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London – Some Hits & Some *Really* Woeful Misses at Rasa Malaysia, Bayswater

k
klyeoh Nov 15, 2012 10:10 PM

Rasa Malaysia (which translates from Malay as ‘Taste of Malaysia’) is a newish spot located in Berjaya Eden Park Hotel Bayswater, touting supposedly authentic Malaysian chow.

The restaurant also probably had an eye on the expat Malaysian community in London, which tend to favour Bayswater for its roast duck restaurants and the ever-popular Malaysian Hall Canteen.

What we tried:
- ‘Assam laksa’, the famous rice noodle dish from Penang with its trademark hot & sour flavors, spiked with prawn paste. It has the requisite taste, but the portion served was miserly, and one hardly discerned any fish flakes in the gravy. Let’s put it this way, if one’s first ever taste of ‘assam laksa’ was here, instead of back in Penang, you’d would have been consigned this dish to the dust-heap of history as one of the most regrettable item you’d ever had the misfortune of putting into your mouth.

- ‘Nasi lemak’, often regarded as Malaysia’s national dish. Decent version here – coconut-scented rice, garnished with a couple of small morsels of spice-marinated fried chicken, ‘sambal’ (chili) prawns, hard-boiled egg, crisp-fried ‘ikan bilis’ (anchovies) & cucumber. The coconut milk used was the canned variety, but still fine. The prawns had a bouncy-fresh texture whilst the sauce in which it was cooked was perfect: spicy, sour, sweet.

- ‘Roti canai’, crisp & flaky here, was great. For the uninitiated, the ‘roti canai’ is Malaysia’s take on Indian ‘paratha’, specifically the Keralan variety. Over at Rasa Malaysia, one can order it with either chicken or fish curry – both cooked Malaysian-style: thick, spicy and perfect to dunk pieces of the ‘rotis’ into. Both versions of curry we tried were tasty.

- ‘Mee Mamak’, a spicy fried noodle dish of Indian-Muslim origins in Malaysia. I’d say this is the best-executed dish in this restaurant: perfect blend of textures (soft Hokkien yellow noodles, crunchy tofu & fritters, ‘choy sum’ vegetables, beansprouts, shallots, egg) and flavors (slightly sweet, tomatoey, chilli-spicy). The one dish I’d come back for.

- Desserts: the Malaysian ‘kuehs’ served here were an unmitigated disaster – ‘kueh salat’, in the form most Malaysians would recognize, is a beautiful two-layered cake: the bottom layer being fragrant steamed and compressed pearl-colored glutinous rice, scented with coconut milk; topped by an upper layer of firm eggy-milky steamed custard which is tinged slightly olive-green by fresh pandan juice, which also lent it an aromatic fragrance. The version here (see pic) used artificial coloring which resulted in a shocking radioactive-green custard, so poorly made that the artificial coloring had also seeped into the glutinous rice. Tasted absolutely disgusting and was worse than any fake Malaysian ‘kueh’ I’d ever had in my life. Eclipsed even the previously "worst nyonya kueh spot in the world" I encountered earlier this year in Chennai, India - Bee's Kopitiam (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/844589).

The other ‘kueh’ was probably ‘kueh bingka’ – I’m just guessing here (seriously) because it was *so* bad, anything cooked by a pre-pubescent child in Home Science class in a Malaysian elementary school would probably taste better. I bet my bottom dollar – the ‘kuehs’ here are *not* cooked by a Malaysian chef, because they bore no resemblance to what Malaysians would know those ‘kuehs’ to be. Absolutely amateurish, half-hearted effort here, and an absolute sham.

If based upon the nightmarish Malaysian ‘kuehs’ alone, I’d never recommend anyone to try this restaurant – which is a pity because the ‘mee mamak’ was pretty decent.

Address details
============
Rasa Malaysia
Berjaya Eden Park Hotel
Inverness Place
London W2 3JS
Tel: 020 7221 2220

 
 
 
 
 
 
  1. huiray Nov 16, 2012 04:05 AM

    Well, at least the dish you had wanted to try was good.

    The kueh2 do look terrible. So sad.

    The "assam laksa" looks nothing like what is advertised on their 'flyer': http://www.berjayahotel.com/flyer/lon...

