Dallas Welcomes Asian Influences

Kevin Marple

The husband-and-wife owners of Malai Kitchen bring Southeast Asian cuisine to a city better known for hearty steaks and Tex-Mex.

Seasoned restaurant managers and graduates of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, husband-and-wife team Braden and Yasmin Wages know how to open and sustain a successful restaurant. They’ve done it for three and a half years at Malai Kitchen in Dallas.

Inspired by the couple’s extensive travel throughout Thailand and Vietnam, Malai Kitchen’s menu revolves around Southeast Asian cuisine, the couple’s favorite cuisine, although Yasmin was born in India and raised in the Lone Star State. At Malai Kitchen, they make everything from scratch, even the coconut milk and curry paste, and they recently applied for a brewpub license to brew and serve their own Vietnamese-style beer. Braden heads up the kitchen while Yasmin works the front of the house. The two say they collaborate on everything, from menu development to beer pairings, décor, and design in the 120-seat, 2,500-square-foot restaurant, which has both indoor and outdoor seating.

“Everything is a discussion; no one voice is stronger than the other,” Yasmin says, admitting she is frequently asked how she does it, in reference to their married and working relationship. “That kind of mentality makes living and working together easy, and outside of being husband and wife, we’re also very good friends. We’re much stronger as a team than we are independently, and that helps us create a stronger environment both at home and at the restaurant.”

In fact, Malai’s mission revolves around an “I care” culture, where everyone helps each other out and supports the common cause. The concept was actually a project in the making for years, as the couple worked for wineries in Napa, California, and later, when Braden worked for the Hillstone Restaurant Group, a Los Angeles–based operator of upscale-casual restaurant brands around the country.

When it opened, Malai Kitchen was one of the only Southeast Asian restaurants in Dallas, and the cuisine has enjoyed growing popularity. “Our concept has been very well-received, and people like our food because of its lightness, and it’s a little healthier than other cuisines,” Braden says. “We decided early on we wanted a global kitchen because we travel a lot, and it just made sense to narrow it down to our favorite cuisine.”



MLK , as I refer to it, is our family "go to " place for celebrations--like my daughter's graduation from UTSW medical school or my Manhattan lawyer son in law's birthday when he and his wife are in town. According to Dan, " I can't believe I'm in Dallas. This is a place I would definitely take clients to." Yes. MLK is the "cat's meow" in my book and I ought to know because I'm a big reader. I love Yasmin and Branden's no nonsense, classy approach to dining in Uptown. While there, I also sometimes forget I am in Dallas and am transported to other great cities around the world. Their creative menu, light ambiance, and impeccable service are top notch.


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