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.

P.S.:
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Author: suituapui

Ancient relic but very young at heart. Enjoys food and cooking...and travelling and being with friends.

45 thoughts on “Great expectations…”

  1. OH MY GOD!!! have mercy on my soul! I’d die for the sambal petai and mango salad! Omg, those are my favourite. And you know something? It’s time for me to bodek my dear sweet sister Kathy for some sambal petai. She can make very nice sambal petai. Yep yep… time to go bodek-ing. *hops off to bodek*

    ps: My grandparents house got such furniture and deco… my grandpa still keep my late grandma’s old iron… the one that uses charcoal in it.

    That’s a priceless antique – the genuine ones. I think there are imitations today…like everything else. Expensive but not really worth much. Good luck with your bodek-ing… 😀

    1. Sobs… I bet the big kakak will knock my head for bodek-ing. After all, she just made me a jar of mango jeruk. She’s the best kakak in the world. LOLOL!

      Jeruk? Eyewwwww….lots at Chowrasta! Wait for the post. I did not touch – not a fan of those stuff. 😦

    2. Antique kah? Dono how much can sell… lol… my grandpa keep a lot of strange things from the past… even the mangkuk tingkat looks strange to me.

      I used to go and kacau my late grandma when she iron the clothes…but got one time… I got on her nerve, and she took my finger and threaten to burn it with the charcoal inside the iron… eeee… after that tak berani kacau her dah!

      You minta-minta lah… Whatever you can get, just take…and if you don’t want, give all to me lah! Muahahahahaha!!!!

  2. That is why most Peranakans won’t step into a Peranakan restaurant to have a meal…quality is not the same. You knowlah it is very well known that Peranakans are fussy pots..everything must be perfect, from the pounding of the chillies ( my late mom used to say that my chilli giling boleh buat selimut..another way of saying my chilli paste not fine enough) to the presentation. God forbid if gravy dishes not pekat enough or else it those old timers will say cair macam air kencing!!! I guess with many not pure peranakans and some wannabes peranakans opening Nyonya restaurants with no background of nyonya cuisine, the standard will be low.
    I dah click ‘like’ so that you can have a true peranakan cuisine in Auckland..heheheehe. Good luck!!!

    Ooooo…can’t wait! Even if I don’t win, I would try my best to drop by Auckland before the year is out to try all the “good recipes”. Hehehehehe!!!! 😉

    Gee! I thought it’s only in my family – the food critics. Guess all peranakans are the same. Ya…whatever I cook, my mum would have a comment – lengkuas tak cukup, too much serai, belacan not wangi etc…etc…etc…but I’ve an excuse. Nobody ever taught me – I just picked up the skill via trial and error by hanging around the kitchen when small, helping out sometimes with the preparation.

    I like the selimut remark. Typical nyonya sarcasm. My late ma-ee (auntie) was an expert at that. LOL!!! 😀

    1. =.= makes me wanna cry in shame… I’m a nyonya, but masak tak pandai. I’m only good at burning my food and only good at eating hahaha…

      I cannot imagine my late grandma’s reaction if she’s to find out that I’m more keen on cooking Coke chicken to ayam ponteh. *shudder*

      You’re not the only one…and it is getting worse by the day. Really sad that most are not so discerning when it comes to food and really tragic that the culture is dying. Incidentally, the Muar Restaurant that I invited you all to…is a lot nicer than this one, foodwise…and I would think it is a lot cheaper too.

