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Posts Tagged ‘Malaysian in London’

roti canai at Rasa Sayang

roti canai at Rasa Sayang Malaysian restaurant in Soho

roti canai at Sedap Malaysian restaurant in Clerkenwell

roti canai at Sedap Malaysian restaurant in Clerkenwell

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.

nasi lemak at Rasa Sayang restaurant

nasi lemak at Rasa Sayang restaurant

nasi lemak at Sedap restaurant in Clerkenwell

nasi lemak at Sedap restaurant in Clerkenwell

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.

fried pomfret, a clunker at Rasa Sayang

fried pomfret, a clunker at Rasa Sayang

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.

curry laksa at Sedap Malaysian restaurant

curry laksa at Sedap Malaysian restaurant

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

Rasa Sayang on Urbanspoon

Sedap on Urbanspoon

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murtabak ayam (chicken-filled roti) at Awana Mayalsian restaurant

murtabak ayam (chicken-filled roti) at Awana Mayalsian restaurant

A month ago, Jon and I checked out the Malaysia festival near City Hall with our friends Andy and Maggie. Generally, I’m never excited about the food sold at outdoor festivals. Regardless of what culture or event the festival celebrates, food stalls usually end up selling a mass of undifferentiated spring rolls, fried rice and sausages. You’d think I would just stop going to these things, but hope springs eternal, and this time, I was on a quest for roti canai (aka oily flatbread deliciousness served with curry dipping sauce).

Cue Awana, which had a stall at the festival serving crispy-yet-chewy roti, hot off the pan and served with an insides-warming yellow dal. It was tasty enough that this weekend, Jon and I went with two friends to eat at the restaurant itself.

We briefly considered eating early because Awana has a deal on London Eating that takes 50% off your food bill if you’re done with your table by 8 pm. But (a) I’m never hungry before 8; (b) it was Saturday night; and (c) we had other things going on earlier that day, so we resisted the temptation.

It’s too bad we skipped the deal, because while the food at Awana is pretty good, it’s just too much money for Malaysian basics like beef rendang (a coconut-milk-based quasi curry) or nasi goreng (fried rice). Most Awana main courses are £15-20; starters £5-8; and basics like white rice come at £4.50 per small bowl.

My favorite parts of the meal were the least expensive and roti-based. The chicken-and-spice-stuffed roti (murtabak ayam) pictured at top was delish. If Malaysia ever had to face off against Mexico in a stuffed flatbread competition, the murtabak‘s sweet-salty-spicy goodness would surely triumph over the quesadilla. The pickled onions on the side added a cool, tangy crunch.

Roti canai with yellow dal

Roti canai with yellow dal

Roti canai was no disappointment at £5.50 a portion, though the tiny bowl of dal was sad. Are yellow split peas just so expensive?

Beef rendang at Awana

Beef rendang at Awana

Beef rendang was the main courses I most looked forward to, but it wasn’t worth the £14. A little too sweet and liquidy. The coconut milk is supposed to cook out, but in Awana’s version, the beef, while tender and spicy, was still swimming in the stuff.

Fried pomfret was beautifully crispy and non-greasy, but it needed a sauce or salt; veggie chao kuew teow was inoffensive and forgettable. Red snapper curry was the best of the mains, with nice, big chunks of firm white fishiness and a spicy-sweet curry sauce.

The service was generally helpful, and the room was huge and sleek in a wannabe-hip way. We got seated in a corner that seemed reserved for tourists carrying London guidebooks, and the rest of the room was comprised of hen and stag dos. I saw more than one round of flaming shots go round. A weird vibe for a restaurant aiming for a high-end rep.

Our total for four appetizers, four mains, a forgettable dessert, and £65 of drinks came to £50 per person. I’d go back if I could get half-price food, but otherwise, I’ll keep looking elsewhere for Malaysian food.

Awana, 85 Sloane Avenue, SW3 3DX, 0207 584 8880; closest tube stations: South Kensington or Sloane Square

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Kiasu Restaurant exterior

When it’s cold outside, I crave curry laksa. The sweet, creamy coconut milk and the spicy chili oil warms me up. So last week, because it was cold and because – like many Londoners – we’ve been reading Time Out’s Top 50 Restaurants in London issue, Jon and I visited Kiasu, which was Time Out’s best “Cheap Eat” in 2007.

Kiasu is right across the street from Bayswater tube. It’s easy to miss (i.e., we missed it) because their front window is covered by so much distracting window art that you don’t notice the restaurant name. I can’t say the decor gets much better inside, but when I’m eating cheap, super-nice decor just makes me suspicious (that I’m paying more for overhead than for food).

Overall, our meal was good enough for the price, but it wasn’t good enough that I’d make Kiasu a destination. The dishes we ordered were a tad bland, which is not an adjective I expected to use when describing food from the Malay peninsula, and given how good all the other reviews I read were, maybe Kiasu’s popularity has been its downfall (i.e., is the kitchen toning down flavors to appeal to more people)? It was cheap, though. Two starters, two mains, and two drinks cost under £30.

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