Simple but First Class

Rasa Sayang This unassuming restaurant is easily missed. It sits on a side street off the main Chinatown thoroughfare although it still manages to attract a loyal following from the local and not-so-local Malaysian community.
It’s evident that food rather than decor is the draw here. It isn’t over-themed with Chinese lanterns and calligraphy. There is not a jade dragon to be seen. Rather, think Habitat and its Swedish counterpart than the Forbidden City, with a practical no-nonsense appearance. The food, however, a far cry from meatballs and open sandwiches.
Rasa Sayang offers Straits dishes. This isn’t modern fusion, and if it’s fusion at all it’s ancient. It is a cuisine that nods to all the culinary traditions of Malaysia and its neighbours. It has a spice palate of both Chinese and Indian but the resulting masterpiece is unique.
As snow fell, we drank traditional Malaysian tea, Teh Tarik. This was welcome, hot and much lighter than the versions I have previously tried. Chicken Satay is ubiquitous to Malaysian restaurants all around the world. They often pander to “Western” taste and may be nothing more than skewers of grilled chicken with a dip of peanut butter and a dash of soy sauce. Rasa Sayang has satay that is robust and boastful. It has punch.
Gado Gado is a preparation of bean curd and mixed vegetables with a sweet-spicy sauce. Roti Canai was a simple dish but an absolute triumph. This is the lightest and flakiest roti I have ever had. It is served with a small bowl of curry sauce and should come with a warning – you’ll find it hard to resist a second helping. Much better value for money than a cold curly sandwich for a light winter lunch.
Otak Otak – grilled fish cakes in banana leaf – were delicate and not excessively fishy with a mousse-like texture. Fried Tofu with a spicy mango sauce was a visual delight. Balls of bean curd are deep-fried to produce a crisp crust and a custard-like interior. The tangy sauce was a good counterpoint. A must-try dish for anyone who has professed to hating tofu.
Nasi Lemak is a hearty plateful of steamed coconut rice and chicken curry. A feast for the eyes. The meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender and was accompanied by a selection of condiments and garnishes such as peanuts and dried fish similar to the now-absent Bombay Duck of Indian restaurant fame. This added a pleasant saltiness to the rich curry.
The desserts at Rasa Sayang are fascinating, different and delicious. I am a lover of neither commercial ice cream nor banana fritters so an evening at an oriental restaurant often sees me leaving sans sweet finale. This restaurant has some exotic and impressive temptations in the form of Kueh Dada – pancakes of pandan (flavoured with an extract of leaves of pandanus amaryllifolius) filled with coconut; Kueh Salat – pandan essence and glutinous rice, subtle and sophisticated; Ondeh-Ondeh – sweet glutinous rice cakes.
The sweet stunner was Sago gula melaka – sago pudding in coconut and palm sugar broth. I can see you, dear reader, cringing at the very thought of sago. Yes, we can all remember it from school days (if one is of a certain age), cooked with water and looking and tasting like wallpaper paste. Sago gula melaka is far removed from that horror. It is, in fact, one of the few restaurant desserts that I would want to replicate chez nous. The sago is set, so there is no unseemly rolling around the plate. The palm sugar had a real flavour of rich toffee. Moreish and memorable.
The quality of food is first class and much appreciated by its discerning regulars. It offers value for money and dishes that are said by the expat Malaysians to be authentic. I am planning a return visit.

Chrissie Walker
mostlyfood@live.co.uk

“Rasa Sayang”

“Rasa Sayang”
Reviewed 17 July 2012 by ARROWHEAD, on TripAdvisor
I have been to rasa sayang a few times, although the decor isnt something you come here for, i must say the food is good. if you are looking for some authentic singapore food, I bet this is the closest you can get in london.
Service is friendly, and food are served very quickly. We had prawn noodle soup, beef rendang, nasi goreng istimewa and also assam fish. unfortunately, they dont serve assam fish with fish head, ( i suspect one cant really get the kind of fish headcompared to back home), the gravy is very tasty.
They even serve Ice Kachang(singapore dessert), quite difficult to find in UK.
So if you are looking for a quick good and cheap singapore food, I would highly recommend it.
But no no for a ‘sit-down’ good ambience place as it gets really noisy and packed very quickly in the night.

