Beach Corner Seafood’s kitchen is headed by Mr Lim Jit Chuan, a 64-year-old Hainanese chef with an inscrutable expression. Beach Corner has been operating at this location on Penang’s touristy Batu Ferringhi beach-front for 8 years now (next to the old Tarbush and The Ship location). In its previous incarnation, the restaurant was known as Summer Beach, and operated near the Parkroyal Hotel for 14 years.
Mr Lim has been working in the kitchens since he was 19, mastering the plethora of Nyonya and Hainanese dishes of which Beach Corner is perhaps one of the top purveyors in Penang.
His specialty is the “Choon Phneah”, a thicker-skinned meat-and-vegetable-filled spring roll that’s larger than the smaller and more commonly found “popiah chee” (deep-fried, vegetable-filled spring rolls). A single “choon phneah” roll is usually cut into 4 pieces before serving. And a Worcestershire sauce, with cut red chilis, are provided as a dip.
Besides that, we also ordered Nyonya staples like the Assam Prawns, done very well here - the tamarind-soysauce-sugar coating was thick and caramelly, like molasses married with balsamic vinegar, only more fruity and rich. But the prawns used here, although meaty, did not have the usual “fresh-from-the-sea” crunchiness which we get at most places in Penang. Pre-frozen seafood is often frowned upon by Penang’s finicky diners with their Atlantean demand for super-fresh aquatic produce.
The Gulai Tumis, a signature Penang curry which is closer Thai than Indian curries, i.e. only fresh chilis, shallots, garlic, kaffir lime leaves and herbs (galangal, turmeric, lemongrass) are used, and NO curry powder or any dried spice like clove, cumin, coriander, etc.
The gulai tumis is usually cooked using a fish - and black pomfret, a favourite, is used here. The gulai tumis also must have chopped torch ginger flower, for its unique, indispensable aroma and flavour. Fresh tomatoes and okra complete this classic dish.
Surprisingly, the chef’s Curry Kapitan, another signature, must-have Penang-Nyonya dish, was a huge letdown here. It lacked the requisite lemongrass flavours, and kaffir lime leaf scent which are compulsory features of a good curry Kapitan. Also, we could not taste the “belacan” (fermented shrimp paste) and chili rempah flavours here. Avoid ordering this dish here.
The Chap Chye (mixed vegetable) dish here is more Hainanese than Nyonya: cabbage, glass noodles, shrimps, wood-ear fungus, and carrots. It’s pretty blandish, and with a bit of dark soysauce added to give a slight brown dish - quite Hainanese. Our Nyonya version would have some “rempah” (chili-spice mix) added to give the dish a deeper flavour. We’d also have used pork belly for added richness, but Beach Corner Seafood does not serve pork, as it also caters to Arab-Muslim customers staying in the numerous beach-front hotels nearby.
So, a fairly good Hainanese-Nyonya restaurant with some good, old-fashioned dishes which they do well, but with some glaring, unexpected misses as well.
The view from the restaurant of the sunny beaches is nice though - warm and languid. No wonder the Batu Ferringhi stretch is full of vacationing Germans and Scandinavians escaping the European winter.
Beach Corner Seafood
72D, Jalan Batu Ferringhi, 11100 Batu Ferringhi, Penang
Tel: +604-881 1867
Operating hours: 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm-10pm daily except Wed.