Getting the spice level right is a point of contention between many Southeast Asian restaurants and the New Yorkers who love them. Often the chow delivers less of a kick than some of us would like. This series of audio guides, whose purview stretches elsewhere into Asia as well as to East Africa and Latin America, is one compensatory measure.
No such entreaties were needed, however, for lunch specials of nasi lemak ($11.75) and beef rendang ($13.95) at this Malaysian-run cafe. (The staff are from Kuala Lumpur, and their most enticing menu items have roots there, too, but much of the menu is devoted to savories in the spirit of a cobb salad or a bacon cheeseburger.) My dining buddy and I quickly agreed that a little dish of hot sauce on the side was superfluous; most everything but the coconut rice was imbued with a generous but not incendiary spiciness.
Also shown: kaya toast ($2.75). This version of the coconut egg jam was smooth, easy to spread, and on the sweeter side — which is to say, very much to my taste.
4712 30th Ave. (47th-48th Sts.), Astoria, Queens