Kiasu is Hokkien for the fear of losing face and also the name of a new Malaysian/Singaporean restaurant in Bayswater. In my humble opinion, it’s a rubbish name for a restaurant but hey, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. It’s not a large restaurant but we managed to find a table for 3 on a Friday evening without making a booking. I confirmed with the waiter taking our order that this Kiasu was originally the Kiasu food stall in Oriental City – this seems to be the first stall to make a successful move out of the shopping mall. Reviews in the papers have been pretty good and so I expected quite a lot.
We started with an order of kueh pai tee (£5.50), one otak otak (£2.50),
one ngoh hiang (£4.50), and one chye tow kway (£4.80), Singapore style (no bean sprouts).
Starters were all quite good with kueh pai tee freshly filled with braised jicama and still with crunchy cases, the otak otak (grilled spicy fish paste) wonderfully spiced but much too small, and the chye tow kway (stir-fried white radish cakes) absolutely delicious with lots of Chinese chives. There’s actually radish in the little fried cakes in the chye tow kway which is saying a lot – another place in London only uses rice flour – ick! The pork and five spice filling of the ngoh hiang tasted right but it could have been fried a little longer to give more crunch to the bean curd skin wrapping.
Mains were a nasi lemak (£7.00)
and a char kway teow (£6.50), Penang style (no dark soy sauce).
We ordered a char kway teow as I had had this dish when Kiasu was still at Oriental City – it was magnificent back then, well-fried and with crispy lard bits. Did you notice that I used the words “back then”? Yeah, this version wasn’t so great. The kway teow was a little hard and there wasn’t much flavour in the dish…and we detected the use of garlic powder! Sacrilege! I felt greatly let down. On the other hand, the nasi lemak was quite good – very coconutty rice, a hot and spicy and delicious prawn sambal, a chicken curry that I didn’t try as someone else wolfed it down so it must have been good, and very nice achar (pickled vegetables) just like my Mom used to make.
We finished with a single order of pulut hitam (£2.50). A little more coconut milk would have been nice. It’s one of my favourite rice-based desserts!
Isn’t it strange that one disappointing dish can crush my expectations of a restaurant? Most of the dishes we tried were pretty good; it’s just that the char kway teow didn’t live up to my recollection of it. The service overall also wasn’t terrific with lots of waiters whizzing by us but we having the utmost trouble actually getting the attention of any of them. I’d say give the place a try but skip that dish. And really, despite what one of the display mugs says, I don’t believe that it’s “kool to be kiasu”.