      1. You got good life…so tak payah la belaje masak..dapat kawin orang kaya. Anyway, nowadays tak macam dolu-dolu..kena belaje masak senonoh-senonoh baru dapat jantan kaya and baik masok meminang. Nowadays as long as you got education,you can fend for yourself..makan with lauk tunjuk..hehehehe. Actually, I pun bukannya terror masak but can do la…what to do, mo makan lauk tunjuk pun tak boleh as here is not macam Malaysia. Mo pandei masak kenalah belaje so that your pongteh tak lar jadi coke chicken!!! (at least coke chicken is ediblekan?..not like negro chicken…hahahaha)

        Hahahahaha!!! Ini nyonya…memang pandai sindir pun! I guess it’s inborn – people always say I’m very sarcastic though I do not feel it at all – most unintentional, I swear! LOL!!! 😀 Itulah…tengok Shereen begitu pandai masak…dapat suami kaya, lagi hensem dan apa lagi, orang mat saleh. Oooooo!!!! @.@ Muahahahahaha!!!!

    2. 😦 My late grandma oso used to tell us granddaughters our rempah giling macam selimut. Den she oso say air kencing oso more pekat than our gulai. 😦 She’s one mean grandma~!

      I would say it’s a lost art – sometimes you get that in those old P Ramlee movies. I love his comedies – the current productions suck big time…not funny at all.

    3. Arthur,
      Forgot to tell you…Penang Nyonya food not exactly the same as Melaka Nyonya food. Penang ones more towards Chinese style whereas Melaka Nyonyas more towards Malay style. There are some dishes from penang Nyonyas that melaka nyonyas tak masak and vice versa. For me, I prefer the melaka nyonyas style la..duh!! Lagi sedap and berperisa and also more unique (hehehe…masuk lift, tekan sendiri).

      I know. I went to this Makko Restaurant in Malacca and I loved the food so much. The cendol was excellent, so much so that I ordered another one! You may want to check it out when you go back middle of this month:
      http://chittyboy.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/nyonya-makko-melaka/

      1. I know the place, Arthur…almost all makan place in Melaka in fact as I kan orang Melaka. The food there ok la.Maybe because I am a Nyonya so nothing special to me anymore. I always feel I can cook better…hehehehe, perasan!

        I prefer it to the other one further down the same road on the opposite side…for instance, if I compare their ayam ponteh. But that was very long ago – I don’t know if it is still as good now.

  3. *FAINTED* Wth… how did you know about my negro chicken, Shereen? Damn… I’m famous for negro chicken? *SOBS*

    Aiyo… I tell you la… if my late grandma still alive, sure heart attack punya after see my cooking. She used to teach me how to cook stuff when I was a lil girl… but looks like buat penat saja… semua tak masuk otak! LOL!!!

    I think cooking is like singing – either you have the talent or you don’t. I know people who cook using the same ingredients, the same procedures…but the end results do not taste so nice. Maybe they lack the passion – it is not in their soul.

    1. Ya… true… it is the ‘air tangan’. It’s either you have it in you or not. LOL! And I happen to not have ‘it’ Hahahahaha!

      My sympathies… LOL!!! 😀

  4. LOL… tok about sarcasm… my late grandma used to tell me that my kerisik tak pecah minyak…berketul ketul macam batu. 😦

    I don’t use kerisik these days… Bad enough that I do use santan still for some dishes as in some cases, you simply cannot substitute with evaporated milk – disastrous!

  5. lol got two nyonya in here ya… never try nyonya food, wanted to try to cook it one day lah
    the antiques look nice! the food, not sure.. xD

    You original Cina Foochow 100% not into pedas stuff, belacan and all…I don’t think we will like true-blue nyonya stuff. Maybe you will like the watered-down versions in some pretentious cafes…like some we have in town here.

    P.S. One of them nyonya sesat. Muahahahaha!!!!

  6. So many times I visited Penang but never went for cuisines such as these before… I was always taken to hawker stalls only… hahahaha…

    LOL!!! I guess you can say that I am more adventurous… 😉

  7. Syiok!….see the mango kerabu and sambal petai. Craving for it now.

    LOL!!! They’re nice…but I do wish I could say the same about the other dishes… 😦

  8. nyonya food! Omg, i didn’t even know about this eatery. Thanks for sharing.

    My late grandmother was a nyonya, and the dishes she whipped up when we visited her were so special and delicious. I might drop by that place when i’m back to penang just to try out the dishes.

