In my review of Peninsula a couple of months ago I noted that I didn’t know if there were any other Malaysian restaurants in the Twin Cities. This review does not answer that question for Satay 2 Go is in Apple Valley, 20 minutes or so south of the Cities. And a more unlikely location for a Malaysian restaurant you’d be hard-pressed to find. Not only are they in Apple Valley, a soulless suburb served mostly by an endless parade of chain restaurants, but they’re located at the far end of the parking lot of a Home Depot, next to a T-Mobile store. Eat Street this is not, and nor should you expect any of the relative glitz of Peninsula should you venture to eat here.
And should you venture to eat here? That’s a tricky question to answer. But I’ll give it a shot.
The restaurant is owned by a very pleasant Malay family, who do all the cooking and serving of food. They’ve been here some eleven years; and despite having been here more than seven years ourselves—and not too far away—and despite having had it mentioned by a number of people, we’d somehow never been. Well, as of this past weekend that error has been redressed.
As we discovered, it’s a very small operation. We ate there on “Small Business Saturday”, and there aren’t too many restaurants in enclosed spaces that are smaller. At peak capacity it can seat about fourteen people—as a result peak capacity is often reached. But this is not some design or business plan flaw. As the name suggests, they position themselves as a takeout place and they do a brisk takeout business. If you do want to eat in, and if like us on this occasion you want to eat in at dinner you should be prepared for a wait around 6 pm, and for the rush to ease closer to 7 (keep in mind though that they close at 8.30). There are pictures of all the items on the menu at the counter and you can order before you sit down.
The menu is largely Malay, though as is often the case with Asian restaurants in small towns it’s really “core cuisine plus”. The “plus” here includes some Korean options, some Chinese options and even a Japanese option or two. Are these things good here? I don’t know—it’s my experience/prejudice that it’s best to stay away from the “plus” at “core cuisine plus” places. The Malay stuff is pretty decent though. And pretty decent Malay food in Minnesota, leave alone in the extended parking lot of a Home Depot in Apple Valley, is not a blessing I am going to take for granted. Here are the pictures and detailed descriptions of what we ate (there were four adults and three small children eating). Take a look and then I’ll get to the matter of whether you should eat at Satay 2 Go.
We were asked if we wanted the nasi goreng and the Malay mee at a higher heat setting but I can’t say that I noticed them to be appreciably or very differently spiced than the other stuff. There wasn’t anything that was anywhere close to being bad but by the same token there was little that made me look forward to eating it again very soon (only the roti canai, really). With a little more of a kick in a few of the dishes this would have been a much better meal.
Now we come to the question of whether you should go out of your way to eat at Satay 2 Go. The answer I think is that it depends on how close to Peninsula you are and what kind of an outing you have in mind. If you are closer to Peninsula there is no culinary reason to drive down to Satay 2 Go. It’s not that Peninsula serves better versions of the things that overlap on the menus but that the differences are marginal either way (but Peninsula does have a larger menu). On the whole, this is simple, straightforward cooking and it’s highly unlikely that there’s anything special about the ingredients (as at Sen Yai Sen Lek). And while Satay 2 Go is definitely cheaper than Peninsula it’s not crazy cheap (all of this food came to $80 with tax and generous tip and there were no leftovers). If you have a relaxed sit-down meal or ambience of any kind in mind then Peninsula is definitely the place for you.
So, if you live close to Satay 2 Go or have good reason to be in the vicinity of Apple Valley then you should go to Satay 2 Go; but it’s not a destination by any means (though I’m sure Jim Leff or his non-union Minnesotan equivalent would disagree). Then again keep in mind that at peak lunch and dinner hours you are unlikely to get a table right away. If, like us, you live 20 minutes away and pass by Apple Valley on a regular basis (they are located just a mile east of Cedar on Co. Road 42) the best play is to call ahead and pick the food up on your way home (but keep in mind that the noodle soups will not fare well with takeout). But if you do make it in get an order of the roti canai to split and a bowl each of the laksa and the curry mee and have yourself a very nice meal. We’ll probably do just that at least a couple more times this winter.