Just off of North Street in Pittsfield, nestled behind the Beacon Cinema lies Flavors of Malaysia, a somewhat mysterious establishment, boldly claiming on their website to be “Not your typical Asian restaurant.”
We parked at a conveniently located parking lot directly behind the restaurant, descended a few steps, and entered a large, spacious room where we were immediately seated around a circular table by a friendly waitress.
Noah: I immediately sensed a pleasant atmosphere: cozy but not cloying. The room was large and open, but what it lacked in intimate size it made up with a pleasant darkness and lavish decor on the wall, creating a pleasantly open yet comforting space, and thematically, the space was generally uniform in color and decorative touches. Red tablecloths, red colored walls, and red-tinted light paralleled the common reds contained in the restaurant’s food, making a warm, appetizing atmosphere. Various ferns, small trees, and artistic depictions of plants covered the walls and gently shielded the windows, evoking the tropical feel of Malaysia. However, a few incongruous breaks with the tropical and red-hued decor detracted from the atmosphere. In one corner of the room sat a covered pool table beside a massive, black flatscreen TV and some speakers, standing out like a sore in an otherwise warm and authentic-feeling decor.
George: As we descended into the pleasantly dim den of the restaurant, we were greeted with a wall coated in framed awards which the restaurant had gathered over the years, including a commendation from the massachusetts speaker of the house, and from TripAdvisor, a number one ranking out of all eighty-one restaurants in Pittsfield. I agree that the pool table and speakers detracted from the environment a small bit, but keep in mind that they make sure to stress that they are not a fine dining restaurant, and host live music fairly often, making speakers a necessity.
Jasper: Initially I loved the decor due to the alluring curtain pullback, and descending steps leading into a vibrantly red restaurant, but after looking around for a while, I realized that the decor was quite odd. Some parts I really liked: the eastern plants, oriental paintings, and dim lighting all contributed to an intimate, foreign atmosphere. However the covered pool table, old television hanging in the corner, and a whole darkly lit section of the restaurant unused really fractured an otherwise great aesthetic.
Noah: I was impressed by the large selection of menu items, it was difficult to make a decision.
We had been warned on the restaurant’s website and by the waitress that all their dishes are prepared fresh by one woman, with nothing pre-prepared, so we should expect a relatively long wait. The menu was very lengthy, featuring a plethora of both eastern and some western foods as well as vivid descriptions of the various spices they use in their cooking. In terms of structure and content, the menu was exquisitely designed and composed. On the front was a definition of what was considered malaysian, “Malaysian food is not one particular distinction of food but a culinary diversity originating from its multi-ethnic population of Malay, Indian, Eurasian, Chinese,Nyonya and the Indigenous peoples of Borneo. At Flavours, we offer the most authentic cosmic array of food that has now come to be known all over the world as ‘Malaysian Food’.” Following that was an entire page devoted to color photographs of the ingredients used by the chef, each with a description of that food element’s role in Malaysian cuisine and its effects on the body.
Noah: The dishes were somewhat pricey; appetizers ranged from $5 to $10 and entrées from $14 to $25. If you come to eat here, expect to pay around $30 (plus tip) per person.
George: We started off with a round of appetizers, for our table we ordered two baskets of steamed pork buns, and an order of coconut shrimp spring rolls. This turned out to be a good strategy, because of the long wait for our main courses. The spring rolls were exceptional, the pork buns were very good albeit a bit doughy. I had learned of Flavors of Malaysia when examining the results of the Berkshire County WingFling®, a competition between a number of Berkshire County restaurants to find who makes the best wings and ribs. Somewhat to my surprise, the rib category was won not by a traditional barbeque establishment, but a malaysian restaurant. I decided that I had no choice but to seek out these mysterious SouthEast Asian ribs. While ordering, our waitress explained to us the different levels of spiciness available, and the wide range of seasonings used. I, of course, ordered the ribs. They were fantastic, well worth the somewhat long prep time, A smoky blend of tanginess and and moderate but tangible spice. The presentation was well done, a light salad preceded the main course, and they were garnished with a bed of leafy bok-choy (whatever bok-choy is), which contrasted the spiciness. Now the dictionary defines bok-choy as: “a type of cabbage originally from China that has green leaves with thick, white stems.” I’d say this is a fairly accurate description of what I ate, it tasted slightly bitter; I give Bok Choy a solid 5/10, but a 7/10 when served with Malaysian spare ribs. Flavors of Malaysia distinctly stood out from other Asian restaurants in its quality and also its uniqueness, it offered a large number of distinct dishes that would not be found anywhere else, living up to its title of “not your typical Asian restaurant”.
Noah: I ordered spicy duck with a side of roasted ginger and asparagus. The presentation was exquisite. The duck was shredded with vegetables in one circular mountain, next to two smaller circles of rice and asparagus, all on a large, square plate. I was equally impressed with the taste of everything. Both the asparagus and duck were spicy, but balanced in a way that did not detract from the more subtle tastes within the food. The mix of veggies, soft asparagus, and crisp snow peas, scallions, and carrot strips in the duck, added a pleasing blend of textures. My whole life, I’ve been used to seeing most Asian food in large quantities and cheaply made. My dish, however, was clearly well made, and the excitement of eating quality Asian food was almost as satisfying.
So, the question left is “should I go to Flavors of Malaysia?” To that we say, “good question.” If you are a fan of Asian cuisine enough to distinguish yourself as a fan of Asian Cuisine, yes. The pro’s are that you get good quality; ingredients that are fresh and local, which is really a nice element. You will also get professional, knowledgable staff, and an adept chef that prepares authentically Asian cuisine. So, importantly, if you go you can expect a great meal. If you work saturdays from ten to six at a boring part time job where you have to deal with old people or snotty kids, and only get paid like eight dollars an hour, and you are pretty much indifferent to going, maybe don’t; unfortunately the restaurant is really expensive for most high schoolers, far from Williamstown if that matters to you, and has a slightly off decor. If these cons outweigh getting to try high quality Asian food for you, maybe hold off until someone who is paying is going, and tag along. Although Flavors of Malaysia impressed us with the attention and quality they gave to their food, as well as their stellar service, it is an expensive and time consuming venture.
Written by: Noah Savage, Jasper Rosenheim, and George Hedreen