    No peanuts with your "nasi lemak"? They specifically mentioned peanuts in their description of the "nasi lemak ayam berempah" they offer.

    The "mee mamak" does look similar although much browner. I guess the chef likely being a Mamak chap did matter. :-)

    Is there a separate restaurant (separate from 'Eden Bar & Restaurant') and/or a separate kitchen for the Rasa Malaysia food?

    11 Replies
    1. re: huiray
      k
      klyeoh Nov 16, 2012 05:20 AM

      Eden Bar & Restaurant did look like it's right next to Rasa Malaysia, so not sure if they have separate kitchens. The Bangladeshi maitre'd told me Rasa Malaysia's 'halal', but am not sure if the standards they apply here is as stringent as those in Malaysia.

      Ah, their flyer - *nothing* we were served actually looked anything like the pictures in the flyer. The fried chicken in their 'nasi lemak' set were miniscule, whereas the ones shown on the flyer were generous pieces of fried chicken. Gross misrepresentation, I should say. And no peanuts in the 'nasi lemak' - maybe they were out-of-stock.

      Not sure if this restaurant can last, at the rate they're going.

      1. re: klyeoh
        huiray Nov 16, 2012 05:57 AM

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_ad...
        :-)

        1. re: klyeoh
          t
          Theresa Nov 16, 2012 10:51 AM

          When I first read your review, I was a bit confused, because you seemed to be dissatisfied overall, but you made more positive comments than negative. So it's strange that you say you're not sure if the place can last, when a summary of your review is:

          The Assam laksathe had the "requisite taste" - although you did say that it was a stingey portion and it didn't have enough fish.

          The Nasi lemak was a "decent version"

          The Roti canai was "crisp & flaky" and "great". And "both versions of curry we tried were tasty".

          The Mee Mamak was a "perfect blend of textures ... the one dish I’d come back for".

          The Malaysian ‘kuehs’ were "an unmitigated disaster".

          Have I got the wrong end of the stick? The only negatives were the puddings and the comments about the first course (but which still had the right flavours) ... I kind of started to want to eat there because of the descriptions of individual dishes (and now knowing what to avoid!), but your overall comments don't seem to match your description of your experience.

          1. re: Theresa
            huiray Nov 16, 2012 01:49 PM

            Hmm. I understand perfectly what klyeoh is saying. The "assam laksa", for example - when he says the "taste" is there but the rest of it is deficient - to me that means there is a basic semblance of what the stock ought to taste like, but the dsh as a whole - with the expected ingredients and add-ons - is simply not there. It is a MAJOR deficiency, not a trifling matter. His comment about if one sought to calibrate one's perception of the dish based on the rendition at Rasa Malaysia makes perfect sense to me.

            In a similar vein, his other comments are sensible to me. Of course, he ought to respond to you directly.

            1. re: Theresa
              k
              klyeoh Nov 16, 2012 03:07 PM

              Theresa - perhaps I should have been more explicit:

              Avoid the 'assam laksa', unless you have a very small appetite: you pay GBP7.50 for what amounts to 6-7 spoonfuls of noodles & soup which, although tasted pretty "authentic", did not have the right amount of shredded pineapple, cucumber, or onions. No torch ginger was used here, nor mint leaves. You probably get the requisite 'laksa taste' taste from frozen paste or powdered flavorings used. In Malaysia, something like this costs < GBP1, with fresher ingredients and replete with flaked fish meat - which you won't find in Rasa Malaysia's rendition.

              'Nasi lemak' is pretty decent BY LONDON STANDARDS, but not something one will eat in Kuala Lumpur or anywhere in Malaysia. So, unless you're planning a holiday in Malaysia sometime soon, the one here will suffice.

              The 'roti canai' iand 'mee mamak' are both good. If I have to come back to this restaurant - as a guest of someone else, not of my own choice or volition, of course - I would order either one of these.

              "Malaysian kuehs" - disastrous.

              If you want to eat Malaysian - go to Sedap at Old Street, or Singapore Garden at Swiss Cottage.

              As for whether the place will last: well, better-positioned & better-established Malaysian spots like Melati (Soho) and Jom Makan (Trafalgar Square) have both gone bust very recently.

