AND THEY WANDERED IN
FROM THE CITY OF ST. JOHN
When I was at University in…well put it this way, I looked like a Life On Mars extra (think long hair, flares and a love of sticking it to the man) I shared my living space with a man called Thomas. Thomas was from Malaysia and while us Brit students existed on a diet of Pot Noodles or the infamous Full English in a tin, Thomas would have his Malaysian friends round and would prepare Malaysian food. There might be Chicken Curry, a Rendang or a Fish Curry. A Satay or two might make an appearance and there was always steaming bowls of rice. I was lucky enough to be invited to join one of these feasts. Although I always ate well at home, this was a real wake-up call for the tastebuds and the hot, salty and sour flavours are something I will never forget.
I wonder what Thomas and his mates would have made of Suka, a new restaurant at The Sanderson Hotel which promised “modern authentic Malaysian cuisine, prepared with European sensibility and technique”. Not very much, I reckon after my visit yesterday. I went hoping for a Madeleine moment but left with a bad taste in my mouth thanks to a rather unlovely dish of Chinese Brocolli with Dried Fish. The greens had been cooked into oblivion and then doused in something which was very salty (oyster sauce ?) before being sprinkled with the dried fish. The result was salty and sour but not in a good way. I then had a very dry mouth for the rest of the evening. With the greens I had a beef rendang which came as a large of hunk short ribs which had dried out somewhat and so made for relentless eating.
Similar carelessness with the cooking showed up in a couple of my starters of a salad of pork belly and melon. The pork was tough (not a patch on the stuff I got at GEDR) and came with some more pieces of dried pig, in this case Serrano ham. The shrimp Popiah (a sort of non-fried spring roll) and an accompanying salad of leaves and green mango should have been bursting with flavour and general zinginess but was as damp and dismal piece of food I have had in an eastern-themed restaurant.
Mention Malaysian cuisine and you probably think of satay and the examples I tried weren’t too bad, in fact the ribeye one was quite good (as it should have been at a whopping £15). It had a nice smoky char and went well with the small slivers of foie gras interleaving the steak. The Scallop one was less good and would have been helped by a bit more colour on the outside. Both types came with an anaemic peanut sauce and some sad cucumber and rice cakes.
I feel so depressed just writing this that I won’t even mention the ten minutes the staff took to “explain” the menu to me or to describe the tray bearing some bowls of lime, sambal and rock salt (you can squeeze some lime onto the sambal, apparently). I‘ll desist from yakking on about the overloud music and the crappy décor. And I will definitely leave out the fact the service was 15% but they still had an entry for an Additional Gratuity on the bill. Hope, as they say, springs eternal (or should that be Abandon hope all ye who enter here ?). The Paris Hilton wannabes sitting next to me seemed to be enjoying themselves so it will probably be a roaring success so what do I know ?
Incidentally the PR blurb makes much of the involvement of Zak Pelaccio of Fatty Crab fame and other NY eateries but on the evidence of this meal it can't have extended to more than a scrawled note and a ‘Will this do ?” tacked on (allegedly of course).