[Penang, Malaysia] Kushiyaki & more at Le Café Chocolat, Armenian Street

George Town is home to one of the largest Japanese expat communities in the country. Pre-COVID times, Penang has boisterous annual Japanese celebrations like the Bon Odori and Yosakoi. Some pictures from last year’s Bon Odori in Penang (the one this year had to be cancelled because of the COVID pandemic).


My most memorable experience at last year’s Bon Odori was getting to meet Miss Japan/Universe 2019 Yuumi Kato. :joy:

Long-time Japanese expats in Penang tend to open their own restaurant if they miss a taste from home. Take, for example, Texchem’s Fumihiko Konishi, who’d been living in Penang since 1968 - besides starting the Sushi King chain in Malaysia, he also has Miraku at G Hotel for Japanese fine dining to satisfy his own craving for a taste from home.

Yesterday evening, we dined at another restaurant owned by a long-time Japanese expat, Masaki Nonomiya, who’d stayed in Penang for the past 25 years - Le Café Chocolat on Armenian Street serves perhaps the best kushiyaki in Penang. Fronted by Chef Takashi Kadowaki from Yamagata, he churned out little skewers of delicious with the typical Japanese OCD for perfection.

Chef Takashi Kadowaki

What we ordered:

  1. Yakitori - grilled chicken skewers. Perfectly-timed for optimum juiciness.

  2. Kawa (chicken skin) and Saba (mackerel) kushiyaki skewers.

  3. Grilled Chanterelle mushrooms

  4. Grilled Sanma (Pacific Saury) which is only available during autumn.

  5. Oden here is absolutely delicious - and the chikuwa (fishcake) seen on the left was particularly good.

  6. The Gyoza here are some of the lightest and tastiest around.

  7. Chicken hamburg don - one of the yoshoku, i.e. Western-influenced dishes (as opposed to washoku or traditional Japanese native cuisine). The chicken burger patty was grilled, whilst basted with a sweet-savory teriyaki marinade. It’s then served on rice.

  8. Beef and cheese hamburg with curry rice. Chef Kadowaki blends his own curry, rather than using out-of-the-box Japanese curry powder.

Dessert was a surprisingly light, creamy-rich matcha/green tea cheesecake.

We finished off with some rather excellent matcha latte.

Penang, together with 7 other states in West Malaysia, goes into an enhanced partial lockdown tomorrow to arrest the rising COVID infection numbers (Penang reported 18 new cases today). Restaurants will be allowed to serve dine-in customers, though strict distancing arrangements need to be observed.

Le Café Chocolat
31, Lebuh Armenian (Armenian Street)
10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia


In Japan I noticed many Chinese female tourists from various Asian countries rented and wore kimonos just to walk round and make impossibly endless selfies :thinking: But the kimonos they wore were only standard/simple and not the really, really beautiful full-blown traditional costumes worn by geishas or Japanese women for special occasions.

By chance I saw geishas in their full costumes and makeup in Kyoto. An enthralling experience to see the kimonos in detail and makeup in person at close range.

Also noticed the exact same thing in Seoul, but it’s the equally stunning hanbok rather than kimonos.

Oh yes, those are the colorful summer yukatas - lighter and machine washable. It’s big business to rent out yukatas to selfie-crazy tourists, especially the Chinese ones.

Kimonos are normally more muted in their colors, like these ones at Kyoto’s Aoi Matsuri, where I was a couple of years ago.

We have something similar in Penang where tourists get to rent the Nyonya kebaya outfits so they can trudge around taking selfies.

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