One-month-old CREAM is the latest venture by the ChinChin Group which also run Chin Chin Gastropub in Pulau Tikus and Golden Shower (sic) at Bishop Street in George Town. It’s got an ambitious menu which prices it above most Penang cafes, and with a very French-accented spread that rivals Two Frenchies on Bishop Street ([Penang] Authentic French bistro fare at Two Frenchies, Bishop Street).
CREAM’s location on the rather unfashionable Rope Walk is rather interesting. But Penang eateries have been trying to straddle between getting places with cheaper rents and making sure their location remains “accessible” to their target market.
What we had for lunch today:
#1 ChinChin dips There are 4 different options, and we chose the bacon & onion and mushroom & parmesan, both served with baguette crisps. Both were good - strong flavours coming through of their core ingredients.
#2 Smoked salmon salad with avocado, roasted vegetables, pomelo and onions with yuzu dressing This salad was pretty tart from the pomelo. The yuzu dressing seems a tad more acidic than what I’d associate with the fruit, i.e. citrusy but mild. Smoked salmon was nice, but the portions given were miniscule.
#3 Grilled corn salad with arugula leaves, bacon, garlic croutons and shallot dressing fared better, with the corn and bacon providing pleasant sweet-savoury contrasts. It didn’t rise above the average, though.
#4 Seared Hokkaido scallops with ikura, cucumber, kafir-lime mayo and turmeric-citrus oil This entree was the best we had: sweet, fresh scallops given the lightest treatment in pan-cooking, just enough the seal in the juices and caramelise the outside. Salty bursts from the ikura (which looked like they’ve been tinged with soysauce) works pretty well, juxtaposing the sweetness of the scallops.
#5 The pan-seared foie gras with Japanese peach and maple syrup was my favourite starter, although, here again, the portion was way too small to satisfy my appetite. I won’t have minded paying more for a more “respectable” serving.
The crusty bread rolls were delicious, warmed through and served with whipped butter sprinkled with salt flakes.
#6 Bœuf à la Bourguignonne CREAM hits the spot with this one - its rendition of this French bistro staple ticks all the boxes: melt-in-the-mouth tender slow-cooked beef, the thick, unctuous gravy almost gelatinous, strong flavours coming through from the onions and lardons. The pomme puree was Robuchonesque in its richness - 30% butter content. CREAM may have just trumped Two Frenchies for serving the best bœuf bourguignon in Penang.
#7 Another dish done very here and a must-not-miss is the French-style roast chicken, served with spinach greens, glazed mushroom sauce and chicken jus reduction, with a serving of CREAM’s decadent pomme puree on the side. The chicken was juicy and flavoursome - most likely brined overnight to achieve that taste & consistency, then roasted till the skin was light & crisp. Superb rendition.
#8 Chargrilled pork chop with broccolini, sweet potato mash and Sauce Robert Very well-executed - the pork chop remained sweet and juicy, cooked just right, and the Sauce Robert was flavoursome without overpowering the natural taste of the pork. I’d come back here just for this dish. I think they ran out of broccoloni and substituted that with Chinese broccoli.
#9 The grilled lobster with dill, white wine, garlic and butter was the most expensive item on the menu (RM180/US$45) - a delicious, albeit under-sized portion of, perfectly-cooked lobster meat, fresh and given a light-handed treatment.
The pasta dishes also fared pretty well:
#10 Australian Winter Black Truffle Pasta, with fresh handmade fettucinne with egg yolk, shaved parmesan and slivers of black truffles. The aroma from the Australian black truffle seemed more muted, compared to the heady aroma of French truffles. I found it a bit underwhelming.
#11 Pork ragout pasta using handmade pappardelle with pork, instead of beef, ragout. CREAM did start off offering beef ragout, but realised that the majority of Penang’s populace (and their target clientele) are mainly meat-eating Buddhists who nevertheless shun beef. So, a quick change of meat were made within weeks of its opening last month.
Dessert at CREAM is courtesy of Tiente, its sister-company which specialises in patisserie, mainly a variety of tarts and petit gâteau. We tried quite a few, and particularly liked the fusion flavours in some of them.
Matcha petit gâteau
Lemon hazelnut petit gâteau
Strawberry shortcake petit gâteau
Cempedak tart This is a seasonal dessert as it’s only available during the cempedak (jackfruit) season. The mousse’ “cempedak” taste and aroma came on pretty strong.
Pandan & salted egg yolk tart The pandan scent was pretty mild, and the salted egg yolk - all the rage as a flavouring in Singapore and Malaysia right now - was pretty understated.
Overall, a pleasant dining spot - albeit for those with big wallets and small appetites.
CREAM by ChinChin
140, Jalan Pintal Tali (Rope Walk)
10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Tel: +604-261 0185
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 12 noon-10pm, closed on Mondays.