I know it’s all a matter of taste – literally and metaphorically – when it comes to restaurants. Some diners have a flavour profile in mind, while others judge a restaurant by how sharply the creases might be pressed into the serviettes.
Ekachai Oriental Dining Room at Liverpool Street has what might be described as ‘individual charm’ or ‘exotic urban overtones’. I know it’s recently been refurbished and I have no idea what the previous décor might have been, but this look is, to my mind, just right for the location and food style.
The theme is rustic with wooden tables, and boxes for seats. Those scrubbed tables are illuminated by lamps with tin-can shades which fit with the fashionably ‘shabby’ impression. Muted colour and softened textures meld to present a slightly edgy but pleasing restaurant. It’s not overtly South East Asian but it works.
I have spent quite a bit of time in both Malaysia and Singapore over the past couple of years and the dishes at Ekachai seem authentic. It’s true that, over there, every stall and hawker stand had its own recipe for a particular dish but all of them would have the same recognisable characteristics, and they are found in those same dishes faithfully replicated here.
This branch has been around for a good number of years and has cultivated a loyal following. The place is full to busting at lunch time with city workers and quite a few of them are Asian, from just the region covered by the menu. Few people seemed to need that aforementioned menu and that’s always a good sign.
We started with a plate of Chicken Satay. The meat was tender and flavourful although I would have preferred the sauce to have a little more spicy bite to it. The Prawn and Crab Siu Mai Dumplings looked and tasted authentic, with a mild flavour of delicious seafood. Another visit would tempt me with Masalodeh – lentil fritters infused with curry leaves and spices, served with a yoghurt and mint dip.
The list of main dishes spans that group of countries of South East Asia in a most delicious fashion. There are quite a few classics such as Pad Thai – noodles with egg, chives, beansprouts and choice of prawn or tofu, and Sweet and Sour Pork, but much more that one might actually find in the exotic East.
Malaysian Chicken Kapitan was my guest’s choice and was indeed worthy of a salute. It was a substantial bowl of chicken in a gravy of chilli, lemongrass, galangal, shrimp paste, mixed ground spices, roasted coconut and kafir lime leaves. It was warming, aromatic and flavourful and could be described as a soupy curry or hearty soup. A portion of rice on the side was all that was needed.
I chose Sambal Udang which was light and flavourful – large prawns in a well-spiced chilli sauce with vegetables. I ordered coconut rice on the side which acted as a sweet foil for the heat of the seafood.
Ekachai Oriental Dining Room is casual dining at its best. More accurately one could say that the surroundings are casual but the food is thoughtful. Would I return? Most definitely.
Ekachai Oriental Dining Room
9-10 The Arcade,
City of London
Phone: 020 7626 1155
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018