Rasa Sayang (Malaysian) – Chinatown, London
Having been around for a while now, eight years in fact, what makes this place so unique, in spite of its unassuming shopfront, is the following:
Set in the heart of Chinatown, Rasa Sayang is the only halal restaurant in Chinatown.
Rasa Sayang claims to follow what’s known as the Peranakan style of cooking, which “combines Chinese ingredients and wok techniques with rich Malaysian spices”.
With a capacity of 80, which includes downstairs accommodation, this Malaysian-Singaporean restaurant, while appearing simple in both its decor and setup, promises:
A menu full of tangy, aromatic dishes – every one of them as delicious as the next.
Here we have two cold beverages and one hot to wash things down with.
First off, the classic Malay Teh Tarik – a luxuriously silky sweet tea whose condensed milk-base gives it that comforting depth of flavour – is a definite winner here.
What’s compellingly unique about the Bandung Cincau is the addition of grass jelly, or leaf jelly, that’s consumed across the Far East and made from the Platostoma palustre plant. This made up the top half of this quite delicious rose drink. With the rose syrup providing an attractive dark pink colour, it may, nonetheless, split the crowd in terms of its sweetness. And though it isn’t sickly sweet as rose water can be if used injudiciously, its sweetness is adequately tempered by the mild, slightly bitter taste of the grass jelly. A beverage that certainly deserves to be tried no less for its novelty factor.
Lastly, there’s the peculiarly named Milo Dinosaur, which is a wonderfully cold, chocolatey malt drink that, while ensuring a touch of acerbity, was extremely refreshing, with the milo powder sprinkled on top enhancing the taste of the malt.
If you love oysters, then this is a must!
Granted, it may sound like a recipe to some that ought not to work, but this turned out to be arguably the most surprising plate of the evening amidst a plethora of novel dishes.
Utterly delicious, with osyters that were soft to the touch and mixed in with an omelette that was cooked to perfection. Add a touch of the chilli sauce, and what you have is something that worked in more ways than one.
This Gado-Gado split the crowd. Although one Lion considered the combination of the fried bean curd, boiled egg and peanut (satay) sauce as “great” and a “must order item for eggetarians”, the remaining two thought otherwise. They believed the peanut sauce topping to be “rather insipid”, made worse by the saturated bean sprouts beneath which only succeeded in further watering down the overall flavour.
Note also that while the menu labelled this with a double-chilli warning, it wasn’t nearly as hot as perhaps indicated.
Thankfully, unanimity was achieved via the Sotong Kangkong.
Its most essential element, the cuttlefish, was cooked well enough for it to deliver a soft bite whilst maintaining a tender chewiness.
The shrimp sauce, while being very similar in colour to Hoisin, had a watery consistency courtesy perhaps of the fairly saturated ‘water morning glory’, aka ‘water spinach’, which was firm textured.
While being sweet, with a wonderfully acceptable spicy kick, it married really well with the sprinkling of peanuts over the top.
Another intriguing dish worth exploring.
Again, while being labelled with a double-chilli designation, this was disappointingly borderline.
On the plus side, the beef was relatively moist and tender, having sufficiently absorbed the mellow sweet flavours of the fairly pungent, though slightly grainy, ginger-based sauce.
And though the rice was moderately sticky and decently cooked, we all agreed the dish suffered from a lack of spice.
We certainly differed over how spicy the curry sauce was. While it was watery-cum-buttery in consistency, and in spite of the menu presenting this again with a two-chilli rating, one Lion described it “spicy with a little kick to the back of the throat”, another considered it as “underwhelming”, while the third believed it to be “moderately spicy minus any real depth of flavour”.
Nevertheless, the rice vermicelli (also available in flat rice noodle), along with the rest of this Curry Laksa’s constituent parts, was cooked well. With hard boiled eggs to boot, the tofu was particularly tasty having beautifully absorbed the spices of the broth.
In all, we’d say that the flavour of the curry was different, though certainly tasty in its own right.
What’s more, for a plate as large as this, and with all the generous ingredients therein: superb value for money at £7.90.
The Char Kuay Teow is a popular dish in Malaysia. This, on the other hand, was all a bit subtle and bordering on the bland.
Though the wide flat noodles were cooked well enough, not only had the chef skimped on what appeared to be either a couple of shrimps or prawns, but the entire dish, we felt, could have benefited from a spoon full of chilli, or soy sauce, or something or other.
Again, couldn’t argue against the price.
A warm dessert, with an almost lentil-like texture, that was nice and creamy, thanks to the glutinous nature of the black rice.
Taste-wise, this came across as almost earthy in taste, with a hint of sweetness from the coconut milk.
However, this may be an acquired taste for some, as it was for one Lion who simply declared: “Not for me!”
Swimming in a concoction of coconut milk and evaporated milk, this was covered in caramel palm sugar that was rich and luxuriously sweet, with a pleasantly bitter almost coffee-like aftertaste.
But, we all loved the jelly texture of the tapioca pearl pudding.
Yes it’s sweet, but not in a sickly manner. As such, we’d recommend this all the way.
The Cendol Ice though may have just pipped to the post all the above in terms of its bold combination of ingredients and, thus, uniqueness.
Most surprising of all was the composition of the compact pieces of ice that had an almost “crush ice” texture to them.
And although the liquid-base was composed of the same trio that made up the Sago Gula Melaka above, i.e. caramel palm sugar, coconut milk and evaporated milk, this dessert wasn’t nearly as rich or as sweet. Instead, its mildly sweet almost tea-like taste was most refreshing.
However, the cendol (pandan jelly) lacked any taste, and was perhaps there more for the addition of colour and texture than anything else. The red bean, on the other hand, offered an earthy aftertaste.
This one we’d definitely order again.
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
As the only Halal restaurant in the heart of Chinatown, it serves up some intriguingly unique and really good Malaysian dishes that are excellent value for money.
And with a varied menu, this is a place we could see ourselves coming to again and again to sample some of the other novel-sounding plates we simply didn't have room for on the day.
The attentive staff were extrememly helpful too; always anticipating the needs of the diner without being intrusive, and generally on point.
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