Photograph: Kake Pugh
Rasa Sayang does exactly what it says on the tin. It's a small crowded room in Chinatown, just off Shaftesbury Avenue; painted white, with wood-effect tables and cheery laminate menus full of colourful photographs of Malaysian and Singaporean street food. I like this: being able to point at something and saying "I'll have this one, this one and this one". If you're a lazy or frustrated communicator (and I'm often feeling like that in London these days) it makes life one hell of a lot easier. No hanging around for the idle.
The food is good: a substantial cut above many of the dubious restaurants in the area. And there's lots of it, too. I ordered "Seafood hor fun" (that's stir-fried flat rice noodles with seafood, mixed vegetables and "velvety" egg) and liked it, though The Girl thought it a trifle bland: much better were the deliciously crunchy stir-fried "Sambal cluster beans" and the intensely savoury "Nasi goreng istimeura" (rice with shrimp paste, soy sauce and chili). The Girl seemed pleased with her "Nasi Lemak" (chicken curry with coconut scented rice, sliced boiled egg and crunchy anchovies), and my "Curry chee cheong fun" (rice noodle rolls in a hot and rich curry sauce) were the cat's whiskers.
There seemed to be quite a few Malaysian people there- which is always a good sign, although I've just read a few negative Malaysian reviews on the internet, and I suspect they know much more about their own food than London bloggers who pretend to know what they're talking about. It's a bit like the time I ate a soggy fish and chips in Hong Kong- but that's another story for another time.
Anyway, service was reasonably friendly at first, but then degenerated into slightly brusque, anti-social behaviour- I had my plate snatched from under my nose as I was still gobbling down the Sambal cluster beans with chili (dearie me, what Mrs Aitch has to put up with). I'm not too fussed about this: to survive, a small restaurant like Rasa Sayang needs a brisk turnover, and the bright lighting and hard seats à la "Chicken Land" are- er- not exactly there to make you linger are they now?
A destination for a romantic diner à deux it is not (am I writing the obvious?) but for students of a gourmet persuasion, those on a lunch break with a precious three quarters of an hour to spare, or just the plain greedy, this new restaurant comes out top of the form. Well, almost.