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Mar 22, 2008 04:45 AM

[London] Malaysian food at Awana, and then?

For my birthday meal this year, my family took me to Awana as we had read good reviews and enjoyed the food at their sister restaurant, the Mango Tree, twice before.

It's a very slick venue, as expected, and much smaller than the Mango Tree but equally noise. (At both, we found it hard to have a proper conversation without leaning in or shouting). Cocktails were excellent (especially the Asian Bellini infused with fire dragon fruit) and the staff were very attentive and helpful - they had no problem moving us to another table when we were initially seated in an awkward spot by the door.

Food highlights including the roti canai with red curry or dahl sauce, which you can watch being prepared on the 'cook cam'; and the queen scallops with lime leaf, lemongrass and chill served in their shells. Chargrilled duck breast in sweet black pepper sauce was cooked to perfection, and the corn-fed chicken in my stir-fry dish was delicious.

Perhaps surprisingly, my favourite course was dessert. I chose the chocolate and pistachio cake with coconut ice-cream, and my little brother went for the trio of sorbets. He chose gin and tonic (!), mangosteen and guava, and lemongrass and chilli - the flavours went really well together, but the lemongrass sorbet had quite a fierce chilli kick which might not be to everyone's taste.

Everything we ordered was fresh and tasty, but there was no real 'wow' factor - maybe because we chose fairly standard dishes. I would recommend it, but not for a quiet meal for two!

I'm eager to explore Malaysian food and wondered if any of you can recommend some more authentic venues for me to try?

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  1. C&R Cafe in Soho is a fine contrast with Awana - rough and ready, cheap as chips, but - if you choose carefully - has some fantastic and (so far as I can tell) authentic dishes.

    The Nasi Lemak is so good that I now find it hard to order anything else.

    1. I like C&R in Chinatown; it's not perfect, but a number of noodle dishes are well made. My favourite so far is the Wat Dan Ho, essentially stir fried kway teow (flat rice noodles) with pork, prawns, fish cake, greens (can't remember if it was baby bak choi or choi sum), witha gravy of very gently cooked egg. Ask for green chilli -- it's a very standard condiment of pickled green chilli in soy sauce that one eats with lots of stuff in Singapore and Malaysia. I'm super grateful for having the proper type of chilli here, having endured jalapenos for over a decade.

      7 Replies
      1. re: limster

        glad you found stuff to dig at c&r - it was amongst my very first discoveries when i got here (summer 2000, where did the time go).

        1. re: howler

          Cool! (Now that I know, I could dig up your old posts, which are still on the International Board.) I wouldn't have found it that quickly if it wasn't for a Singaporean friend of mine who showed me around chinatown. I've only tried a few things, will have to try the roti canai. Anything else that you like there?

          1. re: limster

            haven't been back for a while, so no up to date info. weirdly, the branch in westbourne grove is pretty awful.

            out of curiosity - have you tried the malaysian student dining hall off bayswater? its a bit pricey for canteen food, but i had some egg + sambal that was superb.

            1. re: howler

              No, haven't tried them yet...will have to put that on the to do list.

              1. re: howler

                Can you provide the exact address of the malaysian student dining hall? That looks like a place we'd sometime like to try.

        2. I'd recommend Kiasu in Queensway which is priced rather reasonably and serves authentic tasting Singaporean and Malaysian food. Reservations are essential for this restaurant as it gets crowded really quickly. Another friend of me (we're both Singaporeans) recommends Nyonya in Notting Hill which I have yet to try.