CJ's Restaurant Serves an Ace

Malaysian - Thai food in cafe on the Vale

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If you go towards Shepherd's Bush along the Vale past Acton Park almost as far as Askew Road, on the right-hand side (if you're facing East) you will find CJ's. This place operates as a café during the day and a Malaysian-Thai restaurant in the evenings.

We used to eat at CJ's quite a bit, but they shut down in the evenings in 1993. However, they re-opened in April and it was time to remind ourselves and our tastebuds about what they offer.

For a start, they don't have a license but charge £1 corkage per person - so remember to TYOB.

The outside has been given a re-vamp and looks very pretty. Inside has also been given something of a make-over and is decorated with long lines of postcards and attractive prints. It all adds up to a cosy and cared-for atmosphere.

We decided to kick off with CJ's selection (£7.90). This is enough for two and you get prawn wrappers (prawns in a sort of pastry sleeping bag), spring rolls (the tiny Thai variety) tord man pla (Thai fish cakes) prawn toast and chicken satay, plus a dipping sauce.

Often, prawn toast is a sort of slightly mushy/crispy square of Mother's Pride. It's a faintly fishy and often oily item I wouldn't normally enthuse about, but these were amazing - they were not oily at all, with a delicious sesame flavour from the seeds on top balancing the prawn flavour.

The Tord Man Pla was just the right combination of fish and spice (again not oily - and definitely freshly cooked) and the prawn wrappers were also excellent - very fresh tasting prawns with their crispy pastry blanket. The chicken satay is something I definitely remember from pre 1993 - somehow no other chicken satay has managed to taste quite as good since, and we weren't disappointed.

We also chomped our way through some very good prawn crackers (£2).

For our mains we chose tamarind fish (£6.20)which was really good - fresh fish in a very good sauce. We also polished off a portion of Singapore Noodles which I ordered because the man on the table behind us had a plateful and it looked (and I can confirm that my portion tasted) utterly delicious. This was rice vermicelli with egg, chilli paste, shrimp, bean sprouts and chicken (£5.20).

We also had Chicken Gaeng Massaman (Southern Thai curry with potato, onion, coconut milk, peanuts, herbs and spices - £5) This was probably the star of the show and as you can probably tell, it had a very strong supporting cast. A more delicious, fragrant, beautifully spiced dish you would be hard-pressed to find.

The C of CJ's is the chef. He is a Malaysian called Cedric. J is for his very charming Irish partner Joan. She waits on tables and takes care of everybody. Writing this has made me feel like jumping on my bike and pedalling down the Vale for more. CJ's are only open in the evenings from Thursday to Saturday, although the cafe is open daily 9.30-2.30.

Clare Gittins

November 5, 2008