The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Expensive Malaysian @ Rasa Malaysia, Tokyo

Although hubby is the sole breadwinner for this household, I think it's fair to say that it's really I who run the household, being responsible for making sure that everything runs smoothly and everyone is happy (far from perfect, there's always room for improvement in these areas). This means that in addition to making time for my husband and for my son, as mentioned previously, I have to ensure that we include my sister, H, and enjoy 'whole family' time every two or three weeks. After all, a happy sister is a good babysitter! Due to my sister's full work schedule on Saturdays, we can only spend time together on Sundays (it's a juggle between couple time and family time along with going to church). Last Sunday we spent some family time together and enjoyed Malaysian cuisine at Rasa Malaysia in Ginza. It is located on the 8th floor in a building a few steps away from the main Chuo-dori street, but it wasn't that difficult to find it.

The decor was distinctly Malaysian with batik cloths and Malaysian Tourism posters hanging up on wooden-slab walls. Service was great, and our English-speaking Japanese waitress was dressed in a kebaya to further contribute to a Malaysian feel in the place. There was a good selection of dishes offered on the menu from various locations of Malaysia, which is great for sampling the wide variety of food from different regions, but I couldn't help but feel that this would compromise the quality and authenticity of the way each dishes would be prepared. All the Malaysians I know would baulk at the menu prices of each dish - I know we did - but as I've said before, beggars can't be choosers because Malaysian restaurants are few and far in between in Japan, even in a big city like Tokyo. H was pretty excited to have her first taste of Malaysian cuisine (outside of home) since coming to Japan 3 months ago.

My sister got some Teh tarik, but we doubt that it was actually prepared the proper way ("pulling" the drink) because the trademark bubbly froth was not present on top of the drink. We agreed that Malaysian tea was used, but my sister reckons that it doesn't taste quite like the real teh tarik because they didn't use condensed milk.

Teh Tarik:

The boy woke up from his nap just as the food started arriving - the aroma of the dishes was probably what woke him up. In between the hustle of getting out his packed lunch and preparing him for his own lunch, we ate Chicken Satay and Sambal Kangkung. The satay was grilled nicely with just enough charred bits to give a barbecued flavour, but it definitely needed the peanut-y sauce to make it satay because the chicken on its own was rather bland. I was quite disappointed at the tiny portion of kangkung, especially since this plate probably cost more than ten times the price I would pay for in Malaysia, but this delicious vegetable is not easily available in Japan and it probably costs a lot to import. Although I'd eaten a lot of this leafy green during our last trip to Malaysia a few months ago, I still have a hankering for it.

Chicken Satay; and Kangkung Sambal:

We ordered two noodle dishes: Penang Char Kuey Teow (fried flat rice noodles) and Curry Laksa. The CKT was quite nice, certainly not as bad as the one we ate at a certain restaurant in Roppongi, but it lacked the wok hei (that distinctive smoky charred flavour from cooking on high flame in a wok) which is characteristic of a good CKT. Come to think of it, I don't think any of the CKT we've eaten at Malaysian/Singaporean restaurants in Tokyo had the proper wok hei. The CKT was also lacking crispy fried lard pieces and hubby would have liked lap cheong (Chinese sausage), but it's better for our health without them anyway. The laksa was pretty good, chocked full proteins like steamed chicken, boiled prawns, fried tofu and half a boiled egg, but the curry soup tasted like it came from a jar and it wasn't as greasy as laksa usually is. I'm not complaining about it because it was delicious and not so fattening.

Char Kuey Teow; and Curry Laksa:

The sister was craving for some Bak Kut Teh, a rich dark broth made from meat (usually pork) and a combination of herbs and spices, so one was ordered for our meal. It was the most expensive dish on the menu, so H and I were quite disappointed to find that the meat was chicken and not pork. I guess it makes sense for the restaurant to use chicken if they want to offer as many halal dishes as possible, but the dish ought to then be more correctly called Chik Kut Teh. The broth was slightly sweet which was somewhat unexpected but not unpleasant. I enjoyed this but my sister said that she was quite disappointed with it. The other meat dish we got was Beef Rendang which was good. H and I agreed that it tasted like how rendang should taste, and the beef was appropriately tender. I thought it was probably the best dish of the meal, even though I am not much of a red meat eater in general.

Bak Kut Teh; and Beef Rendang:

We had some Bubur Cha-Cha (a Nonya dessert of sweet potato, yam and sago (or tapioca?) pearls in a coconut milk soup base), which contained pumpkin (!) and only a very little amount of sago pearls. It was a bit too sweet for my taste, but not a bad replica of the real thing.

Please note that this review may be a little harsh, but that's only because I am very familiar with Malaysian cuisine and naturally more critical of the food. In general, the dishes were perfectly fine and tasty for anyone who haven't had any exposure to Malaysian cuisine, which would mean most of the Japanese population. The food at Rasa Malaysia have been modified to suit the Japanese palates, hence were less robust, spicy and greasy than the real thing. So if you're a Japanese reader with a curiousity for the Malaysian cuisine, this restaurant would be a good introduction to Malaysian food.

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