    Lucky you to get some very good good thanks to your cousin’s hubby! I can sense the prices there might not be very wallet friendly?

    Definitely not wallet-friendly…and the food ain’t that great. I’m sure there are better ones around. Maybe try the one at New World Park…and actually, there’s a stall there selling nyonya dishes – chap fan style but I saw that it was not open when we went that day. Dunno if it’s still operating or not. That would be cheaper and I’m sure, nicer too.

  9. I agree with you on West Malaysians preference on belacan, cincaluk and salted fish are milder than Sarawakian.
    My hubby always complains when I eat ‘smelly’ dried cuttlefish or ‘Long Kiam Hu’. I tell him those are meant to ‘stink’ otherwise they won’t be called cuttlefish or ‘Long Kiam Hu’. His tolerance of salted fish is only up to kindergarten stage – terubuk, no more.

    They love the salted terubok and the eggs so much…and will buy them by the boxes! I quite like but I think I prefer our long kiam hu anytime. LOL!!! 😀

  10. Well, I actually don’t like to dine in under dimmed light… always wanna clear look at my dish, lol!

    So… speaking about Nyonya dish, I’d prefer homecook meals by authentic Nyonyas (probably my grandma’s generation), it was really good and I miss my late grandma’s dishes, it was unique, spicy and fragrant! I heard a few nyonya restaurants were quite good at Jonker, Melacca… maybe you should drop by one of these days (after recommendation). 😉
    Have a great weekend!

    Your grandma? You leh? Cannot cook, ya? Never bothered to learn… 😦 Malacca’s best – Makko… See the link in my reply to Shereen’s comment. My nephew took me there once and I really enjoyed the dinner that night…and then an old Malacca friend took me there again but it was closed so we went to DondangSayang (endorsed by Jalan2 Cari Makan) but it was not so nice…

    1. You can try Ole sayang..again, ok-ok to my std..but the cendol also nice. But hor,this Ole sayang a bit action…if you go and order not so much, they will have a thunder face and if you order cendol, lagi la their muka will naik hitam!! In fact, if I’m not mistaken, they even put up a notice that they will not sell cendol to anyone without any food order..a bit much I think..and rude too!

      Oh? So it’s Ole…and not Dondang Sayang ala Mr. Mas Merah, Andre Goh. Muahahahahaha!! Maklumlah, orang dah tua…memory sikit not so good already. Ya…I went to that one – the place is bigger and nicer…and brighter but the food then was not as good – more like Chinese fusion rather than authentic nyonya. Maybe it is better now, I wouldn’t know. That time I went, it was so long ago – maybe the late 90s, not too sure.

      1. Ohhh…and so far, I have never recommended any Nyonya restaurant to anyone as to me all fail!!…hahahaha but I do recommend strongly a TeoChew restaurant called Teo Soon Loong Chan. I wouldn’t want to waste the calories on anyone with most of the Nyonya Rest but this Teochew place is worth getting fat!

        Ok, must keep that in mind for my next trip to Malacca. I do hope I can drop by soon – been a long time since I was last there and previously, I was there mostly for meetings, workshops, courses…and did not really have time to go around (and I had mostly hotel food then – 6 meals a day). 😦

  11. The only Penang food I look forward to is their Char Kway Teow and it can be very expensive. RM7.50 a plate at one of the more famous stall like Kafe Heng Huat at 5.41691N,100.32466E). The rest like Curry Mee and Prawn Mee are OK but I can never get use to their Laska despite numerous try.

    That’s what everybody calls the Lorong Selamat char kway teow…and any Penang fella will tell you it is over-rated. I went there to eat…and maybe I ate a lot of things first (as it took such a long time), so by the time it came…we did not think it was very nice. My missus also felt the same about it. Quite a disappointment, I would say.

    1. The 1st time I tried it last year, it was very nice. This year I went there again, it wasn’t too great. So which other Char Kway Teow would you recommend? Preferably with GPS because I might be going there again.

