East Passyunk Avenue has very little to do with Asian cooking. Besides two Chinese-American take-out joints, Bing Bing Dim Sum is as "Far East" as Passyunk goes, operating under deliberately inauthentic pretenses. Saté Kampar (1837 East Passyunk Avenue) is Malaysian through and through, and conversely, authenticity runs through its veins.
Ange and John Branca are officially opening Saté Kampar next Wednesday, February 10 — a date decided by Ange's grand aunt. "She decides the opening date. That's also a way of involving her. Everyone in my family contributed to the restaurant in one way or another."
The Brancas' restaurant is a family affair, Ange's godmother was a recipe writer and preservationist, her aunts and uncles were restaurant owners back home, though owning a restaurant is a little different in Malaysia. "It's more casual, a communal effort. If one member of the family cooks, then they cook for the whole town."
Ange wants to do the same for Philly. Born in Kampar (she visits often), Ange and her family moved to Kuala Lumpur when she was two years old. She received her college degree in Scotland, moved to the States to pursue a career in business accounting, and met her husband, John, rock climbing at her brother-in-law's gym. After climbing to the top the corporate ladder at Deloitte and IBM, Ange decided to retire to pursue her dream of owning her own Malaysian restaurant in Philadelphia.
"I wanted to do something that isn't work, something I'm passionate about. When I retired I wanted to bring home the idea of family, my background, this food."
And she really brought it home. Almost everything in the restaurant is imported from Malaysia, from the marble-topped custom tables typical of a Malaysian restaurant, to an ornate wooden cabinet in the front of the restaurant, containing Malaysian goodies available for retail purchase. Plates and silverware are common to that of the markets and carts that line the streets back home. A mural by Jared Bader depicts a street food scene on Jalan Alor in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur. "We wanted to bring the street food scene inside."
The restaurant's namesake item, saté — skewered and grilled marinated meats — will be flamed over custom grills loaded with coconut shell briquettes (again, imported from Malaysia). And since southeast Asia has an enormous Muslim population, there will be a separate halal grill for practicing guests searching for a taste of home. But while saté is the focus, the rest of the menu is meant for sharing. Back in December, the Brancas gave Eater a sneak peek of those share items as preliminary guidance for a cuisine mostly unfamiliar to those that stroll the Avenue known primarily for French and Italian restaurants. With a new cuisine, comes a new education, and the Brancas are ready to teach.
Despite being BYOB, Saté Kampar will offer specialty drinks at the bar: pulled teas, "kopitiam" (traditional coffee house drinks), mix-your-own Ribena sodas, Milo (a regionally popular chocolate malt drink), and most impressively, freshly-hallowed coconuts, poked with straws.
Stay tuned for pictures and menus, and mark your calendars for next Wednesday's unveiling. With Perla's impending opening just down the street, East Passyunk's dining scene is primed for a heavy dose of diversity.