Ex-Rasa Makes Good

Former Seattle Malaysian chain survives on Green Lake.

SEATTLE WAS ONCE home to seven Rasa Malaysia restaurants. As years went by the restaurants began to disappear, either because of lost leases or owners that decided to retire. In 1999 the Green Lake Rasa Malaysia was bought by a new owner and re-named the Golden Lake Restaurant. The change is subtle, as old Rasa Malaysia signage is more prominent than the Golden Lake banner outside the building and the menu stills says Rasa Malaysia. Basically Golden Lake kept Rasa's menu and added a few items.

I've been eating at the former Green Lake Rasa Malaysia since I was in high school and a forward thinking hippie-type friend introduced me to the restaurant. I was skeptical about eating there, with good reason: The unknown is frightening, especially Malaysian food. To further the mystery, the restaurant's lay-out mimics a McDonalds. You walk in and look at a "combo" board with letters, numbers and photos of choices, then place your order at the counter.

I did not get adventurous that fateful day, asking for the "C" combo ($4.50), chicken and barbecued pork served with steamed vegetables and yellow rice. The food and the price hit the spot, so I've frequented the place ever since. What won my heart must have been the yellow rice. It is cooked in coconut milk (and water) with yellow ginger powder. It is sweet and fantastic with or without peanut sauce.

What distinguishes Golden Lake from a fast food eatery is that for the past four years Jill Ha has been the sole order-taker (at least on each of my visits). Plus after ordering you can sit down and wait for fresh food to be delivered. The yellow rice remains a hit with all ages. "A lot of little kids come just for the rice," Ha said.

During recent visits with Golden Lake newbies, I have witnessed the standing-order hesitation that I experienced years ago. (If standing and ordering bothers you, you are welcome to sit and be waited on). Most recently, I took friends my age (20s) and they were immediately flustered by the standing order, but once the food arrived all doubts disappeared.

An appetizer of six potstickers ($3) and an egg roll ($1.50) started the meal off on the right foot. Smoothies ($1.99) come in numerous combinations (banana/pineapple/strawberry/coconut/mango) with fresh and frozen ingredients, and they're so good they were finished before the main meals arrived, which was quickly.

A generous portion of the shrimp and noodle combo ($4.50) was so good that my friend regretted ordering any appetizers. This is a common response. The prices are cheap, the portions generous, and the food fantastic. So order away, but be prepared to bring some home. We also grabbed some Rice Krispy treats ($1.25) which are constantly present and stacked three high on the counter. Too full to enjoy the treat that evening, they served as lunch the following day.


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