With the lifting of the COVID lockdown in Penang, but with the state’s borders still closed to outsiders, we decided to take advantage of the lull in human traffic to lunch at Indigo at the Blue Mansion yesterday. Usually, foreign visitors, even inter-state ones from other Malaysian states, would make a beeline for this eatery - I’d had a couple of occasions in the past where I waited till too late and was told the place was fully-booked even a day or two ahead.
But, at the moment, it’s only Penangites in the whole of George Town, so making reservations is a breeze! Indigo, like other eateries in George Town, currently has to observe the government requirement on social distancing, so its tables are reduced by half, and spaced quite far apart:
The impressive UNESCO-listed Cheong Fatt Tze or Blue Mansion (built 1904), where Indigo is located, has been used as a setting in various films, from Catherine Deneuve’s “Indochine” (1992) to “Crazy Rich Asians” (2018). It’s amazing seeing the whole place, usually crawling with tourists, so quiet and deserted right now.
The bar - it was pretty quiet at lunch-time but actually got quite busy in the evening:
What we had for lunch:
Indigo house salad, with mesclun, red onion, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, celery, kafir lime vinaigrette, roasted pumpkin and cashews, We added chicken to make the salad more substantial.
Pan-roasted Hokkaido scallops, with cauliflower, coconut sauce, pickled radish, onion soubise, and lemongrass oil. Quite a pretty concoction - reminded me of El Bulli’s creations from back in the 2000s, where he liked to combine ingredients of the same colour, but with different textures, on one plate. The scallops were fresh and bouncy, and the cauliflower slices were cooked perfectly, with a slight bite still in them.
3) Lemon masala pan-roasted seabass, with mashed potato, sugar snap peas, turmeric sauce. This was well put together. I am actually amazed at the MYR 28 (US$6.60) price tag for this dish - very reasonable for a top fine dining spot in Penang. Other similar places in town would probably charge 2 to 3 times more!
Braised spiced soy lamb shank, with leeks, carrots, broccoli and mashed sweet potato. The marinade and sauce had a “slight” Oriental tinge. Indigo’s cooking has actually evolved over the past couple of years from fusion (with distinct Asian influences) to its current one which is more continental. This dish was the only one where I detected “some” Asian condiments used.
5) Mango & calamansi petit gateaux - it looked like a miniscule Borg cube. Dusted with Japanese green tea (matcha) powder, the dessert has a sour-ish tang. I’m not a big “mousse” fan, preferring sponge cakes in my dessert, but this was quite okay, in small amounts.
70% Valrhona dark chocolate & orange gateaux - much better option, with the intense flavour from the bitter dark chocolate.
Overall, quite a satisfactory meal. I think the lush atmosphere is the main attraction here, more so than the food itself, although pretty good. The kitchen is currently headed by Jack Yeap, taking over from Beh Weng Chia, who was the head chef here up till last year. Both had collaborated closely in the past, and I think their cooking styles are actually quite similar in some ways.
Indigo at the Blue Mansion
14, Leith Street, 10200 Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +604 262 0006
Opening hours: 12 noon-3pm, 6.30pm-10pm daily