Malaysia at home in London

“Malaysia at home in London” 5 STARS
Reviewed 10 August 2012 – by IRONMAN16 on Tripadvisor

Don’t waste money on buying air tickets to Malaysia just go to the Rasa for a taste of Malaysia. This restaurant is located in china town, it is small but provides big tasting food at good value.
We crashed in here after spending day at The national gallery. My wife and children have been to Malaysia several times, my wife is also from Borneo so Malaysian and Singaporean food is in their blood.
The are few places in the UK which provides good authentic food and 9 times out of 10 I have been dissociated at other establishments.
The Rasa was a very good find. Value is excellent, portions are big and tasty. Curry laksa noodles hits the spot for those who have an iron stomach for spices food, roti chani was superb and satay chicken, fresh and vibrant.
Five spice chicken with noodles (Lo mein) was steeped in their signature gravey sauce. Soy bean drink recommended as well as Teh Tarik (pulled sweet tea). Curry fish is also on the menu and beef rendang. You can usually tell how good a Malaysian restaurant is by two dishes the laksa and the rending and Rasa scores a bullseye on both counts.
Service fast and efficient, food came piping hot on table in minutes.

Great food, easy going atmosphere, something slightly different”

“Great food, easy going atmosphere, something slightly different”
Reviewed 27 July 2012 – HERBMEISTER, on TripAdvisor

If you fancy something slightly different to Chinese in Chinatown then head here. It is always busy and has a cafe feel. Prices are very reasonable and the menu has big pictures of the dishes.
I recommend the homemade tofu in mango and chilli sauce – a great dish!
Be careful though, we always stuff our faces with the starters and struggle to finish our mains.

Reviews

If your palate yawns at the whiff of another takeaway meal, you should try a Malaysian restaurant. Offering a wide variety of dishes from Malaysian cuisine, there really is something to test everyone’s daring, whether your usual penchant is for stir-fry noodles or curries.

Even better, this adventure won’t stretch your budget. Our taste buds were given a sharp wake-up call by Roti Canai with curried chicken. Roti are traditional pancakes, which are offered either as a starter or with a curry as a main. Having never tried this combination I found it surprisingly delicious. The fried pancakes make for an interesting alternative to the usual rice or noodles and the curry was spicy but didn’t overwhelm the rich coconut flavour.

My friend’s Nasi Lemak, the Malaysian equivalent of a full English as described by our waiter, was our definite favourite. Served with coconut scented rice, dried fish, pickled fruit and chicken curry, this really is the ideal dish for those who like a lot of variety on their plate. The curry was full of flavour and the tiny dried fish added the perfect crunch, whilst the pickled vegetables brought in a sweet and sour edge.
Now both on the verge of bursting, we just about managed to squeeze in some delicious desserts. Kueh Salat – a traditional sweet consisting of top layer of coconut milk, eggs and pandan essence – was subtly sweet with a bit of bite while Sayo Gula Melaka was a sugary treat. The traditional pudding prepared with Sago pearls and served in a smooth coconut broth with a generous serving of delicious palm sugar syrup combined sweetness with the sharp scent of sugarcane juice. We were definitely left wanting more of that one.

The menu here also includes various vegetarian options and a large assortment of interesting looking beverages including teas, coffees and freshly squeezed juices as well as Milo, a traditional chocolate-based cold drink. Wine and beer choice is limited but let’s face it, it’s all about exploring the food, not what you can find at the pub after. With mains between £5.90 and £6.90, this place offers good food for little money bang in the centre of London and is a welcome alternative. Give those taste buds a good shake with the flavours of Malaysia. You won’t regret it!