It was a fairly late decision to visit Rasa Malaya, a celebration/reward for an excellent test performance by Ms L.
Rasa means 'taste' in Malay and the menu is a mix of the main cuisines available in Malaysia: Malay, Chinese, Nyonya and Indian. It's a fairly non-descript looking restaurant from the outside and pretty typical suburban Malaysian on the inside. Mirrors on the wall to make the small room look larger than it is, very basic in décor but well lit and clean, nothing particularly appealing but nothing to scare you away either.
Actually probably the scariest thing was the boss lady running the show. Now in some respects Ms Counting her Calories can be a fairly typical Chinese-Malaysian woman and a bit scary herself when her dander is up. However, she seemed quite intimidated by the Auntie running the show. I can sort of understand why, as while there were no particular incidents she came across as a woman of few words but many frowns. We didn't have a booking, frown. We weren't quite ready to order, frown. Combine that with the rest of the staff being efficient but also a bit quiet and it felt like you had to be on your best behaviour.
Ms Counting her Calories had raved about the beef rendang here being the best in Melbourne so that was of course number one on the list of things we had to try. While I'm not totally convinced she's right you could certainly make a case for it as the rendang is very good. It's spicy but not hot, with a good balance of sauce and meat. The meat was appropriately tender if not quite melt in the mouth, but then again this is a dish which benefits from a long, slow cooking and may be better suited to home/village cooking than restaurant. It also came served in a very cute Winnie the Pooh dish as we discovered while eating.
Second choice was the Rasa Malaya Sotong (squid). Again not too spicy hot, nicely cooked, tasty and generous.
Final main was the Ipoh combination, a mixture of seafood and rice noodles with an egg based sauce. Another quite good dish if not quite up with the best I've had around town with lots of prawns, calamari and slices of chicken. I thought the major issue was the noodles didn't have quite as much wok hei as in some other restaurants, although I'm not sure that Ironman agreed with me. Still, we all agreed that meant two good main dishes and the third more than acceptable.
Unfortunately though we all agreed the desserts were a slight let down. The cendol looked ok but Ms Counting her Calories indicated that it was only average - she suspected the green noodles could have done with a bit more cooking. One of the things I really like with my ais kachang is a big dob of ice cream on top, or failing that a generous serve of condensed milk. To me anyway I thought instead it had gone a bit heavy on the syrup, resulting in the dish being too sweet.
A good suburban Malaysian restaurant, let down a little by the typical fairly daggy interior and the feeling that some of the staff could have been a little friendlier. I wouldn't recommend it for a first date, but for a family outing or if the most important things are food and price it's a pretty good option. It is popular though, and I'd definitely recommend booking if you plan on a weekend evening visit.
Food - 7.5
Ambience - 6
Service - 6
Price - 7.5
272 Blackburn Road
Doncaster VIC 3109
Tel: (03) 9842 4797