The Best for Last – Jackie M

It was a bit of a mad dash for the final week of the Malaysia Food Kitchen’s blogger summit. I’d just landed at Sydney International yesterday after 10 days travelling and eating through China, so I did as any good explorer does: I beelined for home, staggered into my apartment, and passed out on the couch.

I finally woke up bleary-eyed in the late afternoon, and through the jet-lag fog, suddenly realised that I needed to reconfirm dinner plans at Concord’s Jackie M restaurant. Luckily, some of my friends had already emailed me, including Leila from underground dining scene Tablenosh, and a mutual friend, Nikki. I also rounded up my Malaysian food expert Eunice, a long-term Sydney resident who’s a Malay native from the northern city of Ipoh.

I’d been hearing lots of good buzz about Jackie M’s midwest Sydney restaurant, and event Jackie herself had been quite active on Twitter when I was asking people for their top Malaysian eateries (even better that she talked about other people’s restaurants, rather than simply plugging her own).

So the four of us did something we never do – we went to Concord for dinner. That’s no mean feat when you’re pairing a couple of Surry Hillsbillies with two entrenched Inner Westies. There’s always a bit of inertia to overcome when escaping the comforts of central Sydney living.

Most of the drive down Lyons Road, as it eventually changes into Majors Bay Road, is residential, so the lights of Concord’s downtown strip appear like a nighttime oasis. As we enter Jackie M, the first thing that hits me is how small it is – there are just a handful of tables in a moody space with dark tables and splashes of red.

We wait for menus, then realise that they’re already splayed at the far end of the table. Even so, the service is fairly sluggish. When our server does arrive, though, she’s friendly, relaxed and helpful with suggestions. And we definitely need some advice to narrow down our all-too-greedy selection of shared plates.

We start with the ‘deluxe’ laksa nonya and the Hainanese chicken rice – the latter always being a good benchmark for a good Malaysian restaurant, and additionally listed as one of Jackie M’s signatures. The chicken arrives first, and it is beauty. The chicken slices are tenderly poached with a subtle fragrance, the chicken broth gives all the right notes for adding moisture and flavour to the rice, and the chilli-ginger sauce gives just enough kick. It’s the best example I’ve seen in Sydney to date.

Next comes the laksa. It’s a solid version, a comforting bowl of thick broth with large tofu cubes, half a boiled egg, fried shallots, bean sprouts and a mix of vermicelli and Hokkien noodles. The stock is a bit thicker than I’d like, and doesn’t have the same vibrant complexity of the beautiful laksa I discovered at Kensington’s Kaki Lima the other week, but it’s still enjoyable.

A mere minute later, the beef rendang and roti canai arrive. The beef is exactly what we want it to be: rich and fall-apart tender. In fact, the sauce is so thick and the beef so pliant, it’s often hard to figure out where one starts and the other begins. It hardly matters: the beef is delicious. And it’s perfectly paired with the roti. I’ve had few good versions aside from the wafer-light renditions at Mamak, but this is an exception. Jackie’s version is buttery and flaky – not as waif-like as Mamak’s, but with a richer flavour that keeps everyone at the table coming back to pull off more pieces to dip into the rendang sauce.

Eunice’s choice is the har meen: a noodle soup with a prawn stock with large prawns, chicken, egg, assorted greens and a generous sprinkling of fried shallots. The reviews at the table are mixed, but it’s likely a cultural thing. Eunice thoroughly enjoys the soup, while myself and the two other Westerners find the prawn stock’s fishy flavour too strong.

The top highlight of the meal arrives next: the chai tow kway, aka fried radish. The stir-fry features squares of shredded radish cake that are as tender as a fried square of silken tofu, and they come in a sweet-salty sauce clinging to preserved radish, garlic, beansprouts, Chinese chives and a scattering of egg. Groans of joy ensue, and we need to negotiate who eats the remaining pieces on the plate. It’s worth coming to Jackie M merely for this.

We polish off the night with dessert, sharing the ais chendol and a dessert roti with coconut. The chendol arrives with a sweet milky ‘soup’ swimming with teardrop strands of pandan, with a couple of icebergs of the still-frozen liquid floating in the centre. It also comes with a customary bowl of palm syrup, which we ladel into our bowls to take the dessert to even sweeter heights. The roti is nearly as uplifting, with a sweet coconut paste giving a stealth sweetness to the blankets of bread.

After a month of traversing the city’s Malaysian restaurants, this is the best meal I’ve had. I sneak into the kitchen to express thanks to Jackie, who’s rolling out dough for curry puffs. She’s a striking woman, with a platinum flash of short-cropped, youthful hair – not the staid nonya mama that I had envisioned in my head.

Then it’s time to call it a night. My fellow diners and I stagger back to our cars, bellies fully expanded, and weave our way back to our inner city confines, but happy in the thought of escaping our respective hoods for one excellent Malaysian feed.

85 Majors Bay Rd, Concord, NSW
(02) 9743 0390

www.jackiem.com.au

Jackie M Malaysian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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17 responses to this post.

  1. I like a thicker laksa actually… personal tastes aside, that beef and roti canai look delicious. Must head out to Jackie M sometime. On the list.

    Reply

  2. Ah, the lovely Jackie M. I cannot wait to dine at her place! Times like this I wish I lived in Sydney.

    Reply

  3. I love my roti buttery & thick so I think I need to visit Jackie M’s restaurant when im in Sydney next. I had tried Mamak when we were over recently. Also the radish cake looks delicious…you got me craving Malaysian food & it’s only 8am here in Perth!

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  4. Mmm I love me a good Laksa. Definitely going to swing by next time I visit my bestie who lives over in Concord. :D

    Reply

  5. Hi! I will definitely follow your recommendation, I’ve been missing quality Malaysian food so it’s good to know where to go :)

    Reply

  6. i just tried temasek’s hainan chicken and after reading your review about jackie m’s hainan chicken and i definitely want to go and see how it compares!

    Reply

  7. Am now in love with Malaysian food…but Michael you forgot to mention the dramatic ending we had confirming why I WON’T be visiting CONCORD again… :)

    Reply

  8. So great to hear you’ve found a gem! My mouth is watering for the chai tow kway. Loved your “Hillsbillys” comment he he.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Nirmala Naidu on August 27, 2011 at 12:28 am

    Dear Michael,
    I had Jackie’s nyonya laksa, char kuey teow, chicken rendang with rice, roti canai etc last November and it was simply divine. And imagine this fiesty lady single handedly cooks every meal. Jackie cooks with her heart- now you know the secret to her surreptitious food.
    Mala
    Malaysia

    Reply

  10. Posted by Anonymous on August 26, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    You know a native malay named Eunice? That’s interesting! Not a very traditional name is it? Perhaps your version of malay is not quite as melayu as you thought?

    Reply

  11. hope you had a blast in china! did u know ull get free dessert if you mention twitter? :D

    Reply

  12. Man I look frumpy in that picture – would it kill you to photoshop it just a little?! J/k – thanks for dropping by Michael, great to have you guys in :)

    Reply

  13. Thanks for the preview – I’m off here for dinner next Saturday night and CANNOT wait…

    Reply

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