather drive north to Verona than anywhere else. It’s unfortunate that there’s non like Pahang when we lived in Verona before. The owners, especially Beyanka personify the gracious hospitality only the best could offer. To all, I highly recommend Pahang.
Is Pehang open on Monday night and is it a BYOB?
Ladonna, indeed, the restaurant’s open every day of the week and it’s BYOB. They recently went online with the menu and I’ve added that link to their contact details (https://pahangveronanj.com/)
Ate there for dinner Saturday night with my wife. The food was delicious and the portion sizes were more than adequate for the price. We had the roti canai and duck wrap for apps and the beef rendang and sarang burong for entrees. The hot sauce (sambal?) is also excellent. Hope to try some other dishes next time, like maybe some of the thai influenced curry dishes. I really hope this restaurant makes it (the place wasn’t even half full on a Saturday night) as it is some of the best asian food I’ve had in the area (considering taste, price, proximity, etc. – and they deliver!). No desire to eat sushi there; leave that to the japanese restaurants (in my opinion, they’re trying to do too much with their menu; should stick to their strengths). Can’t wait to go back.
Didn’t like the food! My husband and I went for lunch and ordered a couple of things. We didn’t like any of the meals that we tried: the pad thai was too bland, no peanuts, no taste…The chicken with pineapple and the beef with ginger were not great either. We were both disappointed..
I don’t get it. I have tried this place 3 times and 3 times too many. Each time we had to send back food. The Pad Thai had no flavor, the sushi was fishy and the coconut rice also had no flavor. My neighbor ordered a salad and the lettuce was wilted. I don’t get what all the hype is about. I will stick to Panang in East Hanover. It’s no wonder they didn’t make it in NYC.
My husband and I just ate at Pahang last night for the fourth time in six weeks. The restaurant was almost empty, which is an absolute shame! I have made many, many business trips to Singapore over the past decade and Pahang’s food is the real deal. These are the same Malaysian, Singaporean and Peranakan flavors that I crave when I haven’t been to Asia for a while. I dragged my husband, an adventurous eater like myself, to Penang thinking I could get him to understand those cravings; but, he just didn’t get it. And I’m sorry to say that Taste of Asia is just not very good. After going to Pahang, my husband totally got it. If you want the real thing, try the fabulously crispy Sotong Goreng (spicy, fried calamari), the unbeatable Roti Canai, and the truly Singaporean Mee Hoon Goreng (these noodles transport me). And folks, why would you eat sushi here? If you want good sushi, go to Tomo’s Cuisine on Route 23 in Little Falls for food that a Tokyo salaryman would be delighted to eat (freshly grated wasabi, homemade ice cream made from ceremonial green tea). PLEASE support these wonderful little ethnic restaurants! If Pahang (or Tomo) has to close from lack of interest, then Baristaville is NOT the foodtown that you all think it is!!!
Tomo has 5 tables. If they can’t make it then it’s their own problem. As for Pahang, are they really still in biz? Wonder how long that will last. If it were any good, it wouldn’t be empty.
Calling yourself a “foodie” doesn’t necessarily make it so. You could call yourself “doctor,” but that wouldn’t necessarily make you a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist. You ordered sushi at a Malaysian restaurant — a true foodie would never have done that. From the nasty tone of your comments and your unwarranted praise for Penang, I suspect that you may actually be a ringer. You work for Penang, right? FYI to the real foodies out there — we took a Filipino friend to Penang a couple of weeks ago. (Like me, he travels quite a bit to Singapore for business, and he has relatives in both the Philippines and Singapore.) He was so smitten with Pahang, that he went back with his sister and brother-in-law the very next weekend.
Correction: my mistake — we took my friend to Pahang (not Penang). He has been to Penang and agrees that Pahang is far superior.
Just because you travel to the store to buy white zinfandel every night doesn’t make you a wine traveler, and Im sure all this traveling to Singapore isn’t affiliated with wine.
I eat out frequently and for my job I try all items on menus. Not because I want to, but sometimes because I have to. I was with a group of people and all different things were ordered here. I have nothing against this restaurant, I gave an honest opinion of my own. Im glad you like it. Maybe you should eat there every night so that they stay in business.
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