Londoners are single-minded about restaurant identity: Indian is curry and French is expensive and never the twain shall meet. So the opening last year of Notting Hill's Nyonya, which serves a spicy, delicious blend of Chinese and Malaysian cuisine, caused much head scratching. The beautiful curved-glass windows with a minimal interior designed by London's Four IV gives little away and, to the uninitiated, menu entries with names like otak-otak and ju hu char don't help much.
But the food has a centuries-old pedigree, as the product of Chinese settlements in Malacca, as Malaysia was known during the Ming dynasty. (The word nyonya refers to female descendants of mixed marriages that occurred in the area.) It's the original Asian fusion cuisine. Some of Nyonya's dishes—like the delicate but hearty pork dumplings—resemble what you'd get in typical Chinese places. Others—the slightly sour beef rendang or the piquant bean sprouts with salted fish—are more Malaysian. Much of Nyonya's menu is devoted to elegant versions of soups and stews sold in Penang streets. The penang assam laksa is one: a tangy fish broth flavored with turmeric and chili pepper, with vegetables and rice noodles. But the show-stealer is the dessert called kuih, sticky rice cakes flavored with leaves from the tropical screwpine tree.
Sometimes Nyonya's fusion creates confusion; a crestfallen customer recently asked : "You don't serve sushi?" But with food this good for less than $15 a dish, Londoners are happily catching on. No reservations. tel: (44-207) 243 1800; www.nyonya.co.uk