01 September 2009

Going Straits in Chinatown

In the last few years, Chinatown has seen a wave of restaurants from the non-Canto variety opening.  The Malaysian and Singaporean restaurant Rasa Sayang, located next to Leong Legends is one of the most recent and talked about eateries to join the area.

 
Curry chee cheong fun

The restaurant has intrigued me, because it's divided critics since opening. Some have lauded it for its no-nonense cheap and homestyle food, while others have knocked it for its rushed and rude service, althoughtI just think that's Chinatown in general.  I always like to keep an open mind when it comes to reviews, so I headed there with the AB in tow for the Eat, Drink, Sleep, Shop & Love review of Rasa Sayang.

When we arrived at Rasa Sayang the restaurant was full, so we were handed the menu to survey by the cash register until a table became available.  After 5/10 mintues we were ushered to a table.  It was Asian food for beginners.  The menu was littered with bright, toxic photography of the dishes.  Refreshingly, it's a short and compact menu.  There are no starters just side dishes, mains and desserts.  To ensure the freshness of the food, dishes are served Wagamama-style from the kitchen as soon as it's ready to eat. 

First to arrive was the curry chee cheong fun (£3), a popular Cantonese dish of steamed rice cannelloni typically served at dim sum.  The small plate which came steaming hot from the kitchen covered in a light curried sauce and sprinkled with deep fried shallots (disappointly ready-made), was bland and needed more seasoning.  It was the culinary equivalent of the Welsh take away classic curry on chips.  

Nasi goreng istimewa accompanied by chicken satay and prawn crackers

The nasi goreng istimewa (£6.90) from the "Straits Culinary Favourites" section of the menu, a traditional Malay breakfast dish consiting of soy flavoured stirfried rice served with chicken satay, a fried egg. crisp anchovy and keropok (shrimp crackers), in contrast was a delight.  The rice was perfectly cooked and seasoned.  While satay chicken was moist, with a spicy but not too firey kick.   This one-plate dish was the highlight of the meal.  It was filling, immensely satifying and a steal at under £7. 

Curry laksa
From the "Heat Zone" section of the menu, we ordered the curry laksa (£6.60).  This classic Straits dish is available at the restaurant with the choice of thick egg or vermicelli noodles.  The hot and spicy cocount, Malay and Singapore classic came in a large bowl filled with a generous portion of prawns, fish cakes, squid, bean curd, hard boiled eggs and a garnish of beansprouts.  I've tried the laksa at C&R another Chinatown stalwart known for its laksa, and the laksa at Rasa Sayang blew that one out of the water with its complex and lightly perfumed soup.
Curry puffs
The portions at Rasa Sayang are generous, so once the curry puffs (£3) were brought out from the kitchen, we were almost full to bursting.  But this was fine as the puffs were an utter disappointment, and not worth eating.  What should have been small puff pastry pies filled with a lightly spiced curry and potato filling, were instead greasy balls of batter.   I'm sure I could have sued under the trade descriptions act, as the three balls which were brought out didn't match the picture and description on the menu, but I was so buoyed by the mains, even the puffs couldn't spoil the meal.

The AB has a friend called Magneto who is a laksa lover and long-time regular at C&R and he reckons that the Rasa Sayang curry laksa is good enough to convert the C&R devotee to this Chinatown newcomer.   And that's saying something.

Rasa Sayang on UrbanspoonRasa Sayang is by no means the best Malay and Singaporean restaurant in London, but the homestyle cooking, its budget prices and buzzy atmosphere makes it worth a visit.  Rasa Sayang means "the feel of love" Malay, so I'm sharing my love of this gem and advising you to go now while you can still get in. 

What the critics say:
The good:
Time Out
The bad:
The Guardian

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