Tag Archives: Straits

Penang

This was our last night in Chicago, and we were considering dinner options when SY remembered this restaurant, Penang, that serves Malaysian/Singaporean food. Problem is it’s an hours’ drive away. I suppose living in London has really spoilt us, because distances between places we hang out are never very far. We’ve never had to travel for an hour to get our dinner, so we were quite hesitant to go ahead with the suggestion to go to Penang and having SY take an hour driving us there, and another hour driving us back. It just seemed like a real waste of time. However, it seems that going to such extraordinary lengths to get dinner isn’t uncommon around these parts, so after a lot of reassuring on SY’s part, we finally agreed to go.

It wasn’t a difficult drive, but then again, we weren’t the ones driving in the dark and the rain. When we got to Penang, we saw a board listing the daily specials, and knew instantly what we were going to order.

We had a serving of roti cannai, which was far better than any we’ve had in London – crispy and tasty. Unfortunately, there was only one piece per portion, definitely not enough to satisfy the craving of 3 roti-prata-starved Singaporeans.

For our mains we had a fish head curry, which was really good. (For one, the fish wasn’t salmon – take that Malaysian Kopitiam!)

We also had a sambal stingray, and it was also fantastic – very aggressively seasoned and well cooked, with a ton of sambal, just the way we like it. The side of sambal kangkong we ordered was also one of the best we’ve had outside Singapore.

Overall, we really enjoyed our meal in Penang. This is easily the best restaurant serving South East Asian food outside of South East Asia that we’ve been to so far. There was one very glaring unauthentic aspect of the meal unfortunately – the fortune cookie given to us at the very end. Tsk tsk tsk.

Service: 7.5/10
Food: 7/10

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Noodles

You know when we said that Penang (in Evanston) was the best restaurant serving South East Asian food outside South East Asia that we’ve ever been to? Scrap that. Noodles in Bellagio, Las Vegas now takes that honor.

We wanted an Asian meal in Las Vegas that wasn’t Panda Express (lol), and looking through the directory of restaurants in various hotels on the strip, we narrowed it down to 2 places – Noodles in Bellagio, and a Chinese restaurant in Caesars Palace. Thank God we decided to go to Noodles, as we ended up having a super amazing meal there.

The chef at Noodles is Singaporean, and he tries to keep his food as authentic as possible. Our starter of Roti Prata was really good, crispy and fluffy in all the right places. Even the curry was really authentic, and it had a slight sourish taste as roti prata curries all have.

The Hainanese Chicken Rice at Noodles is also very good. The chicken isn’t as cold as it should have been, but every other aspect of the dish was recreated very well. The chicken was juicy and tender, with a little of that wonderful jellied fat just under the skin, and the soup was just awesome. There was also a little bit of the ground ginger paste that we first had in Soup Kitchen in Singapore that we just love to bits, so additional points for that for sure!

Our other main, the Char Kwey Tiao, was by far the best Char Kwey Tiao outside Singapore we’ve ever had. There was fantastic wok hei, and incredible flavour in that dish. The only problem would be that it needed some cockles, but then again, we’ve never seen cockles outside Singapore (/Malaysia) ever, so I guess we should be contented with what we’ve got.

The side dish of sambal kangkong we ordered was also fantastic. All the flavours really brought back memories of food from home. (Recall with our review of Rasa Sayang in London when we said that eating at restaurants like these should help satisfy cravings, not make our cravings even worse?) Noodles has well and truly satisfied our Singaporean food cravings way beyond our expectations, and is the place to check out if you’re in Las Vegas and have a craving for some Singaporean delights.

Since we were starving (at time of ordering), we also ordered a platter of char siew and roast duck. These were just average. The char siew was quite nice, but the roast duck just paled in comparison to the ones we’ve had in London (and this justifies our belief that the best roast duck to be had in the world is in 4 Seasons in London). What a pity. Then again, Noodles is probably the place to go to for South East Asian food. The non-South East Asian dishes in their menu are probably just filler, for those who aren’t as adventurous, who like their food more Chinese.