      BTW, this Char Kway Teow on Penang mainland using duck eggs and wrapped in banana leaf wasn’t not too bad at 5.36488N, 100.46016E

      Most places use duck eggs and fried with charcoal. Somebody was praising the one at the Pulau Tikus market – dunno where that is as I’ve never been there.

      1. I didn’t know they mostly use duck eggs. Anyway, the person who took me to the one I mentioned above is supposedly one of the better one.

        Have tried Oyster mee at Sin Lean Heang 5.40430N, 100.33359E?

        I just wish more people would use GPS. That way, I can go to all those places easily with pin point accuracy.

        Whenever I go to Penang, my friends will take me out to eat so most of the time I do not even know the name of the place or the road or whatever. Never bother to take note as the next time around, I can always ask them to take me to those places again. 😉

  12. Oh the petai are for bad people so you guys are bad? I am bad too. Love petai very much and each time when I’m alone for my dinner would just have to order only one dish which is a plate of petai with prawns. This is how I make my order to my friendly waitress. “I want a dish that is meant for bad people”. (Sorry would do a short explanation for those who read with 8 eyes or 8 ears, petai in Chinese is ‘chow tou’ lit. means bad/smelly bean).

    Where do you go for good sambal petai in KL? Next time I go KL, we two bad people can go together… The one I had at Muar Restaurant (Tengkat Tong Shin) was good too… I liked the food there.

    1. Jom we pigi Muar Restoran..haha. Know what took a taxi once said nak pigi Miharja LRT stesen. Taxi man asked ‘u Penang mali?’ Huh I answered how you know? Sini orang KL cakap pergi bukan pigi. Same question asked when ordering roti telok. Orang KL kata roti relurrrrrrrr *hiaz*

      So orang Sibu how they bicara?

      When we speak Malay, very kasar…but DSAI when he was MOE said, ours in Bahasa baku…but would need to be lembut sikit. Our Sarawak Malay is quite different though but much easier to understand than the east coast Malay.

  13. There is also one nice and yummy nonya restaurant in Pulau Tikus (sorry not sure its still there as mine is not updated) opposite Mayban. Maybe the Godfather can give an update on this restaurant.

    Dunno of any restaurant there but it seems they have a stall at Pulau Tikus market:
    http://food.malaysiamostwanted.com/venues/pulau-tikus-market-nyonya-delights-pulau-tikus
    Should have taken a cab there that night…but we read so many good reviews of this one in some blogs – I should have checked further as later, I found some who found this place disappointing as well…

  14. My auntie from Australia came once and bought the red rattan/bamboo food carrier and only this alone would be one single luggage by itself…

    Gosh! That would be worth a fortune there…and I’m sure it makes a good conversation piece in the house – the envy of all.

  15. How about Rojak? I was told G P Soon at 5.44009N, 100.30914E is the best.

    And was told Singaporean flock to Song River Restaurant at 5.43266N, 100.31688E for Bak Kut Teh.

    For curry duck, Hameediyah at 5.41871N, 100.33234E.

    Not into rojak, I would rather eat my own at home…and duck curry? You mean goose curry? My cousin from KK was looking for that the other day…but nobody else was interested. LOL!! 😀

    As for bak kut teh, my niece took us to try the one at Jalan Mandalay – ok, very nice…but I’m not crazy over bak kut teh. They say Penang’s bkt is different from Klang’s – I didn’t notice…all more or less the same to me. The Song River one’s along Gurney Drive – Penang folks would always advise me to avoid those tourist traps…

    1. G.P. Soon is the stall on Gurney Drive with the long queue! Bought the sauce but haven’t tried. Maybe will do rojak this weekend.

      LOL!! The one where I stood by his side watching what he was doing…to see if there was any secret to why there was such a long line of people at his stall. I think he must have got quite annoyed… 😀

  16. Nyonya cuisine, i think i only like their assam fish or assam sotong, other will be so so.

    Mango kerabu (sour sour), petai, not a fan of it, but we cook this very often at home, but i will not touch it.

