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.

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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