Once again, we ended up with too much food. It would be a crime to let such good food go to waste and end up in the rubbish bin, so we asked for some take away boxes, and packed ourselves a really nice bento box to take away for lunch the next day, when we were going to be in Zion National Park on a little road trip. When we got back to Las Vegas after our road trip, we headed straight for Noodles for another meal! This time we tried the Singaporean Laksa as well, which was also very nice, though it wasn’t the most authentic version of Laksa, with large chunky slices of chicken.

Service: 7.5/10
Food: 7.5/10

Melati

30 Peter Street
London W1F 0AR
0207 437 2011
http://melati-restaurant.co.uk/

For some strange reason there are 2 restaurants called Melati about 400m from each other in Soho. Both are unrelated, but both serve Malaysian/Indonesian food. We had planned to go to the Melati along Peter Street, but ended up stumbling upon the restaurant along Great Windmill Street first. Thinking that it was just a branch of the one along Peter Street, we went in, but we quickly realized that it wasn’t related at all to the Melati that we wanted to go to, so off we went again, navigating ourselves through the confusing streets of Soho till we finally arrived, starving, at the Melati along Peter Street.

So starving we were that we practically ordered their entire menu; actually, no we didn’t, but we had far too much food than we could handle (as we usually do).

Drinks: We ordered a glass of Grass Jelly drink and a glass of Bandung (Rose Syrup). The Bandung was exceedingly sweet, and had probably more condensed milk than one should consume in an entire year, but it was nevertheless oh-so rich and sinfully good. As the ice melted the drink got a lot less cloyingly sweet, but it was definitely something I would order again. The Grass Jelly was far more sensibly flavoured, and also really good.

Appetizers: The Curry Puff we ordered was enormous, and the light fluffy pastry reminded us of roti prata which we really liked, but the filling was a complete let down. Another appetizer we had was the Tahu Goreng, which was horrible – presentation-wise it was a mess, and the tofu was tasteless and the peanut sauce was watery and bland.

Mains: We had a Laksa, which looked and smelt amazing. Taste-wise it was pretty good, but it definitely paled in comparison to the Sedap version, which is by far the most authentic Laksa available in London, and you can quote me on that.

The Mee Goreng Istimewa was quite disappointing – the noodles were just average and the satay was pretty nice, but the beef rendang was appalling and the pickled vegetables were horrible. The beef was very tough and though it was marinated well, was poorly cooked and did not melt in your mouth as a good beef rendang should.

We also shared (yes, I told you we ordered a lot of food) a Sambal Ikan Goreng, which was probably the best dish of the whole meal. The fish (mackerel) was a good choice to cook in that style and the sauce was tangy and flavourful. The problem however, was that it was more ketchup than sambal.

Service: We struggled a little to get their attention at some points in the meal, which was quite unforgivable since we were literally the only customers around for the most part of our meal, but otherwise they were very pleasant and courteous.

Service: 7/10
Food: 5.5/10

Curry Competition

K received an email from Malaysia Kitchen inviting him to sign up to be a judge for a Malaysian curry competition, held at 54, a Malaysian restaurant at Farringdon. He responded immediately, but we were still unable to get a reservation for dinner, so we had to settle for lunch instead. (Damn those people who check their emails more regularly than we do!) Anyway, 4 restaurants were featured in the competition, and each submitted a curry for the tasting.

Ayam Bintang (Chicken Curry) from Bintang (in Camden):

Not bad, but not rich enough. The curry was very thin, but fortunately, the flavor was pretty good. 7/10

Potato Curry from Bonda Café (in Sussex Garden):

This was our least favourite curry of the 4. (Don’t you find it strange why people say ‘least favourite’ when they actually mean ‘most disliked’? Kind of misleading isn’t it since it suggests that the subject in question is actually considered a ‘favourite’ when it isn’t at all?) So what we really mean is that we didn’t like this curry at all. The potato wasn’t cooked very well and there was very little flavor in the curry at all. 4/10