    I love the antiques deco at the restaurant, priceless and nice.

    Next time come KL, got chance , we go and try Old China Cafe or Aunty Nat. Food not bad.

    Ya…I certainly hope to try these two places someday. Dunno when I will get the chance to go to KL again. You’re not coming back to Sibu to vote kah? 😉

  17. I have a question: What is a Nyonya? Is it a Chinese cuisine?

    The babas (male) and the nyonyas (female) are the people in this culture called the Peranakans that came about in early Malacca when the Chinese immigrants married the Malay locals. So today, they have a unique culture that may be said to be a mixture of the two – Malay and Chinese…and perhaps a bit of Portuguese, English thrown in. You can watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TkaNhLtRZk&feature=related
    produced by my friend, Quachee. There are other episodes if you check out the related videos on youtube.

  18. What I do nowadays is, any place of interest, I will take out my <RM1000 Smartphone, switch on the GPS and take a picture. That's how nearly all the photos in my handphone have GPS co-ordinate encoded. If my friend wanted to go to the same place, I just forward them the photos and they can find their own way there.

    Nothing too difficult. And I would love to go to those places you mentioned, if only I have the co-ordinates to make thing easier.

    I guess it would be very helpful for people with no friends and have to venture out on their own. Unfortunately, my RM250 handphone is not equipped for such things. No worries, I have friends everywhere – the perks of blogging…so I can go anywhere and there will be somebody around to show me the way. 😉

    1. Ha ha you couldn’t be more wrong. The last time I went to Penang, several of my friends from various part of West Malaysian had to rely on me to show them the way. Strange but true.

      Oh? You too? I was telling the directions one night the other day and my Penang friend passed a remark about that. In KL too, I would be the one telling my West Malaysian colleagues (but not from KL itself) where to go…and they were really surprised that I knew the way even though all the way from Sarawak. But they were the one with the cars, of course – could save a lot on taxis…

      1. Now this is getting interesting. Sarawakian knowing more about the whereabouts of eateries in West Malaysia than the West Malaysian themselves? I don’t know how you do it but I relied totally on my phone’s GPS. Next time, please give me the co-ordinates of the good eateries you went so that I can also try the food out. In fact, I will be going over to Penang again next month.

        Dunno. Maybe old men, used to lead the rest of the family here, there and everywhere…so have the habit of taking note of and remembering landmarks and other specific details and thus, know the directions. Ask my missus, she’ll be quite lost – always used to just following….

  19. aiyoo the kerabu mangga tu..meleleh air liur 😉
    i like peranakan dishes, spicy, sourish, sedap betul..!!!

    btw, dah voted!! all the best k and
    have a nice weekend sir 🙂

    Aha!! Then you’re one of us – all of the same kind! Hehehehehe!!! Thanks for the LIKE! 😉

  20. the kerabu manggo looks delicious Can make at home. Yumm..

    I have some petai in the fridge yet to cook. Maybe cook with pork or what

    Whatever… All I know is somebody is waiting, hoping you will give her some. LOL!!! 😉

  21. nyonya food is nice.. the last time i had real nyonya food was back in malacca 🙂

    That goes without saying! Best if you can cook your own! Yum! Yum!

  22. One of the longest post I’ve ever read from you STP! Food looks nice and authentic! But too bad it’s so dim huh.. I hate that too when I want to take pictures!

    Huh? I thought you use DSLR, can take photos in very dim conditions and turn the flash in all directions so the photos still look natural? Long kah this post? Hehehehehe!!!! Many stories to tell, I guess.

  23. such a pity when restaurants pay more attention to its decor rather than the taste of the food!

    I suppose so…or maybe we were too critical and expected more and in the end, we were somewhat disappointed? Others may think the food is great, I wouldn’t know.

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