STANDING still has never been in Les D’Silva’s nature.
While he and his wife Asha run a successful restaurant, he is always looking at something extra – value adding if you like.
It comes in the form of his popular Sunday cooking lessons, in takeaway dishes and in catering for functions from $15 a head.
In the past six years he has transformed the Original Little Buddha vegetarian restaurant into one offering a broad range of Asian dishes – including vegetarian – and has made an indelible mark on dining at Chirn Park.
A stickler for freshly prepared dishes using the freshest of ingredients, Les has put his more than 30 years experience in the hospitality industry to good use, the result always on display at Sayang.
The passion for hospitality of this Ipoh-born restaurateur-chef remains undiminished, ideas constantly springing to mind.
One idea was fortunately stifled by the downturn in the economy, which stopped the sale of the premises and a planned move to another venue.
“Sometimes events work out for the best,” says Les, more than comfortable with the fact that his many regular customers are delighted to find him in familiar surroundings.
Les and Asha, who was born in Kuala Lumpur, make a formidable team – Asha having run her own cafe and the pair having worked in hotels and restaurants in New Zealand and on the Gold Coast before launching Sayang in 2003.
The name says it all – multicuisine comprising Malaysian, Indonesian, Thai, Indian and even a little Australian although Les has dispensed with the kangaroo.
Les is a bit of a flavour whiz so the crossover of the four Asian cuisines, which all share spice-driven similarities, is hardly overly ambitious.
It does, however, offer diners a range of choices under one roof.
Those choices extend to vegetarian dishes, and Les’s use of halal meats seems only to add to the flavour and tenderness of the meals, whether they are steak, chicken or curry dishes.
Had he moved Les may not have found new premises as pleasant as his current location.
It once was home to a garden centre and nursery, and there remains touches of its past in outside greenery including a flourishing herb garden.
There is outdoor seating while indoors there are several spaces around the central open kitchen area, each containing a variety of tables – many of them handmade from recycled wood.
There are comfortable metal chairs, artefacts, candles inside lamps, rustic terracotta-tiled floors, red and green polished concrete, a blackboard, a display of wines and liquors set behind glass in the front room and soft background music.
While Les enjoys forays from the kitchen to chat with diners, Asha is the front-of-house face of the restaurant who embraces patrons, many of them regulars, as extended family.
This is not really a place to have a hurried meal.
Les does every order from scratch, which means on busy nights there might be a short wait for meals to reach the table.
They are worth the wait and the service is always warm and friendly.
If such variety in Asian dishes seems ambitious on the part of one chef, it is no more than the mark of Les’s ability to interpret and use the many spices and herbs that go towards making Asian foods so popular in Australia.
There are seafood and meat dishes, but this remains an excellent venue for those who prefer to tread the vegetarian path – from lentil soups to appetisers such as gado gado (the egg can be omitted on request) and curry puffs to an array of special mains.
They embrace dishes of Indonesia, India, Malaya and Thailand, and in each case the flavours speak volumes.
As in most Asian restaurants curries are offered mild, medium or hot.
Order ‘hot’ and it’s a case of caveat emptor – ‘buyer beware’.
Les takes you at your word and the result can be volcanic.
A vegetable laksa is a case in point.
Cooked in a rich and creamy vegetable broth it is packed with noodles, chunky bits of vegetable and garnished with egg, bean sprouts, spring onions and bean curd.
Ordered hot, it arrives that way, a large bowl of it with enough heat to power a small village or a bicycle lamp at least – or so it seems.
It is delicious none the less.
For the more judicious, medium heat would be advisable.
The same can be said for the curries, the devil lamb in particular – a lamb curry in a thick rich sauce which, unlike the lamb saag or the plain lamb curry, comes just one way – hot.
But the dishes are dominated by flavours – mint, coriander, pepper, ginger and cumin among them.
The chicken roti platter is well worth trying.
A mild chicken curry is served on a metal platter with sectioned ingredients such as anchovy sambal or egg sambal, pickles and dhal, and two pieces of roti.
Les’s nasi beryiani specials are excellent – rice cooked with fresh herbs, spices, cashew nuts and sultanas and a choice of lamb, chicken, beef or prawns. A vegetarian option is also available.
There is a delightful Malaysian beef or chicken rendang cooked in a rich coconut, lemongrass and candlenut sauce.
There is also devil chicken, fillet steak, chicken schnitzel with pasta, and tender lamb chops.
Blackboard specials include Thai chicken green curry, satay chicken curry or the popular Malaysian and Singaporean dish char keow teow – stir-fried ribbon rice noodles with prawns and fish ball.
There is much more, along with side dishes, all tempting and tasty, as are the desserts, among them sago gula Melaka – old-style tapioca pearls with coconut cream and palm sugar.
If variety is the spice of life, this is the place to find both.
‘Suburban food and service par excellence’ – Patricia Mossop
Sayang Malaysian Restaurant
(multi-cuisine and vegetarian)
ADDRESS: 44 Kerr Avenue, corner of Musgrave Avenue,
PHONE: 5531 3311
PRICE: E:$4.80 to $11, M:$13.50 to $23 and D:$5 to $7.50.
A and B Banquet menus, with a minimum of two people, are
$25 a person and $28.50 a person
LIQUOR STATUS: Licensed
OPEN: Lunch and dinner seven days
OTHER: Accepts major credit cards