Tuesday 13 January 2009

Rasa Sayang


Rasa Sayang now has a sister joint at the U-bend side of Oxford Street. This new place is another bandwagon wannabe.

Nasi Lemak at £5.99

Overcooked rice with a despairing absence of lemak (coconut cream), one hard boiled battery egg,
two little ikan bilis (anchovies) swimming in a huge amount of kacang (peanuts), achar (pickled veg and fruits) consisting predominantly of carrots, passable sambal (hot chilli sauce) and a generous tub of classic Malaysian curry chicken. The latter was admittedly very good. Otherwise a big and disappointing fail.

I have a quibble with Rasa Sayang, they keep insisting they’re the only halal restaurant in Chinatown but why do pork pieces appear so blatantly in their Singapore prawn noodle dish! This irritates me
as much as the majority of halal pizza delivery firms in London who insist on misleading the punters by sticking to terms like pepperoni and ham, and choose not to tell us that they actually come from turkeys or some trotter-less animal instead. On both counts, a massive mickey-taking out of the Trade Descriptions Act!


Dinner with Soon from Peterborough. London was all too much for him, to me he was just a mountain goat that got the shock of his life when he came down to explore the valley.

Cin Cau (grass jelly) and Iced Lemon Tea

Soon's Wat Tan Chow Hor or Eggy Seafood Hor Fun Noodle.
He thought that C&R over in Rupert Court was better.

My Hainanese Chicken Rice

I would like to put my tuppence worth on the virtues of this dish. Like pie and mash (the condiments of vinegar and white pepper are there for a reason!) Chicken Rice is a subtly flavoured dish. The rice is steamed using the stock that the chicken has been poached in. Obviously if a free range or organic bird is used, all the better. In Malaysia and Singapore, the chicken served is ever so slightly undercooked (evidence of blood from within the bones of the chicken pieces is the norm). Any meats that are poached can taste underwhelming at best, hence the importance of the dipping sauces. In order of prominence; the garlic/chilli sauce is vital for this dish (back in the said countries some chicken rice joints are judged by this sauce alone), garlic purée (lends impact to an otherwise bland meat) and dark soy for those salt freaks. Hainanese chicken rice is a simplistic dish. For one to expect more out of it, you might as well inform the kitchen to add half a bag of salt, a heaped tablespoonful of MSG to your order and maybe while they’re at it coat the bird with batter and deep-fry it. The chicken rice served at Rasa Sayang is as good as it gets in London, it would be churlish to pan any Malaysian restaurant on this dish alone. For a more critical appraisal, one should go for things like Laksa, Nasi Lemak, Hokkien Mee or Beef Rendang. My advice is to only order this dish if you’re into comfort eating and have a morbid fear of spicy food.


How did that lurid thing end up there, I'm pretty sure planning permission wasn't granted! It was huge!

Take away dinner tonight. The things I do to convince myself that the findings I post are anything but contrary to what other folks think. Samantha, my Trusted Places mate didn't like it, Andy Hayler preferred the horrible Kiasu and the consistently clueless Matthew Norman (Malays are the indigenous Muslims and as this place isn't halal you won't find them in this restaurant, what you should have said is Malaysian instead!) for the Guardian, as well as having a torrid time was nearly knocked out by a waitress' elbow! Out of the three, obviously Samantha's views are to be taken more seriously, she's Malaysian after all.
A hawker stall favourite of fried carrot cake- I call it cubes of rice flour with white radish (although much to my annoyance daikon is quite often uttered!) This Teochew dish was wonderful, although I'd preferred more chilli paste, still very close to being authentic nonetheless.
Beef Rendang- This is a beautiful dish. Flavourful, spicy and aromatic. Yes Andy H. is right with the beef cubes not melting enough, but some Malays I know prefer their meat to be dried out and chewy (check out their fried chicken or fish dishes). The portion is greater than the one at Sedap plus a portion of boiled rice is included. Excellent value. One of the best beef rendangs in London.
Can't fault this place yet again, the food is that good.

