[Penang] French bistro fare at CREAM by ChinChin, RopeWalk Piazza - CLOSED

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.


How many meals were you showing? For me, it looked like there were a lot of food (and 5 cakes).

There were a few of us - the cakes were very small!

In France, the individual cake size is around 8 - 9 cm in diameter. I have noticed in Hong Kong, chez Robuchon they are around 60% the size. Don’t know the reason behind this, is the Asian wants smaller portion when it comes to sweets, or want to sell it in a comparative affordable price.

I also notice that boeuf bourguignon is often on the menu in restaurants outside France. It is not very common here in fine dining places, people would want to eat something else than a home dish. You can find this in traditional bistrot and only in winter.

I think it’s more of the former - somehow, Asians do go for smaller portions compared to European, and especially American, serving sizes. Even McDonalds, Burger King or KFC chains here have smaller serving sizes.

It’s summer all year long in tropical Penang - so don’t be surprised to find dishes which you won’t expect to see at this time of the year here. :joy::joy:

Cream, like its Penang rival Two Frenchies do try and position themselves as casual French bistrots, but Cream also taps upon its sister-company, Tiente, to provide a wide variety of small cakes and tarts.

I can find good French baguettes in Penang, but never good croissants.

Terrific report. Great pics.

I don’t think puff pastry is that difficult to make, but they need a certain type of butter. I think the problem is the price of butter, I saw the price of better French butter in Asia, baking must an expensive hobby! If the shops try to save money on butter, the quality suffers. I remembered eating a fantastic chocolate croissant (pain au chocolat) in HK, chez Robouchon again, $22 HKD (2,45 € or $2.8 USD) which is ridiculous! Here a croissant priced at 1,40 € in the best bakeries here.

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HK’s rental is also astronomically expensive - which all contributes towards the higher costs there.

Another one bites the dust, barely 1.5 years into its existence in Penang’s fickle dining scene.

I heard that the main cause was the pullout by its major investor.

1.5 years would be a good run in San Francisco. I’m always mildly shocked if the doors are still open after 6 months.

Somehow sad to walk by shuttered restaurants with Un-bussed tables from the final night’s service, half empty liquor bottles on the back bar, mail gathering dust through the mail slot… all too often. Signs the tenant vacated one step ahead of the creditors.

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A friend in Singapore who’s in the F&B industry once told me that aspiring restaurateurs often try and recoup their initial investments within the first 6 months of opening - that’s when the novelty of a new restaurant attracts the curious crowd seeking a new experience dining experience. Anything one earns after the first 6 months would be pure profit , as the business started to plateau, or even slide, depending upon the circumstances. Sounds scary.

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I’ve heard that Pierre Hermé lasted only 9 months in Seoul, enough time for everybody tried, then copied and sell them cheaper in other bakeries. Note that there were long queues in the first few months.

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Rent in SF is exorbitant, not the same as in Penang. Sometimes one just needs to insist if they believe in themselves. There was a French chef, 2 stars I think, no client during his first 2 years since his restaurant is in a remote area in countryside, until the first star came and save his life. The story was quite moving, since everyday the husband (chef) needed to throw out the food to keep the quality, recalled his wife who worked in the restaurant as well.

Was the restaurant expensive?

It was priced about the same as its main rival - Two Frenchies. I think what done it in was the pullout of its main investors.

Here were Cream’s prices. Exchange rate is US$1 = MYR 4.