Great expectations…

The last time we were in Penang in November last year, we saw this nyonya restaurant housed in an expensive-looking heritage bungalow…

Penang nyonya restaurant 1

…located right across the road from the hotel where we were staying. We thought of dropping by for dinner one evening but we were not exactly dressed to the nines and it certainly looked like a posh place so in the end, we abandoned the idea.

Penang nyonya restaurant 2

Before my recent trip to Penang, however, I chanced upon somebody’s blogpost on the place praising it to the skies. There and then, I decided that I would drop by to sample their Peranakan fare this time around and I did and when I sounded it out to my cousins who would also be in Penang for the wedding, they were all very keen on the idea.

So there we were in full force that Friday evening, all of us with great expectations in anticipation of a most delightful dinner. Unfortunately, the lighting was very dim…

Penang nyonya  restaurant 3

…so I had to depend on the flash to take the photographs. I liked the decor in the place a lot especially the curios on display…

Penang nyonya restaurant 4

I saw a similar porcelain tiffin carrier (the blue and white one)…

Penang nyonya restaurant 5

…at the souvenir shop at the Agnes Keith House in Sandakan (where the English Tea House is) and was torn between buying it or not at the time but in the end, I thought that over RM300 for that was a bit too steep and decided against the idea though I quite regret it now as I would love to have that in my collection…and they have two more of the same here as well…

Penang nyonya restaurant 6

I was impressed by the sink/wash basin in the washroom too…

Penang nyonya restaurant 7

However, I wish I could say the same about the food and the service.

They did not have a table big enough for 15 people – that was the number given when my niece made the reservation for us and without consulting us, they took the liberty of splitting us into two tables. In the end, there were only 11 of us so we expressed our preference for being seated all together at one table. Thankfully, the sweet young girl was obliging enough and tried her best to see to our request and eventually, our wish was granted.

On the other hand, I could sense some kind of displeasure and impatience in the older lady who came to take our orders or perhaps that was her personality, I wouldn’t know. No doubt we were slow in deciding what we wanted and our endless jovial banter certainly did not help one bit and seemed to get on her nerves but that kind of cold and curt treatment would leave a bitter taste in the mouth, no doubt…and was quite uncalled for for people in this line of business.

I am not going to post the photos of all that we had that night though as having to use the flash to take them, they would not do the food justice. We had the top hats (kuih pai tee) and everyone agreed that what we make for ourselves in our own family is a lot nicer in more ways than one. Some of us loved the pork cooked with cincaluk (fermented bubuk or shrimps) which I’ve cooked before except that I would steam it and I would use either pork or chicken and I think I prefer my own. Maybe the problem was in the cincaluk – I find that the belacan (prawn paste) and the cincaluk in the peninsula lack the strong fragrance (some West Malaysian colleagues would use the word “stink”) that we would very much prefer.

Some of us liked the inchi cabin chicken – a dish of fried chicken or at least, that was what I thought it was but I thought it was just so-so, nothing really to shout about. The otak-otak was good but I didn’t think I would want to order that again should I happen to drop by the place another time, if you can catch the drift. I would very much prefer the different variation of it at Payung Cafe in Sibu and the Muar-type at the Muar Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. The masak lemak sweet potato leaves was a disappointment – we cook very much nicer masak lemak of our own at home except that we have never tried it with sweet potato leaves before. Maybe I will try that sometime and post on it.

I loved the mango kerabu

Penang nyonya restaurant 8

…and everybody agreed that the sambal petai was very good…

Penang nyonya restaurant 9

I think that was about all that we had. We ordered two bowls of the pulut hitam (black glutinous rice) dessert to try and thought it was o.k.

For one thing, we were served very fast – almost instantly, I would say and that would be a bonus point as all of us  were very hungry and could hardly wait to enjoy the dinner. I don’t know how much it cost though, as my cousin’s hubby – the father of the bride-to-be (the wedding was two nights later) treated all of us and settled the bill for everybody.

They do have a lot of other dishes on the menu which we did not try but based on what we had that night, I must say that I would not be in a hurry to go back there again.  As one of my cousins said, “People from nyonya families going to a nyonya restaurant is definitely not the best idea! There would be bound to be a lot of comparisons and criticisms,” and I must admit that he was right.

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