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Dec 28, 2008 12:35 PM

Rasa Sayang, Chinatown, London

A new Singaporean/Malaysian place, next to Leong's Legend.

Very good rendition of Hainanese chicken rice - silky poached chicken, with the proper trio of sauces (a minced ginger sauce, dark sticky soy and a chili sauce). The rice is pretty good and quite chickeny. The broth is the weak part, more sesame oil and soy sauce, instead of the clarity of chicken consomme. I'd say the rice is a touch better at the nearby Malaysia Kopi Tiam, but the chicken is comparable, with an edge to the sauces here.

Char kway teow is skippable, a basic version with prawns and sliced fish balls, bean sprouts and green onion. The version I had at Kiasu a while ago was much better and more definitive. (Although I have heard that Kiasu has changed chefs and has been on a downhill slide....any updates?)

Nasi goreng istimewa, an Indonesian/Malay fried rice comes across very well. The chicken satay was surprisingly tender, despite the large pieces, the marinate decent, and the peanut sauce on it the right stuff. Fairly good fried rice with a generous portion of prawns, and a pleasant hint of chilli spice.

An ok teh tarik - a milk tea that could be more frothy.

Was pleasantly surprised to to see stuff like oneh oneh - the glutinous rice skins were soft and chewy (very good) and the right filling of dark palm sugar, except that it was still a little solid in the centre - the filling should be a warm liquid sugar. Nit-picking but I wish the coconut flakes on the outside were a little finer. Nevertheless a brave effort and will be back to try this again when they get past their opening stage.

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  1. limster, just want you to know i'm following all your london postings closely, since i end up having to travel there on occasion. i hope you keep them up and know that you have an appreciative audience. thanks!!

    1 Reply
    1. re: cimui

      I'm very grateful for your kind words, just as I'm extremely grateful for all the information I've gotten from all the posters on this site. Hope to hear about the places you chow at when you're here.

    2. You're very up-to-date. I was on holiday in Kuala Lumpur over Christmas, and there was an article in the Malaysian Star featuring an interview with the owner of the newly-opened Rasa Sayang.

      3 days later, the The Star featured a second article, this time including interviews with the owners of Malaysia Kopi Tiam & Kerana Mu. Seems like most Malaysian restaurateurs still preferred to recruit Malaysian chefs, despite the current more stringent UK labour laws which favored Eastern Europeans & South Africans for cooks. Both men felt that you'd need a Malaysian chef, rather than a Polish one to cook chicken curry or noodles.

      Please keep us updated on Rasa Sayang's development.

      1 Reply
      1. Thanks for this report. I'd heard about this place on Foodepedia but wasn't sure where it was. I'm looking forward to giving it a try.

        (Until now I had all but given up on Malay food in London, and have been cooking it for myself using an excellent new Terry Tan book.)

        6 Replies
        1. re: DollyDagger

          It's just one of the those places that I stumbled across, as I walk through that neighbourhood often. The thing with Singapore/Malaysian cooking is that it's often very specialised, where one stall only cooked one dish. So often it's tough to figure out what that one dish that is good at such a place, that serves a variety of dishes. Have also been trying more stuff at Malaysian Kopi Tiam on Charing Cross Rd nearby. We all need to sample these menus more broadly to get a better picture of what's good; I'm looking forward to hearing more about these places.

          1. re: limster

            I was very fond of a Malaysian beef dish that I often ordered at a place in Manhattan. Maybe you can help me with the name, as I've fogotten it (probably never knew it!). The beef seems almost fried and is served with wide, very chewy white noodles. If I can find that in London, I'll be in heaven. So far, I haven't gone to any of the places you've recommended such as Kopi Tiam.

            1. re: zuriga1

              I'm wondering if the flat noodles are "ho fun" or "kuay teow" -- if they are then it's a matter of just ordering beef ho fun or beef kuay teow. I think Malaysia Kopi Tiam might have that, but not 100% sure -- good thing that their menu has pictures.

              1. re: limster

                'Ho fun' sounds familiar. Thanks... and easy to remember!

                1. re: zuriga1

                  A lucky guess. :)

                  A related dish worth trying in the Wan Tan Ho at C&R in Chinatown. Flat rice noodles, but with a mix of seafood, egg, meat and vegetables in a slightly starchy sauce. As good as back home.

                  1. re: limster

                    C&R was really authentic having spent some time in Indonesia. I must go back as it goes.

