Kiasu closed in early 2011, probably not helped by a well publicised breach of hygiene regulations. I had never had a problem there but I confess that this did put me off returning, and presumably others felt the same way. It was 12/20 level cooking and cheap.
On vibrant Queensway, the dining room is a few steps up from the street and quite narrow, with two rows of tables and simple wooden chairs; it is quite informal. This simple restaurant has something of an identity crisis, serving Malaysian dishes such as beef rendang (some would claim this is an Indonesian dish, but both peoples eat it, and the origins are disputed; as the chef is from Malacca, I am going with Malaysian this time), but also Thai curries and Vietnamese spring rolls. To be fair, cuisine in this part of the world does borrow from elsewhere, but not as much as the menu here shows, so I was rather sceptical when ordering initially
Notes from a recent meal follow.
I began with a roti pratha, which although it claims to be a Malaysian dish, is essentially an Indian fried bread (paratha would be the usual spelling) with a curry gravy to dip. The Malaysian slant comes from the use of peanuts in the curry gravy along with chilli, a sort of cross between a satay sauce and a curry. The bread was very good., light and in no way greasy, the curry unusual but very enjoyable (13/20). Vietnamese spring rolls were pleasant, four crispy rolls with vegetarian filling and a sweet chilli sauce (12/20). Beef rendang was particularly good this evening, better than I recall, the beef falling apart as it should be, resting in a dark, spicy coconut gravy (13/20). Nonya laksa has white rice noodles in a spicy coconut gravy with prawns, fish cake and daun kesum (Vietnamese coriander), a generous portion (12/20).
Below are notes from a meal in December 2007.
A starter of “otak otak” was pleasant, a simple fish cake flattened out and roasted, offered on a banana leaf; this had rather limited flavour (11/20). Better was a special:gado gado, a classic Indonesian dish. This is essentially a vegetable salad made with assorted chopped and sliced vegetables, a boiled egg, tofu and a peanut sauce dressing. I have had this several times in Malaysia and Indonesia and this was an authentic and tasty rendering of the dish (13/20). A Nonya chicken curry was rather disappointing, the chicken on the bone floating in a pool coconut milk flavoured with chilli – the chicken was rather overcooked (10/20).
Far better was a fine rendition of the classic mee goreng, a dish made with thin yellow noodles which are fried onion, tomato, tofu and chilli (and in this case a few prawns). Here there was an excellent balance of flavour, with good seasoning; again this was better than many of the versions of this I have eaten in Asia (14/20). Service was much slicker than on my previous visit, and the place was buzzing this evening, with tables being turned regularly. The prices here are very fair for such authentic, high quality food. I found the food here better than upmarket Malaysian Awana, which is more than twice the price.
Here are notes from a meal in June 2007, by way of comparison.
I was pleasantly surprised by tender chicken satay with a good peanut sauce that had rich flavour and not too much oil (12/20). Prawn crackers (and fish crackers) actually tasted of what they purported to be, served with a good sweet chilli sauce. Otak otak is a flat fish cake roasted and served in a banana leaf; this has good fishy flavour and reasonably subtle spices (11/20)
Nonya laksa is a noodle soup of rice noodles in a slightly spicy coconut gravy, containing prawns and slices of fish; the noodles were pleasant and the bowl was huge, so this would be enough for one person on its own. Beef rendang is a classic dish and this was a good rendition, the beef marinated so long it was falling apart, as it should be, the sauce with it rich and spicy (12/20). I have had better in Malaysia but not in London. Char kway teow are rice noodles stir-fried with egg, prawn, beansprouts and some rather tough slices of Chinese sausage (11/20). Rice was fine (11/20). Service was chaotic on this visit, friendly enough but the staff seemed stretched and it was hard work getting attention. There is a wine list, the most costly wine being £25, though beer is a more obvious match for the food (Tiger or Singha beer). Starters are £2.50 - £5.50, main courses £5.50 - £7.20 (my huge beef rendang was £6.80). At £25 a head for more food than we could contemplate eating this was good value.