67 Charing Cross Road
London WC2H 0NE
Monday to Sunday 12-11pm
It was really a mystery why it took us so long before we decided to go to Malaysian Kopitiam. Its location is so prominent that we pass by it every time we walk to Chinatown, and it has always caught our eye when we walk pass. However, it has never crossed our minds once to go in and try the food.
Today, we did. We decided to make it somewhat of a post-exam ritual to go for a nice meal at somewhere new after sitting for every paper. The first of 8 new places was Rasoi, which we posted the review of some days earlier. Today’s post-exam meal was at Malaysian Kopitiam.
We started off by having some Teh Tarik and Grass Jelly. The Teh Tarik was very good, with a good taste of tea, balanced by the richness of the milk. The Grass Jelly drink was initially really sweet, but as the ice gradually melted it became just right. Both drinks were excellent value for money, and we would go back just to have them.
The food came shortly after. We had the Nasi Lemak and Char Kwey Tiao as mains. The Nasi Lemak was pretty good – the rice was wonderfully fragrant, but slightly too soggy and sticky. The sides were all pretty good – nice crunchy acar, very good and crispy ikan bilis and peanuts, good curry chicken and fantastic chili sauce that was almost like a dish by itself. It was a satisfying plate of Nasi Lemak. (Of course, this pales in comparison to our favourite Nasi Lemak in the whole wide world, at Adam’s Road Hawker Center in Singapore, but as a substitute about 11000km away, this does pretty well.)
The Char Kwey Tiao was interesting. At first bite K declared the flavours to be very similar to what we have at home. However, as he ate more and more of the dish, he began to complain that a lot was lacking. He felt that there was a general lack of character in the dish. The Char Kwey Tiao we are used to is street food at its best – oily, unhealthy, yet full of flavor and everyone’s secret desire. This Char Kwey Tiao at Malaysian Kopitiam was far too sanitized. It lacked the oomph and character that Char Kwey Tiao should be. After all, everyone can fry a plate of kwey tiao, but to deserve the name Char Kwey Tiao, one needs to do something magical to that dish. This was lacking that something something.
We also ordered some Sambal Kang Kong. This was probably the closest to what we have at home as we have ever had in London so far. All it needed was some more belachan and spice to give it more kick. Otherwise, it was very satisfying.
As if that wasn’t enough food, we ordered a Curry Fish Head as well. This was probably the dish we talked about most of all the dishes we had. The curry was awesome – truly flavorful and really rich. However, the fish was just shocking. We simply couldn’t get over the fact that they had used salmon in their fish head curry. The concept of salmon, such an oily fish, being used in this manner was just scandalous. Back home, and in Malaysia, the fish of choice is Ikan Merah (or, ‘red fish’). This is not an oily fish, but is very tasty and meaty. It lends itself very well to curries. Salmon however, is not suitable at all to be used in curries. The flavors just simply do not match. However, we can fully see why salmon was used – it is cheap here. At Billingsgate it costs just 50p per fish head. To use Ikan Merah here would cost the restaurant far more. Anyway, we also felt that the fish was not particularly fresh, and K was horrified that there wasn’t even an attempt at marinating the fish or trying to make the flavors go together. It was literally 2 separate dishes, a) salmon head, and b) curry, mixed together at the last minute. Quite a shame indeed, since the curry was, by itself, quite good.
Overall, we can’t say that the food at Malaysian Kopitiam is horrible, because it isn’t. It is satisfying to a certain degree, as it provides us with a source of Singaporean style dishes to satisfy our cravings. However, it doesn’t quite hit the spot, and falls short on many aspects. We’re still on the hunt for the perfect restaurant to go to for good authentic Singaporean cuisine, but for all its worth, this place is perhaps one of the closest we’ve found so far. (And the drinks are good!)