        2. Couple more:

          The curry laksa, is really more of a curry mee than the Peranakan styled laksa. The broth itself is appropriately chilli hot, but the spicing is more earthy and heavy, perhaps more smokiness from chilli and curry leaves and maybe the underlying stock isn't as chickeny. Comes with fried bean curd (tau pok), chicken, fish cake, bean sprouts (wished for more of this). Not bad, but I liked the curry mee more at Malaysian Kopi Tiam (which they also call laksa, but is really more of the curry mee and a good one at that).

          Kueh dada is very good, palm sugar and coconut filling in a thick chewy bouncy crepe flavoured with pandan (aka screwpine). Minor things to nitpick - there's too much wrapping -- if they could be made smaller there would only be one layer of wrapping on the outside, shifting the focus to the sweet dark filling.

          1. I was trying to find my review of this place. It seems like I haven't yet posted one, so here it is:

            We went for dinner about a week ago. I got Curry Laksa that tasted like I had gotten it at a stall somewhere in Malaysia, seriously. The chicken curry sauce with the Roti Canai was also superior - with much more depth and spiciness than the standard-issue stuff I get at even relatively good Malaysian restaurants in my home town of New York. I also liked that the Roti Canai was a bit thick, more similar to the old-style ones I used to get from a Mamak with a griddle outside the Pasar Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur in 1975. My girlfriend got Ipoh noodles with chicken - I think they were Hokkien-style. They were delicious, soothing, and a bit white-peppery, with fresh-tasting chicken. Tremendous bowls, too - almost too big. We then had some tasty Sago Gula Melaka for dessert.

            I gotta tell you Londoners, if there are better Malaysian restaurants in your city, man are you lucky! There is nothing close to the quality and deliciousness of Rasa Sayang in New York, including Queens, and it was cheap to boot!

            6 Replies
            1. re: Pan

              Cool, I will try this place soon!

              1. re: Pan

                There are better Singapore/Malaysian places here but it depends on the dish as well. Sedap's a great place for Penang style Nyona (the family that runs it were quite famous in Singapore for their cooking). And recently had better nasi lemak at Eatzone near Kentish Town, as well as a bunch of stuff at Bonda Cafe. The place lots of chowhounds talk about though, which I haven't been, is the Malaysian Canteen in Bayswater.

                1. re: limster

                  I went to the Malaysian Canteen for the first time last week and loved it. had a really good salted-fish curry, pretty decent rendang, roti canai, and teh tarik. A few desserts as well, including a pandan one and a coconut one. The fish curry was excellent - some of the best Malaysian food I've had outside of Malaysia. Teh tarik was also great. Roti and rendang were also both good, but the version at Sedap is better I think (but the prices at the canteen are much lower).

                  worth noting that during Ramadan, the canteen is only open in the evenings, from 4 pm - 10 pm

                  1. re: Dave MP

                    Love to hear a comparison vs Bonda Cafe. On weekends they have nasi campur -- rice with a choice of dishes selected at the kitchen counter.

                    1. re: limster

                      Cool, I'll try Bonda Cafe soon hopefully. Looks like, based on their website, that during Ramadan they have nasi campur every evening (doors open at 6 PM)


                      Dave MP

                      1. re: Dave MP

                        I went to Bonda Cafe tonight, and had an okay meal. Perhaps if I wasn't comparing it to the Malaysian canteen I'd be more excited about it, but I think this meal just didn't live up to the meal I had at the canteen last week

                        I arrived at Bonda at about 8:15 PM, and the place was about 1/3 full, but it already felt like I had arrived too late. Everything was fine, but just a bit lackluster - the trays of food for the nasi campur seemed very grazed over, and some dishes were already gone. I ended up choosing the nasi campur w/ two dishes - a fish sambal (pretty good, made w/ salted fish - but not as good as the similar dish I had at the Malaysian canteen) and a fish curry (made with fresh fish, not so special). This also came with a vegetable side (not of my choosing) which tonight was cabbage stir fry, which was not good at all. Really boring, tasted like airplane food. On a not-very-good airline.

                        I also had a teh tarik which was good, if a little sweet. But nice and frothy.

                        For dessert, I had three different types of kuih - a green pancake filled w/ coconut, a little green mochi filled w/ palm sugar, and the coconut/pandan layered one which they have everywhere. These were no better or worse than what I tried at the canteen, but certainly not as good as what they make at Sedap.

                        Total bill for all of this was £9.50 which was reasonable.

                        Overall, if I'm trekking out to the Queensway/Paddington/Lancaster Gate area, I'm more likely to stick with the Malaysian Canteen from now on.

                        Dave MP