Starters from £2.80-5.50, Mains from £6.80-8.50, Desserts from £2.80-4.80
Always a good place for a Time Out
A few years ago, I saw that Time Out had handed out its Best Cheap Eats award to a mild-mannered ‘pan-Asian’ restaurant called Kiasu in Queensway. We moved to West London around the same time and, during a walk around the Bayswater area, passed by the restaurant. I said we should keep it in mind for the next time we were in the area and got hungry. Since then, we have been to Kiasu on a number of occasions and have always had pretty good food there. On our last visit, I had my camera with me and decided it would be worth doing a little review as I do think it is very good value for money.
I guess the double-edged sword of doing a review of a place you’ve been to a lot is that if the meal you are reviewing isn’t one of the better you’ve had, it’s difficult to convey the general view you have about the place which has been built up over time. This meal was good, but slightly below the quality we’ve had during other meals at Kiasu, and while I do find that the quality varies a little bit, it is always pretty good and makes for a satisfying meal.
Mrs. LF ducked the complete meal
I don’t know why, but I always tend to go for one of their ‘complete meals’, while my wife never does. On this occasion, I went for the one complete meal I hadn’t tasted before, and the picture on the menu looked quite appetizing (yes, it is one of those places that has pictures of every dish, but it’s not such a bad thing here if you are not familiar with the cuisine in the first place).
My Nasi Goreng Istimewa consisted of four parts. The central tower was made up of Malay-style spicy fried rice, and was crowned with a sunny-side up egg. The rice itself was cooked to a good texture and had adequate spice. It wasn’t all that interesting on its own, but I suppose it is intended to be eaten in tandem with some of the other parts of the dish. The chicken satay skewers were simply excellent. I don’t think I’ve had better in a London restaurant, even at much pricier establishments. The sweet and mildly spicy peanut flavor shone through and the chicken was moist and flavorful. All too often I find the chicken at lower-priced Indian and Asian restaurants to be dry and vapid, but at Kiasu I haven’t had that experience thus far. Possibly my favorite part of the dish was the pile of achar, or pickled mixed vegetables. They were so delicious; I wish they had put a few more on the plate! The prawn sambal was my least favorite element in the dish as the fishy flavor was overpowering and I couldn’t stomach eating more than a few bites of it. Overall, I would give the dish a 7/10 as it was very good.
My wife said that her red curry sauce was tasty and spiced perfectly, but that there weren’t many pieces of duck in the dish, and that the pieces that were there were okay but not fantastic. Upon reflection, although she usually likes duck for dishes like this, she would have preferred chicken instead, but it wasn’t available on the menu anyway. The vegetables that accompanied the dish were aubergine, bamboo shoots, tomatoes and she said that, from time-to-time, she would get a piece of pineapple too, which added a lovely sweetness. The rice was very good; fluffy and fragrant. 6/10.
I have always enjoyed my desserts at Kiasu, and this was one of the few I hadn’t tried before. The base is made with coconut cream and then some palm sugar (the gula melaka) is added. Chilled sago pearls (similar to tapioca and extracted from palm tree stems) are layered in throughout. The palm sugar makes the dish with its rich brown sugary taste, and the pearls add interest by lending their gelatinous texture. It was good but wasn’t one of the stronger desserts I’ve had at Kiasu before. I prefer their Chendol, for example. 6/10.
Of her dessert, Mrs. LF commented: “I like the idea of trying something totally new, especially when it comes to dessert. I mean, how wrong can it possibly go, really?…So I opted for this desert because I liked the sound of “black glutinous slowly cooked rice” as it might just resemble traditional English rice pudding, which I looove! Obviously it wasn’t quite the same, and unfortunately wasn’t quite as nice either, but I enjoyed the novelty of tucking in to something sweet and unknown. It was good though (different to say the least) and tasted healthy with the coconut cream instead of milk.” 6/10.
Is Kiasu for you?
For the price, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place serving this style of food in Central London. The quality of food on offer at Kiasu has been fairly consistent throughout all of our visits and we always leave satisfied and feeling that we’ve just had a bit of a bargain, as the bill for two is usually around £20 total. The waiters are normally very polite and obliging, but tend to leave you alone unless you need them – which suits me fine in a place like this. The only thing that slightly lets the restaurant down is its somewhat harsh lighting and bright blue theme. I think it could use a bit of a makeover – nothing radical – as it has been open over three years and I don’t believe they’ve changed anything. Besides that, I don’t have many complaints and am always happy eating there.
Wine: they have a nice little wine list for a restaurant where probably very few people are actually going to order it. There are 5 whites and reds each, plus a rosé and two sparklers. I’ve had the Heller Chenin Blanc Organic once and it complimented the flavors of my meal very nicely.
For more about my rating scale, click here.
*Note: I have dined at Kiasu a number of times (I think four), and have always gone for lunch or midday snacking.*