13 Sale Place,
Tel. 020 7723 6763
Food type: Malaysian
Food rating: 4/10
Nearest tube: Paddington
Website: Satay House
When I rang a Malaysian friend of mine to find out where she thought was the best Malaysian restaurant in London, the name Satay House popped up immediately. I have honestly never been convinced with the Malaysian food that they serve here often calling it “Malaysian-lite” or “Malaysian-for-those-who-have-never-been-to-Malaysia”. Take for example, Suka or Champor-Champor which really have little to do with Malaysian food other than the use of the exotic names. On the other hand, the less said about aberrations like Georgetown, the better. I suppose Kiasu which serves a smattering of Malaysian food was the best of a very mediocre bunch, but even then I was hardly impressed.
Enter Satay House which has been serving Malaysian food in London for over 30 years (shame on me then for not knowing it existed) and an apparent favourite with the Malaysian and Brunei royal family. Many Malaysian restaurants in London try to do too much and too wide a variety of dishes. Malaysia is after all a cosmopolitan country but imagine going abroad to say Japan and dining in a British restaurant to see Fish & Chips, Sweet & Sour Pork and Chicken Tikka Masala on the menu. Thankfully, the good people at Satay House have smartly focused on authentic Malay dishes featuring some rare regional delicacies. The chef is from Kuala Lumpur.
The menu is decently priced with Starters between £2 and £8, Main courses from £6.50 to £18.50 (mainly £7-8) and Desserts around £4.50. There are various set meals available for those who are not familiar with Malaysian cuisine and would like a little taste of what the restaurant has to offer (although this is not a traditional tasting menu).
We started off with Ais Kacang which translates loosely as ‘iced peanut’ which is a bit of misnomer because there is not a peanut in sight. This dish is listed under the desserts section of the menu so you may be wondering why I would start a meal with something sweet. You see, in Malaysia, it is completely normal to start the meal off with something sweet. Ais Kacang itself is a dish of crushed iced, red bean, cincau (grass jelly) and creamed sweet corn with either rose syrup or palm sugar. Some variations may include salted peanuts, but the original conception of this dish does not include any nuts. Here, it is prepared faultlessly tasting as authentic as it would if you were eating it by the roadside in Malaysia. (4/10)
Chicken satay, the iconic Malaysia dish of grilled skewers of meat (usually chicken or beef but can pretty much involve pretty much anything from fish to offal) served with a spicy peanut sauce was decent. The chicken whilst not of the highest quality but had just the right lick of charcoal smokiness and the sauce nice and thick. Perhaps what the satay could have done with is the use of thigh meat (which is more commonly used in Malaysia) instead of breast which is perhaps a nod to the preference of the British diners as the later tends to dry out easily. (2/10)
Popiah goreng or fried popiah (a Malaysian form of Spring Roll) was well executed with generous amount of vegetable filling and virtually greaseless, served with a chilli dipping sauce. (4/10)
Roti Canai & Dahl
Roti Canai was well made with just a little charred hint, the bread itself having a nice elastic texture. (4/10) The dahl that came with it was frankly, dull – watery, lifeless and pretty tasteless – the curry was bland and one dimensional. (0/10)
Another signature Malaysian dish, Nasi Lemak, fared less well served with some crispy anchovies, a boiled egg and some prawn curry. The coconut-infused rice had reasonable flavour but the lack of sambal (spicy chilli paste) of any sorts, and the less than spicy prawn curry did little to enliven things on the plate. (1/10)
Stir-fried water convulus got things right back on track. The vegetables lightly stir-fried and still maintaining a crunchy texture which can easily be lost, the spicy shrimp paste that it was cooked with well judged. (3/10)
Mutton curry was as authentic as you would expect to be if you were dining in a Malaysia, with nice meaty chunks of melt-in-your-mouth tender mutton and the sauce itself having good balance of spicing. You may note that the sauce is rather watery but I can assure you that this is authentic and makes for good mopping up with the roti canai. (3/10)
A dish of squid cooked with sambal was a bit of an enigma. On one hand the squid was nice and tender, which is can be technically tricky, but on the other hand, the dish itself was literally swimming in a pool of oil. (barely 1/10)
This was an uneven meal with some solid cooking but also some very disappointing dishes. We fared better on a second visit. A signature dish of Beef Rendang (slow cooked beef in spicy coconut curry) was beautiful. The beef itself as tender as one could imagine, packed full of flavour having absorbed much of the cooking liquor during the slow cooking process. (4/10) Equally was good was the Ayam Goreng Berlada – a dish of stir fried chicken with fresh ground shrimp and chilli. The chicken had a good amount of saltiness from the shrimps with a nice kick from the fresh chilli. (4/10) Rojak Buah was fine with some mixed fruits and vegetables nicely coated in a spicy sweet shrimp paste with crushed peanuts, although the core ingredients themselves were not of the highest quality. (1/10)
Service was pleasant and efficient with a mixture of both Malaysian and European staff. Judging from my two meals here it is very clear that with such an extensive menu, there are going to be some good dishes and some very poor ones. If you are visiting, stick to the curry based dishes and rice. This in my opinion is the best Malaysian restaurant in London even though this is hardly a big achievement, given the lack of competition.