              1. re: klyeoh
                t
                Theresa Nov 17, 2012 12:18 AM

                Thanks! Sorry if I was being picky - but I was genuinely confused by what seemed to be a pretty decent review :o).

                I used to travel down to London all the time for work reasons, but I don't do much of that anymore. I've been to Sedap, but that was ages ago now, and would love to have somewhere like that near to where I live.

                1. re: Theresa
                  k
                  klyeoh Nov 17, 2012 10:15 PM

                  No worries at all - always good to clarify. And to add to your confusion further, I was over at Malaysia Hall Canteen yesterday - the go-to place for all-things-Malaysian - tried the "Nasi Lemak" (as I'd mentioned - Malaysia's de facto national dish) - and it actually tasted worse than the one served at Rasa Malaysia!

                  The place was manned by Malay cooks brought in by the Malaysian government, and the spartan-looking cafeteria was filled to the brim with Malays (students, expats, visitors) - I was the only non-Malay there!

                  I was there to try the "Assam Laksa" actually, but was told it was not ready yet. Prices are low though - the "Nasi Lemak", which came with fried egg, spicy chicken "rendang", anchovies/ groundnuts, cucumbers & a huge dollop of red-hot "sambal" chili paste costed only £5.

                  The "kueh-kueh" (traditional Malay cakes) there looked pretty authentic, and they had this eye-popping spread of Malay dishes - not sure how the dishes there would taste: the current caterer is new (heard that the previous one stayed on in London but went on to open Tuk Din Malaysian restaurant nearby).

                  Address details
                  ============
                  Malaysia Hall Canteen
                  30-34, Queensborough Terrace
                  London W2 3ST

                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                  1. re: klyeoh
                    huiray Nov 18, 2012 06:04 AM

                    Y'know, I don't recognize the Queensborough Terrace address of Malaysia Hall. I remember it as *much* closer to Marble Arch, in fact it was "just up a bit" from there. I looked it up - and yes, it used to be in Bryanston Square.
                    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1309&dat=20000115&id=e1ZIAAAAIBAJ&sjid=YxQEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6891,513361
                    http://adib.typepad.com/blog/2004/07/memoirs_of_mala.html

                    Hmm, did we talk about this before? If so I don't remember that.

                    ETA: OK, you did mention it in an old thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5755... which I never read before...

                    1. re: huiray
                      k
                      klyeoh Nov 18, 2012 12:24 PM

                      Oh yes, huiray - we did talk about this before:
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/829049

                    2. re: klyeoh
                      deansa Nov 18, 2012 09:33 AM

                      Worth noting that you have to be a Malaysian citizen (or at least accompanied by one) to go here. I went a few weeks ago and got a big telling off. They did serve me in the end, but said quite clearly not to come back unless I was accompanied by a Malaysian.

                      1. re: deansa
                        k
                        klyeoh Nov 18, 2012 12:21 PM

                        The food's subsidized by the Malaysian government, and meant for their students, plus Malaysians passing by London, or those visiting their children who're studying here.

                        In the past - especially in their old Bryanston Square location, they were pretty lax about having non-Malaysians dining there. My last visit to that old location, I saw Arabs/Middle-Easterners, North Africans - most likely Muslims coming for 'halal' food as Malaysia Hall canteen's food are meant for the ethnic Malays from Malaysia, who's all Muslims.

                        But non-Muslim Malaysians, i.e. the ethnic Chinese-Malaysians and Indian-Malaysians also make a beeline there for the 'nasi lemak', Malay curries, 'assam laksa', etc. No problem for Singaporeans to go there as well, as one generally cannot tell Singaporeans & Malaysians apart.

                        Worth noting that the Bryanston Square location was closed due to cost-cutting measures by the Malaysian government during the last Asian financial crisis. Due to an uproar by the expat Malaysian community in London, and also generations of Malaysians who studied in the UK and had fond memories of the Malaysia Hall canteen, it was re-opened shortly thereafter in its current Queensborough Terrace location.

                        deansa, that's why the current caterers were so sensitive about selling subsidized food to those who're obviously non-Malaysians - they'd probably been warned not to do so by the Malaysian government.

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