02 September 2012

Albee's Kitchen ~ Malaysian - Campsie

Albee's Kitchen is pretty special in our books. Great food, authentically shabby, nice staff. Best Malaysian restaurant in Sydney? We reckon it is, this week anyway.

Few places in Sydney recreate the Southeast Asian shophouse dining experience quite like Albee's Kitchen. We know we're in for something special as soon as we sit down. It's low rent, cramped, noisy, chaotic and utterly, utterly wonderful. And the food? Enak! Enak! It's fantastic. We didn't get a single dud or lazy dish out of the fifteen or so we have tried so far. The best dishes have a real hawker touch to them, cooked with care and attention to detail. Perhaps you may prefer dish x or dish y at another restaurant, no restaurant is 'best in town' on every dish, but across the menu Albee's Kitchen is very hard to beat.

We've had little chats with a few of the regulars over our visits, it's hard not to in such a small space. There's a sense of sharing something special, a sort of diner camaraderie here. We get the impression many folks return week after week for whatever their particular favourite dish may be. The soups and noodle dishes seemed particularly popular, and huge. A plate of noodles enough for two normal eaters to share.

For daytime dining we found the best time to visit is before the lunch rush, it can be half-empty and half as chaotic at around 11.30am. If you poke your head in the door and see the joint is full, don't give up, the joint is a Tardis. There's another two and half rooms out the back, and walking through the kitchen to get there is a hoot.

The menu is huge and a number of dishes are only available on certain days. Pictures on the wall make it easier to figure out what's on offer, but harder to decide, we want everything.

Hainanese chicken rice - $9.50. The poached chook is super juicy and served in a pool of soy. Our Singaporean food hero Dr Leslie Tan says that hawkers introduced a soya based sauce to their chicken rice as "chickens nowdays do not taste as 'chicken-y' as the free range chickens of the past, so some sauce is necessary to give it a bit more flavour." We've had this style of chicken rice in Malaysia as well and we love it. Then again we love all variations of chicken rice, even a bad chicken rice is a good chicken rice, so anything we say about chicken rice is meaningless.

The rice isn't forgotten and has lovely chicken stock flavours without overdoing it. We also love the chili and ginger\shallot sauces here.

Pan mee - $11 - Available Sunday and Monday. Hearty thick, flat noodles that remind us of lasagne in a clear, plain broth with lots of crispy dried anchovies, minced pork, mushroom and veggies. Miss Chicken was dissapointed at first, it seemed quite plain, but halfway through the bowl the flavours melded into a fishy soupy love-fest. Miss Chicken made a little raft high on the black fungus shreds for all her little anchovy friends to keep them safe and dry (ie crunchy).

Laksa Kuching Sarawak - $11. Available Friday to Sunday. The broth was a very interesting balance of flavours. The menu says it has a sambal belecan (chilis, shrimp paste & lime) base, plus not too much coconut, perhaps some pepper. There's a whole bunch of little flecks of dark dried fish, not sure what it was but it worked well. Mr Shawn doesn't usually get excited about laksa but this one blew all three of his braincells, it's just that little bit different to a regular laksa.

Karipap - chicken curry puffs - $2.50 each. Highly recommended.

Claypot mi tai ma - $11. 'Rice drop' or 'rat tail' noodles that we guess have been stir fried before going into the soup. The fried noodles give some oil and oomph to the Chinese (chicken?) broth along with the raw egg, pork and prawns. This is a winner in our books.

Five spices brisket beef noodle soup - $10.50. A big bowl of clear broth with strong herbal flavours which are infused in the chunks of beef as well. Plain,. simple and refreshing.

On our third visit the front room is full so we're ushered into the second of three (that we know of) back rooms. It's a bit less cramped and chaotic out here, though it fills up quickly after this photo. The best part is you have to walk right through the kitchen to get here, not just to one side but right down the guts of it. If you share of our love of checking out Chinese kitchens then you'll love Albee's (we'll even go to the loo in some joints just for a chance to check out the kitchen on the way).. The kitchen staff are smiley and say hello as you walk through.

Pulut Panggang  Rempah Udang - grilled glutinous rice - $3 each. Sweet sticky rice with a mixture of coconut, dried shrimp and spices, wrapped in a banana leaf.

The innards are delicious, spicy and coconut-y. Our western taste buds would have preferred the sticky rice to be less sweet. That sweet/salty thing often fails to cross the cultural divide.

Rendang beef with rice and achar - $10.80. A generous serve of rendang countered nicely with achar, pickled veggies. The pickled veggies are sweet and tangy, we guess they have been overnight pickled. Just the way we like it. The rendang was served at room temperature (as it is often done in Malaysia), so it wasn't all tender and mouth-melt-y, but the flavours were there and it is a large serve for the price.

