Nonya, a name that has me licking my lips. It refers to Peranakan, or Straits Chinese cooking, the celebrated tradition that has its epicentre in Penang, Malaysia, a unique, distinctive, often spicy marriage of Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, even Thai ingredients and techniques. In Malay, Nonya is a term of respect and affection for women of prominent social standing. It refers to a very distinctive, female home cooking style.

I’m wasn’t quite sure how appropriate this term might be to name a Glasgow restaurant, but it made me optimistic at least because it seemed to hint at a specificity beyond the generic ‘Malaysian’ or even ‘Asian’ label that might just suggest a faithful respect, even competence, in the said cooking style.

Alternatively, the name of this new enterprise in Finnieston could be the fruit of what I call a ‘deli day’, one of those occasions where we sit around in the office in our employer’s time, moaning about our jobs, swopping possible names for the enterprises- deli, café, street food stall- that are going to revolutionise our lives when we lurch into our new money-making enterprises. Deli days, and new business titles, are the next stage on from discussing baby names.

It’s clear from the off that this Glasgow Nonya has no obvious connection with the said cooking culture, but let’s not split hairs. I’m not bothered if the food tastes good. There’s a spirit of irony to the tins of ‘Gourmet Powder’, aka monosodium glutamate, that ‘renders your favourite foods surprisingly delicious”. I bet it does, but it’s the effect of my body I’m worried about. Obviously they don’t really use MSG here. I‘m instead boosting my microbiome with Clever Kombucha, made in Glasgow, and definitely the very best kombucha I’ve come across. There’s also pleasantly un-sweet mango slush, sharpened by citrus juice. We nibble on warm, salted cashews fried with tapering lengths of whole red chilli sizzled into a lacquered state, and crisped up Kaffir lime leaves. The nuts, spice, and leaves don’t really scent the nuts, but they’re very munchable.

The golden-fried Chinese chive and bamboo shoot dumplings smell of nice clean oil. Stout, chewy, they have the sheen of a bagel. The dough is perhaps too dense, but tastes homemade, the bamboo brings its characteristic snappy juiciness, and cooked in this way, the chives taste not unlike Swiss chard.

Next up the sticky rice in its waxy crust, exuding that exotic Chinatown waft. It’s a shame that it’s served in an open bowl, so it cools in seconds. And this is where our meal starts to go wrong. We have to ask for knives to cut the ‘Siu Yuk’ roast pork, and even then it’s difficult. No way could you make any impression on the firmly fatty, tough meat with the chopsticks provided. We’re meant to dip it in Chinese mustard, salt, and sugar; the effect is like taking part in a laboratory food chemistry experiment. I couldn’t get my teeth into the dry, tough duck leg (possibly deep fried to reheat it) with unidentifiable shards of burnt leaf on top even if I ate it with my fingers. Its tamarind and soy dressing is as controlled as a blunderbuss.

When the ox heart larb arrives I want to drag out the kitchen the person who keeps bawling ‘Service!’ like a squaddie, and ask him why he expects anyone to eat or enjoy this stuff. Coarse chunks of hard cabbage, white stuff-probably kohlrabi- and whole green beans are supposedly to be savoured with this cold, hard, probably pre-cooked, minced meat that tastes of the fridge. The dressing, so heavy-handed that is destined to be sweated out of every pore for days, mounts an anaesthetic assault on the mouth. An onglet salad is similarly afflicted: it’s awash with fish sauce. A Nonya granny would give you hell for this.

You can tell that Nonya isn’t cooking like a native of that, or any other Asian food tradition, let alone like a respectful follower. What are the kitchen’s credentials for attempting this type of food? It has a lot of learning to do.

Nonya, 10 Claremont St, Glasgow 0141 221 6200

Lunch-Dinner £18-£28

Food rating 4 and a half/10