This is my third time here and I'm compelled to say that this place is pretty much faultless. True on the three occasions that I've been here, they've all been one meal-dishes, but these dishes are not easy to replicate, especially if the sheer distance of 6.5K miles from their spiritual home of Malaysia is to be considered. Judging by the staggering amount of Malaysian women accompanied by their non-Malaysian partners, oo-ing and aah-ing over the food, Rasa Sayang is a massive success. The woman sitting next to me was in a state of euphoria. They were in London on a five-day package trip of musicals and plays from Walsall. She told me of her intentions to eat here for the next three nights, her bloke just stared at her, unsmiling, with a ‘but’ disbelief. I feel for her, I seriously do.

Iced Lemon Tea- much preferred green tea if not for the warm spring evening
Hae Mee or Prawn Mee- a brilliant Hokkien noodle soup dish. Don't be alarmed by the redness of it all, it's all quite palatable without setting your mouth on fire. For those who find the coconut cream in Laksas challenging to digest, this is a terrific alternative.
Now all budding chefs should sample this soup stock. The prawn stock is celestial and prejudices aside, it ought to be featured in Larousse Gastronomique. Lovely.
The service for Chinatown is wonderful. There's something about Chinese Malaysians, they're more accomodating and less patronising.
No service charge! Please don't forget and do the honours.


Came back tonight to confirm the good report from my first visit and Su-Lin's wonderful review.

Curry Laksa- all very red and all very grown up. Excellent as well as embarrassing; I was perspiring like a hog eating it! Hot, hot, hot.

Teh Tarik



or technically titling, my first outing at Rasa Sayang in Chinatown.

Pnigophobia is a fear of choking, and the dinner tonight contained a precarious amount of fish bones. Rasa Sayang is the latest Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown that occupies the premises that has been vacated by what was an above average Cantonese restaurant, Furama (you can see they're all falling like dominoes).

This is not a full review but a prelim taster. The Fish-head vermicelli was breathtakingly good, a promising start to budget eating for the year ahead. Please don’t let the idea of ‘head’ put you off, as Chinese clichés go, it’s the best and sweetest part of anything that moves. The fish I believe is a pomfret and you just watch out for those bones.

Fried Fish Head served with Vermicelli in Chinese Wine Soup

I noticed an absence of pork on the menu, so I can assume that this will appeal to diners with certain dietary requirements. Not so now (11/03/09)

I'm looking forward to the next visit.

5 Macclesfield Street

London, W1D 6AY



Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't believe in Chinese or malaysian or spore food in london - it really tastes crap compared to asia... and it's pricy.

Although i feel that yonks ago (going back 8 yrs now) food in chinatown used to be alot better. I could remember the days before royal dragon got refurbished (the dim sum and the chinese steak was to die for) and even the '97 HK cafe (i cant remember the name) served pretty authentic hainan chicken rice.

Heck even Hakkasan was serving great scallops the size of a human fist and was excellent!

But inthe years b4 the Beijing Olympics started gaining momentum - so many chefs flew back east and since then chinse food has just been dwinlding.

bellaphon said...

All very well, but I'm stuck here in London indefinitely; haven’t been back to KL or Singapore for at least a thousand days. You’ve really wound me up with the Hainanese Chicken Rice now, I so miss that.

Gastro1 said...

Where is the best Beef Ran Dang in London ?

bellaphon said...

Gastro1- Nice of you to stop by. I think the best rendang is cooked by the Muslim Malays. If they can get their act together there's this dingy Malaysian place called Bonda Cafe in Paddington. It's like a home from home thing. Watch this space.

Gastro1 said...

I shall seek it out sir !

My quest for a great Rendang in London continues.

Top Blog BTW !

Samantha Tan said...

hehe thank you for the namechecking again :) I am very surprised at your opinion of the place, especially in lauding the rendang... maybe the chef was having an off day when we went!

bellaphon said...

Sam, I must say this place gets consistently and disturbingly bad reviews. These reveiws only make me go back more just to compare notes with my findings. You know what I think the staff probably twigged every time I walk in with a camera. I'm going there next without my Johnny Paparazzi kit! Watch this space.

Sung said...

Been here a couple of times now and I'm perplexed by the bad press. The Roti Canai and Fish Head Vermicelli are v.good. Less impressed by their Hainan Chicken Rice but it's above avg. Service is good too.

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