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

Friday, 12 August 2011

Mediocre Malaysian @ Good Satay, Hong Kong

I miss good Malaysian food. I had deliberately delayed the search for a good Malaysian restaurant in Hong Kong because I didn't want to be met with too many disappointments. The handful of Malaysian restaurants that exist in HK surely cannot be worse than the sore lack of them in Tokyo, unless it turns out that none of them are actually good. I am no food snob, but like everyone else, I have rather high standards when it comes to my homeland's cuisine. Well, there wasn't much to get out of just thinking about it, so our search began last Sunday. To better our chances of liking the food we were going to eat that day, I selected Good Satay, the restaurant that was the recipient of Time Out's Dining Awards 2010 for Best Southeast Asian. The English reviews on Openrice was a mixed bag of good, bad and neutral, so we knew not to get our hopes too high.

The restaurant itself is nothing fancy, and it got pretty busy and full as the weekend lunch crowd of mostly families rolled in. We arrived shortly after Good Satay opened for lunch, and it wasn't yet full, so we got sufficient service. However, don't expect too much from the service at peak meal time, as the serving girls are probably being paid the minimum wage to wait on an overcrowded and full dining room. People around us were ordering the ever-popular Hainanese Chicken Rice, which I'm sure is good, but this dish is getting too generic (and frankly, boring) for us - you can even get it in Tokyo! I guess the tastebuds of the general population in both Japan and Hong Kong are better tuned for the crowd-pleasing chicken rice, and not the more robust and flavourful dishes that better define the Malaysian cuisine. We ourselves ordered a fair variety of dishes to get an idea of what's good and what isn't. The dishes were a mixed bag of good, bad and so-so (photos and details of each dish below).

Paratha - more like puff pastry and not much like the paratha we know and wanted. It was nice in its own way, but pretty useless in mopping up curry and gravy:

Beef Rendang, or at least a poor version of it. The beef was not tender at all, and the dish didn't have the complex flavours that I love in rendang:

This Chai tau kueh was surprisingly enjoyable, although not quite as good as the plate of fried radish cake (that was more like chai tau keuh than the typical yum cha-style radish cake) we had at yum cha recently. And certainly not as nice as my dad's. This one was eggy (good thing) but a little sweet which is not something I expect from chai tau kueh:

Chicken Satay, probably the most disappointing satay I've ever had. There wasn't much flavour on the meat itself, and the peanut sauce was overly lemony. I'm sure this is perfectly acceptable by most people who come to Good Satay to eat satay, but for me, born in Sate City (i.e. Selangor) and eaten plenty of Sate Kajang (from my dad's hometown), this wasn't good enough:

Stirfried Kangkung with Sambal. It wasn't spicy enough, but I was pleased with the generous amount of belacan in it (although the pungent shrimp paste might be off-putting to sensitive tastebuds). This was a big plate of greens, too much for two, but I did eat at least 3/4 of that plate:

A glass of too-sweet Cendol with too-hard green jelly noodles that was impossible to suck up the straw. The bowl of Bubur Pulut Hitam (black glutinous rice dessert) was actually pretty good, although it would have been much nicer if it had been served warm:

Price-wise, the food was quite reasonable (about HK$230 for two of us), but unfortunately the less-than-stellar food means that it's unlikely we will be back. If this is the best "South-east Asian" food that HK can offer (according to Time Out Magazine anyway), then perhaps I should give up on the search. I don't know how many disappointing Malaysian meals I can put up with. Perhaps we should save our time and money for a more satisfying meal when we go on our next trip to Malaysia (or Australia, where the Malaysian cuisine is quite well represented).

Good Satay
Shop144-148, Houston Centre,
63 Mody Road,
Tel. +852 2739 9808


  1. It's impossible to get good cendol outside of Malaysia :( Believe me... I've tried... in the U.S. AND in Canada... and it's just not happening!

  2. You know what Steph, I think you're right. I've never had a good cendol outside of M'sia :(

  3. (Singaporean here) I also went to Good Satay a few weeks back and have to agree, for S'poreans / Malaysians there is no point going. The restaurant is like someone who went to Malaysia once and then just tried to recreate the food! Satay is not tender, peanut sauce is not right, no sambal with the nasi lemak, etc etc. Steer clear!

    1. Thanks for your comment. Sad to know that the food at Good Satay has not improved in the past 6 years.