Brace yourself for a hot and spicy account of Clerkenwell’s Malaysian restaurant 54 Pinang! The chicken satay, prawns wrapped in sweet potato, beef rendang, and sambal udang are all to die for.
A couple of friends of mine were moving to Germany and were adamant on gorging on as much spicy food as possible before entering the realm of sausages, dumplings and sauerkraut. We settled on visiting 54 Pinang, a Malaysian restaurant that opened just over a year ago on Farringdon Road, a 5 minute walk from Farringdon station.54 had a summer special three course menu at £15, a seven dish taster menu at £25 and also an a la carte menu. Glancing over to our neighbours we realised that the taster menu was more appropriate for two people, something they had not made clear on the menu. After a little confusion over the three menus, the four of us ordered one taster menu plus two summer special menus.
Even though ordering was a little hectic, we were delighted to be presented with an assortment of starters. Normally, I avoid ordering chicken satay because the meat is frequently dried out, but 54 Pinang showed us how it was done. The chicken was extraordinarily tender yet deliciously chargrilled on the outside, and the accompanying peanut sauce had a fiery kick of chilli. The roti bread and accompanying dhal was quite tasty, though the roti was a little dry. The pastry around the vegetarian curry puffs was delicious, but the filling was a little nondescript. The Sup Kambing Malaysian lamb soup, was a delicately mild soup which reminded us of a Chinese won ton soup, and complemented the more spicier starters. Next came the Cucur Badak, which was prawns wrapped in sweet potato, grated coconut, and then deep fried. The Cucur Badak was out of this world, and hands down the most memorable starter, due to it’s unusual combination of flavours.
For our mains we ordered several curries and some stir fried vegetable noodles with tofu. The curries were quite fierce so it was practical that we had ordered the mild noodle dish, which offset the heat. Luckily, the four of us were all suckers for spice so were able to take the heat. It was devilishly hot but not to the extent that our tastebuds went AWOL. The food was bursting with flavour and had a feisty kick of chilli to boot. So basically, 54 Pinang is not for the fainthearted! The slow cooked chicken rendang and beef rendang were unbelievable, with strong flavours of ginger, coconut milk and lemongrass. It was however the fiery Sambal Udang, large prawns cooked in a sambal made with tamarind juice, shrimp paste and palm sugar that deserved the most praise. The only disappointing main was the beef and potato curry, as the beef was slightly tough.
Our bill came to a very reasonable £24 per person including tip and two beers each. Overall the food was of a very high standard, and the chicken satay, Cucur Badak (prawns in sweet potato), rendeng curries, and Sambal Udang (large prawns in sambal) were spectacular. We had visited 54 on a Thursday night and it had been disappointingly quiet. The location is not fantastic (it is on a dodgy bit of Farringdon Rd which is also home to a table dancing club), and I can only assume that this is the singular reason why people have yet to discover it. I hope business picks up for 54 because it is definitely a keeper.
54 Pinang, 54 Farringdon Rd, London, EC1R 3BL, 020 7336 0603.