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When Mamak Malaysian Restaurant first opened directly across a parking lot from Houston's favorite Malaysian joint, Banana Leaf, many were skeptical about the competing eatery. Since then, though, people have come to see the need for both restaurants, as each is packed nearly every evening. Mamak offers a slightly more upscale dining experience than does Banana Leaf (though the service is lacking), and slight differences in recipes set the two apart. Mamak specializes in divine seafood - think inexpensive but fresh-as-can-be lobsters and crabs - with hot and spicy sauce or traditional sambal sauce, a mixture of herbs and spices heavy on the lemongrass and shrimp paste. Also notable is the nasi lemak, the national dish of Malaysia, and the oh-so-refreshing coconuts chopped open on demand and filled with sweet water and creamy, slippery white flesh. Bring your own alcohol for an exotic and inexpensive dinner in one of Chinatown's liveliest shopping centers. And when you're done, go get a foot massage, a haircut or a violin lesson. All this and more is within walking distance.