In between our trips to Barcelona, Paris and Istanbul last month (yes, I’m gloating), Jon and I would return to London craving cheap-and-cheerful Asian food. And after seeing Rasa Sayang lauded by Tamarind & Thyme (who knows a thing or two about Malaysian food), we visited there one Saturday evening with friends, and on two other occasions, we stayed closer to home to try Sedap, which got a positive writeup in TimeOut. Both Rasa Sayang and Sedap serve homestyle Malaysian food, so it seems worth comparing them directly.
First up: roti canai. While Rasa Sayang’s roti was slightly crispier and flakier than Sedap’s, I liked that the chicken curry at Sedap was meatier and more substantial an accompaniment. Still, for me, it’s all about the roti, so advantage to Rasa Sayang.
Second up: Nasi lemak. Although Rasa Sayang’s rice was (as Tamarind & Thyme said) beautifully perfumed with coconut milk and the accompanying bits and bobs were varied and tasty, I give the slight edge to Sedap’s version just because their rice was equally good, and they left their eggs slightly soft (rather than chalky like at Rasa Sayang). Advantage to Sedap.
And now the head-to-head comparisons end. My problem with Rasa Sayang, overall, was that the dishes varied enormously in quality. Rasa Sayang’s fried pomfret , for example, was tiny, dry and lacking meat. A total bummer. And the beef rendang – the night I ate at Rasa Sayang, the beef was tough and stringy. The sauce had a nice balance of spicy, sweet and meaty, but I suspect the beef was just dumped in at the last minute, rather than slow cooked to tenderness. Sloppy and disappointing. Oh, and the curry puffs – they were a giant ball of fried batter, pretty much. While I am a card-carrying member of the I Love Fried Food club, watching all the oil ooze out of these strangely curry-free balls was frightening.
While Sedap also had its clunkers (the vegetable dumplings were outrageously tough-skinned), overall, the food seemed more consistently tasty across the menu. The curry laksa, for example, included a generous portion of tender, sweet prawns, and the broth had a meaty taste with just enough coconut milk to cut the spice. Jon’s char kway teow was deliciously smoky and full of goodies like Chinese sausage.
Service at Rasa Sayang was chaotic and slow, while Sedap’s service was good-natured and attentive. Prices at both were comparable (£6-8 for most mains), meaning that even after ordering starters, mains and a couple of beers, I never paid more than £20 a person at either restaurant
While Rasa Sayang and Sedap are both welcome additions to the category of cheap-and-cheerful neighborhood places, given a choice, I’ll stick with Sedap. Rasa Sayang hit a few high notes, but not so many that I’d make it a destination. Especially when I live ten minutes away from Old Street.
Rasa Sayang, 5 Macclesfield Street (next door to the original Leong’s Legends), W1D 5; 0207 734 1382; closest tube station: Leicester Square
Sedap, 102 Old Street, EC1V 9AY; 0207 490 0200; closest tube station: Old Street