Saturday, 24 September 2011

Awana - a Mal-eh-sian experience

Groupon, for those of you who don't know (which I find unlikely in this day and age), is a company that specialises in daily deals. Including deals at restaurants, where they put on a menu usually at highly discounted costs. So for example, you can get a £50 set menu for £20 for two, something like that.

So when there was a daily deal for Awana, offering a tasting menu at cheap prices, I jumped on it. Having tried their Roti Canai at various Taste of London festivals and being impressed, this had been on my list for a while. However, being in the opposite end of town, I never saw a reason to go until now.

Looking at the menu, it was made up of all the things I'd grown to love when I spent some time in Malaysia all those years ago, Roti, Rendang etc. So I arrived with excitement.

The first course, the Roti Canai with Satay Chicken, was a decent interpretation along the lines of the tastes I'd had previously. However, I was less of a fan of the cheap looking TVs around the restaurant with poor quality video of the kitchen that was making these.
The next course, following swiftly behind the first, was a spicy and sour salad with Pomelo and a half a prawn perched on top, with some fruit and a Tamarind paste to dip it in. The fruit was pretty tasty, but the salad disappointed here. Too spicy, sour and bitter, with no sweet notes to offset this. The small portion of prawn was also slightly confusing, as my girlfriend's portion had only 2/3rds of a prawns worth.

Again, the salad was quickly followed by a Char Siu Lamb rib with a Chicken Dumpling soup. At this point I should point out, the meal was going so quickly we hadn't even finished out cocktails, or had our wine brought out. The lamb was actually very good, as was the dumpling soup, so I wolfed them down. My dining companion on the other hand prefers to savour the meal. This lead to one of the worst instances of service I have seen in a restaurant, the waiters had removed my plate and started to put my next course down before my girlfriend was even halfway through hers. I had to point this out to them and suggest they wait until both diners are ready for the next course.

Beef Rendang. One of my favourite curries around and this was a good example of the form. However, I was slightly confused at a self proclaimed 'fine dining' Malay restaurant giving diners their own little bowls of Rendang to portion out. This part of the meal seemed to be lacking any real presentation that you'd expect. However, it was very tasty, so it gets a pass.

The final course, a dessert of Lemongrass Ice Cream, Chilli and Papaya Sorbet and a Cheesecake more like a mousse was also impressive, tasty and interesting. However, by this point I'd been soured on the whole experience by the feeling that we were being rushed through as we were 'Groupon Cheapos', even though we'd covered more than the cost of the full price meal in drinks...

So overall, while the food at Awana wasn't bad, the service has shot any chance of me going back, especially when the bill that came had the audacity to charge service on the full priced menu (putting it at around 50%) for what was one of the worst examples of the art I have been unfortunate to experience.

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