Certainly not 'authentic' enough by my standards and I have tasted better than what were served in Serai at other 'fusion' Malaysian restaurants in Europe. I was surprised that Serai gets good to excellent review. I guess most of the reviewers are local 'Europeans' who have never tasted the real Malay food before; to these reviewers the food tasted exotic perhaps. Coming from Bruneian-Malaysian background, my tastebuds are accustomed to Malay, Indian and South-east Asian Chinese cuisine and food certainly plays a major role in my upbringing as most of other South-east Asian would agree; we socialise around food and restaurants as most Europeans socialise around drinks and pub culture.
Anyway, I found Serai on Tripadvisor and since it has such a good review and we are in the area visiting, I was intrigued and I thought we would give it a try. One look at the menu, the varieties of food served here are not complicated to prepare honestly. Frankly speaking, I could have cooked all that are listed in the menu myself.
Service, atmosphere and ambience of the restaurant cannot be faulted. It was clean, functional, art works on display are OK (which by the way are for sale) and the waitress was somewhat friendly. I am basing my review purely on the taste of the food and nothing else.
Teh tarek tasted like tepid water. The type of tea used for making teh tarek was not of the right one. They should have used tea dusts and this would give the teh tarek the dark orange colour and strong distinctive taste of teh tarek. The starter plate: chicken satay was not marinated with the spices. I didn't taste any ketumbar, jintan, lengkuas, serai on the meat. The satay sauce was watery, no peanut pieces (they were finely blended) and taste was on the extra sweet side; besides whose bright idea to put cucumber and onion into the glass jar and pour the sauce on them anyway? The roti canai I suspected is from the packet and tasted like cardboard. The dal sauce I won't bother commenting on. The karipap tasted a bit off (inti basi).
For main courses, we ordered nasi goreng kampung and mee kari. I always ordered these to test whether the restaurant is serving authentic food or otherwise. Unfortunately, it's EPIC fail for Serai. Nasi goreng kampung was clumpy and a bit on the soggy side. Tak berderai langsung. Besides who put curry powder in nasi goreng kampong anyway. The key ingredients were missing in the dish, ikan bilis (anchovies) and belacan (shrimp paste). It wasn't spicy at all as nasi goreng kampung supposed to be spicy. I mean my grandmother cooked better than that. Mee kari was tasteless, no curry taste, no asam taste....all I can taste was coconut milk and the soup was again watery. Since when do you put salad in mee kari? Major disappointment! We were served 'sambal' and cut chillies in soya sauce condiments. My first thought great salvation to the lacklustre tasting food. The 'sambal' was not sambal at all, more like chilli paste sauce, no bawang, no belacan, no udang kering. My husband likes chillies and took 2 spoonful of the chillies in soya sauce onto his nasi goreng kampung and walloped one spoon straight with the rice. He had a great shock as the chillies were so spicy. He ended up with hiccups throughout the dinner. They served habanero cut chillies instead of normal chillies or bird eyes chillies. I think the intention was to emulate the cili padi taste. What a major mistake! Habanero chillies don't go well with South-east Asian food at all. What was the chef thinking? Somehow I didn't think he is Malaysian but I overheard him talking to the owner in Malay. So, I think he is not a real chef but just merely a cook.
Presentation of the food was there but unfortunately taste certainly was left out of the picture.
Since we dined on Monday, there was 20% discount on the total bill. That managed to somewhat dampen my disappointment but not much. We finished most of the food (apart from nasi goring and mee kari) as I don't believe the food should go to waste since I paid for them. The food definitely wasn't great but edible (only just!). When will I ever learn never to dine in an 'Asian' restaurant claiming to be authentic in Europe, as it always turn out to be non authentic but somewhat fusion. Will I ever visit the restaurant again, the answer is definitely a No. Will I ever recommend it to my friends and family members, the answer is No unless they are really desperate in eating 'authentic' Malaysian food. Maybe the restaurant should concentrate in being an art gallery than a café serving 'authentic' Malaysian food.
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