Penang Asam Laksa - $11 - Available Wednesday & Saturday. A fresh, light, tangy broth based on fish and tamarind, with pineapple chunks, slithers of oily fish (mackerel we think) and thick, udon style noodles.  A big thumbs up.

Lor bak - $8 per roll. Minced fish, pork and veggies wrapped in bean curd sheets, then fried so the outside is golden and crunchy.. Lor bak is one of those snackages that differs everywhere we have it, and it's always good. This version is great. You can also order lor bak as a main dish with rice and pickled veggies, or with your nasi lemak.

Lor bak innards. Mmmmmm.

Stuffed tofu noodle soup - $11 - available Friday to Sunday. The broth is plain yet subtlety gorgeous. Tofu and various veggies stuffed with seasoned fish paste. Oh yeah.

Nasi lemak with nam yu pork rib - $12.50. Malaysian coconut rice with sambal, ikan bilis (dried anchovies and peanut) and egg. The rice is great, almost Indian in style, light with separated grains, with a nice coconut-y flavour. The sambal is fantastic too.

Nasi lemak comes with your choice of protein, we go for Nam Yu Pork Rib because we've never heard of it before. These babies are fried, kind of like salt'n'pepper but sweeter. Quite a generous serve. [Edit - reader LucyL advises the pork ribs are coated with red fermented bean curd - thanks!]

Drinks are hit and miss in Malaysian joints in Sydney, but Albee's has a pretty good drink guy working at the front counter. We're yet to wring a smile out of him but who cares when he makes a killer Malaysian style iced coffee $3.50. It's Asia-sweet but not ultra- sweet, with a nice bitter coffee edge too it. It reminds us of the best iced coffee we had in KL (right) on our last trip, at the wonderful Imbi market. It's equally hard to find hawker iced coffee in Malaysia that isn't sickly sweet, let alone Sydney, we're happy. We also tried Albee's home made herbal  tea - $1.30. It's black, sweet and fruity, the flavour reminds us a little of longan drink. It may not be everybody's cup of tea (boom-tish) but we like it, and it seems popular amongst regulars.

Teh tarik - pulled hot (or ice) milk tea -  $4.50. Nice tea flavours, nice frothy head and not overly sweet. Yay.

Black and white - cincau soya ais - $4. This drink is super sweet but yum all the same. Hot, sweet soy milk with grassy jelly and crushed ice on top. A dessert and a bevvy all in one.

The drink dude also makes a mean ABC Special (Ais Kachang) - $6. A heap of shaved ice made wonderful but hefty dashes of palm sugar, red sugar syrup and evaporated milk on top of red beans, corn, grass jelly and more. Not every ais kachang you get overseas is a winner, we've had some shockers, so it's great to get a good one in Sydney.

We recommend getting some desserts to go on your way out.

Tapioca cake - $5 for six pieces. This cake is moist, dense and coconut-y with a layer of (we think) coconut and palm sugar on top. Perfect for afternoon tea.

Talan cake - $5 for six pieces. A layer of coconut mush on top of eggy pandan jelly. Another happy afternoon tea.

Black sesame and coconut layer cake - $5 for six pieces. A slightly wobbly jell-o-rific texture, nice but not wow for us.. The tapioca cake is our fave.

Albee's Kitchen menu.

Albee's Kitchen menu.

Albee's Kitchen menu.

Albee's Kitchen menu.

Albee's Kitchen menu.

Albee's Kitchen menu.

Albee's Kitchen menu.

Albee's Kitchen menu.

Albee's Kitchen menu.

Albee's Kitchen menu.

Albee's Kitchen is at 282 Beamish St, Campsie, NSW 2194. Phone: 02 9718 8302. email: reservation@albeeskitchen.com.au. http://www.albeeskitchen.com.au. Also in Cabramatta.

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  1. Great review so much details! This is my favourite Malaysian joint in Sydney :). One thing you missed out on the curry puffs! It has a half an egg inside :) try it on the next visit

    1. Doh! We did have the curry puffs (freaking awesome), I'll find the pics...

  2. so good! each time we visit that place we get 6 curry puffs takeaway!

  3. OOh, I love Nam Yu! It's a red fermented beancurd, I use it often to make Pork Belly & Preserved veg (mui choi).

  4. Holy wow, what a cracker post. Must get myself to this place asap

  5. Went to Albee's with a couple of friends on your recommendation. Amazing! Keep up the great work, I love checking your blog.

  6. I was about to sya that a lot was eaten in one go.. then realised it was over several visits haha my bad!! You tried a lot.. I went with just the significant other and sadly we must have tried the wrong dishes... but am looking at returning to try some other stuff!

  7. It's a great restaurant right in the heart of Campsie. Food is always great quality at an exceptionally good price! Albee's is one of the greats!


Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

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