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At Kampong Asian Fusion, Low Expectations and High Marks, Especially for the Nasi Lemak

A few weeks ago I went on a Malaysian food adventure. As far as I can tell, Dallas and her surrounding suburbs don't provide a wealth of suitable restaurants, so it didn't take too long. We are living in a Malaysian food desert.

What took even less time was choosing my favorite dish from the trip, though I'll admit before the plate was placed on my table I was sure I'd made a mistake even walking into the restaurant. Kampong opened in Richardson last year just off Central Expressway, and it flies nearly every Asian restaurant red flag I have learned to avoid when dining around Dallas.

Kampong is located in a shopping complex just of the highway along East Campbell Road. It seems like a new development -- the façades are of neat and tidy brick and the restaurants all look new. There's a Twisted Root Burger on one side and a Bikinis Grill on the other. A Panera Bread lurks around the corner. It seems more likely that you'd encounter a PF Chang's or a Pei Wei than a small, family-run Asian restaurant here.

Then there's the name: Kampong Asian Fusion. The last two words often translate to "Asian dishes for unadventurous white people." I was losing hope.

Inside the restaurant, things got worse. The music was too loud and many plates glowed with multi-colored flashing balls surrounded by sushi like "cupcake rolls". Kampong plates the Japanese components of their Asian fusion like an oceanic discotheque.

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The Malaysian food is much more restrained, though, and the nasi lemak pictured above is worth a visit on its own. The dish is rooted in rice cooked in coconut milk, resulting in a mildly fragrant, sticky grains that are significantly more rich than rice cooked in water alone.

There are peanuts included for a nutty crunch, and small cucumbers that add a snappy coolness. There are also tiny anchovies add more texture than fishy flavor, and a thick and chunky sambal whose pungent anchovies were all but too apparent. This was all a backdrop for a mildly spicy lamb curry and a fried egg. It was confusing and enlightening and delicious.

If you're looking for a second go-to dish the beef rendang won't disappoint. The spicy beefy curry boasts plenty of coconut too. And if you're the type that hunts down sushi rolls that eat like a party then you've just found paradise. Behold, the cupcake roll.

Kampong Asian Fusion, 720 E Campbell Rd., Ste 430, (972) 238-7399, kampong.us

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