Malaysian Chicken Curry from C&R Café Restaurant (in Bayswater):

The curry was a little too watery, and it was a little sweet. We would have preferred a little more salt in the curry and a thicker consistency, but we liked the addition of potatoes in the curry. 5/10

Kari Kambing (Lamb Curry) from Makan (in Portobello Road):

This was our favourite. We loved the strong flavours and the nice thick consistency of the curry. Lamb is definitely a good meat to use in a curry, so this entry benefitted from its choice of meat. We found that there was a little too much oil though. 8/10

Overall this was a nice event, but we felt that it could have been better organized. We were pretty much left to ourselves the moment we sat down, and it would have been nice if we had individual portions instead of having to share the curries family style with this other diner we’d never met. (Thankfully she was a vegetarian, so the only curry she could eat was the one we didn’t like anyway! A took a sneaky peak at her score card, and she gave a really high rating to the potato curry, which just goes to show what awesome things vegetarians miss out on by not eating meat..ha! Yes, we’re unapologetic for our views towards vegetarians, deal with it.)

Service: NA
Food: NA

Rasa Sayang

5 Macclesfield Street
London W1D 6AY
020 7734 1382
http://rasasayangfood.blogspot.com/

7 exams down, 1 more to go! For our 7th post exam meal we went to Rasa Sayang, a restaurant in Chinatown serving Malaysian and Singaporean food.

 

We managed to get there just before the lunch crowd did, so we got our table immediately. Luckily we did, as service was very slow. There were only 2 servers around, rushing from table to table all throughout the busiest part of lunch hour. It was quite strange indeed. We counted 3 empty tables waiting to be cleared while customers stood around waiting to be served. We also waited eternity for the bill.

By our standards we didn’t order a lot. In fact, I thought we under ordered, and was half expecting to order more after we had finished some of our dishes. However, we never got down to doing it. In fact, we didn’t even finish our food.

We shared a drink – Teh Tarik, which is supposed to be a milk tea that has been poured back and forth from a height to give it a thick frothy top. What arrived was definitely not teh tarik. There was no thick frothy top, and it was just diluted and flat.

 

We ordered a Fried Oyster Omelette, Fried carrot cake and Roti Canai, all from the starter section, and a Fried Kwey Tiao to share. Bizarrely the main dish arrived first. The Fried Kwey tiao was uninspiring. We’ve written a review on the Fried Kwey Tiao at Malaysian Kopitiam a while ago:

“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.”

The Char Kwey Tiao at Rasa Sayang was a million times worse than that at Malaysian Kopitiam. It was lacking in everything that a Char Kwey Tiao should be. Basically, it should have just been called Fried Hor Fun. Yes, we’re purists – don’t call it Char Kwey Tiao if you’re not going to serve Char Kwey Tiao. Simple as that.

 

The Oyster Omelette was definitely much better than the Taiwanese version of Oyster Omelette, but it was also a huge let down. The Tapioca flour in the dish started to get really annoying after a few bites. There was a nice oyster fragrance though – something positive finally.

 

The Roti Canai was another disappointment. Just before writing this I read the latest review (4/6/2010) from tehbus.com about this restaurant in Sydney – Mamak:

“We waited a little while for our table but we admired the chefs in the window tossing up the roti in the air, and crafting a light and airy roti. By the time we took our seats, we were ravenous.”

Dear oh dear, what we wouldn’t give to have that same experience. The roti canai we had was hard and tasteless. It was obvious that it was store bought, and the curry that was served with it had odd bits of jellied fats swimming around, which probably meant that the curry wasn’t even reheated up properly to melt the fats, which then means that the curry wasn’t freshly made, which means that…oh **** it, did I really expect them to make their curry themselves? It was just depressing. I don’t want to sit in a restaurant to eat food that has been reheated from a packet that has been factory made.

And don’t get me started on the Fried Carrot Cake. Even though we didn’t order a lot of food we just couldn’t finish this dish. In fact, we barely ate a few bites. A was shocked that I actually wanted to take away the leftovers. But we did anyway, and had to pay 20p extra for this ‘service’.

 

And as a side note, something that really baffled me was this small piece of banana leaf that was on every single plate, hidden under the food. Was this meant to exoticize the food? Well yes, many dishes in the South-East-Asian region are served on a banana leaf. That they got right. However, the leaf is supposed to act as the plate, not playing a hide-and-seek game by hiding under a bed of food. This tiny post-it sized leaf was just pathetic, and did nothing but to serve as a bad caricature of Malaysian and Singaporean food. It did not serve any purpose whatsoever. Yes, I am grumpy. I felt like eating at Rasa Sayang was an absolute waste of time, money and calories. Places like these are meant to satisfy our craving for Singaporean food. However, this made me miss it even more.

Luckily for them, they have an abundance of customers. Good for them. They obviously benefit from serving food with novel tastes. However, we know better. This is nothing like the real deal.

Service: 5.5/10
Food: 5/10

Malaysian Kopitiam

67 Charing Cross Road
London WC2H 0NE
0207 2871113
http://www.malaysiakopitiam.co.uk/

Opening Hours:
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!)

Service: 7/10
Food: 6/10

Bugis Street

140 Courtfield Road
London SW7 4LH
020 7411 4234
http://www.millenniumhotels.co.uk/

Opening Hours
Monday to Sunday 12-10.30pm

K first heard about Bugis Street a few years ago when he first came to London to study. His friend told him about the buffet lunch she went to on Sunday which had a kick-ass Laksa, shiok and powerful.

We were quite surprised to find out that the buffet costs only £7.95. Besides the chinese buffet in Chinatown, finding an all-we-can-eat buffet at only £7.95 is quite a steal. For a hotel restaurant (this is at Millennium Gloucester), we were expecting the buffet to be much more expensive. Anyway, we decided to give it a try with QJ.

 

We couldn’t find the restaurant initially, and went into Millennium hotel to ask for directions. They told us that we had to walk around the perimeter of the hotel to get to it. The décor of Bugis Street resembles Singapore in the 1960s. K thought that such portrayal of Singapore would give tourists a rather unrealistic impression of Singapore. We also realised that majority of the clientele in the restaurants were Singaporeans or Malaysians (distinctly from their accent).

The food was quite a disappointment for me. There wasn’t a wide spread of food, and the quality was just mediocre, if not bad. There was a section for Laksa and something which we assumed to be a ‘Gado Gado’ counter, and a few trays of fried rice, char kway teow and random items not different from any typical Chinatown buffet.

 

I had the Laksa which looked rather decent. However, it was very salty. The only good thing about it was that it had proper fishcakes which we missed. The noodles weren’t the authentic thick bee hoon but kwey teow. Such lack to attention was disappointing, and the salt level was almost disgusting.

 

There was also a Char kway teow looking dish. It tasted rather flavourful. However, I would call it fried hor fun rather than char kway teow because none of the key ingredients of a char kway teow were in it, besides the kway teow and bean sprouts. There were no cockles, or Chinese sausages. However, it was definitely very flavourful, but I guess I can do better.

QJ was drawn to the corner with many bowls of vegetables and sauces. She made a pseudo Gado Gado from the ingredients, using potatoes instead of the ketupat. It tasted alright to me, but she liked it.

The remaining dishes were more Chinese than Singaporean/Malaysian. There was egg fried rice, beef, fried chicken, vegetables and ribs. There was nothing special about these dishes, and I was getting more and more disappointed and overwhelmed by the salt content with every mouth of the food. K liked the fried chicken very much though, and took many pieces of that, and was very disappointed when they did not replenish the tray with more chicken, but brought out a tray of vegetables instead.

All in all, this meal was like an overdose of salt. The food was too salty and the selection was very limited. I would rather they provide a wider and better selection of food at a higher price, than the current cheap but mediocre tasting buffet. That being said, they do ala carte orders with a variety of Straits food. Those might taste better, but the buffet has put us off enough from going back again.

Service: 6.5/10
Food: 5/10