[Penang, Malaysia] Lunch at Jaloux, 24 King Street

Fans of the temperamental but supremely-gifted 44-year-old Loh Choon Kueng (aka Chef Hong) and pastry chef Khor Gaik Ee (aka Chef Yen) of the now-defunct Cozy in the Rocket can finally breathe a sigh of relief - the dynamic duo is back at their latest venture, Jaloux, on 24 King Street.

Ever since they started the tiny but quirkily-pretty Amelie Cafe on Armenian Street back in 2009, Chefs Hong & Yen have built up quite a loyal following through their culinary offerings - using the best ingredients they can source from within Penang to churn out rustic, hearty Italian-inspired dishes.

In 2013, they upsized from the 6-table Amelie to a much larger Cozy in the Rocket, offering pretty much the same pasta-based menu at lunch & dinner, besides an ambitious addition of breakfast offerings.

With Jaloux, Hong & Yen seem to have decided to move a bit closer back to their Amelie roots, with a smaller, tighter menu, and only does lunch & dinner. ·

Loh Choon Kueng aka Chef Hong, is a trained graphics designer, but can also cook up a storm, with his meticulously prepared Italian-inspired dishes using the best ingredients which he and partner, Yen, carefully sourced themselves.

  1. Bruschetta Ricotta, with house-made salted caramel, ricotta and toasted almond flakes on grilled bread. Singularly, the best-tasting toast in Penang, bar none.

  1. Soup of the Day - chicken in spicy-tomato broth.

  1. Pasta Spaghetttini in White Truffle Oil - with mushrooms, French butter, shaved parmesan, onion confit & white truffle oil.

  2. Pasta Carbonara - spaghettini with bacon, parmesan cheese, cream and free-range hen’s egg-yolk.

  1. Smoked Pork-rib Ragu, served with Grilled Country Bread.

  1. Seafood Stew with Spicy-Cream Sauce - with king prawns, clams, bacon & grouper fish fillets.

  1. Cempedak Creme Brulee.

  2. Coconut Panna Cotta with Palm Sugar Syrup.

Best Italian in George Town - by far.

Address
Jaloux
24, Lebuh King, 10300 George Town
Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6016-452 9882
Opening hours: 12 noon - 3pm (lunch), 6pm-9pm (dinner) Daily, except Tue & Wed.

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Delicious, make me want to make mine too!

The smoked pork and the seafood stew looks also very promising, even the pasta!
How much was the meal may I ask?

Their shop front is so discret though. If I was walking on the street, I might have missed it.

The main dishes cost an average of MYR40-60 (US$9.30-11.60), so a meal there is not expensive at all.

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Back to Jaloux today - tried their shrimp risotto - perfect texture - al dente, the way Italians like it. I like the fact that Chef Hong doesn’t try to appease local Penang preference for fluffy rice, but stuck to authenticity.

Also had the day’s special: Tequila & orange grilled prawns with mashed potatoes. It was competently turned out, but didn’t really wow us. Maybe our expectations have become too high - Jaloux is still head-and-shoulders above its peers in Penang in delivering good, authentic Continental cuisine.

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Back to Jaloux for lunch today, and was instantly mesmerized by Chef Hong’s roasted Iberico loin ribs with passionfruit oil & herbs. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender, perfectly seasoned and with immaculately-timed roasting to ensure the meat is moist, tender and flavorsome. I could imagine having this every day.

There are only two ways to cook pasta - the right way, and the wrong way.
Chef Hong happens to be the only person in George Town whom I’d trust to cook pasta exactly the way one expects - artisanal, hand-kneaded, hand-cut, and cooked al dente. He’s an Italian grandma trapped in a young Chinese man’s body. :joy:

Today, Chef Hong served up pappardelle topped with a delicious ragu of beef short-ribs, sun-dried tomatoes, and a light, aromatic mix of herbs and spices. “Pappardelle” comes from the Italian verb pappare , meaning “to gobble up”. A pretty apt description, in this case.

I finished off with a tiramisu - a dessert which I was hooked onto ever since Gabriel Fratini introduced it to Singapore at his eponymously-named restaurant on Neil Road back in 1991, just two years before Rob Reiner mentioned it to Tom Hanks in “Sleepless in Seattle”. Chef Hong’s rendition, with a perfect balance of the 4 ingredients my cardiologist warned me against: fat, sugar, caffeine and alcohol - was sheer sinful indulgence. It’s the last thing one would want to have and then die happy,

In the age of the COVID pandemic which has rendered international travel pretty much next to impossible, it’s a miracle for Penangites here to have Jaloux, where echoes of Tuscany, with the accompanying tastes and aromas, permeate. That Chef Hong managed to conjure up authentic Italian flavours using largely fresh, local ingredients, augmented by Italian herbs and spices where none can be attained domestically, is nothing short of a miracle, and spoke volumes of the gifted chef’s talent.

Jaloux’s interior is cool and Zen-like in its simplicity. I don’t see it as “small” - I think it’s the perfect right size, exactly like those mom-and-pop places one runs into during a traipse through the Italian countryside. Hard to imagine one is actually right next to George Town’s old banking district here.

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Nice meal. How did he learn pasta making, in Italy or in Penang?

One thing I’ve noticed that outside Italy, pasta or risotto are always serve as second course, not first.

In Italy. He actually goes on long working holidays in Italy annually, but not this year due to the pandemic and lockdowns internationally.

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Back to Jaloux for lunch today. We knew we could count on Chef Hong and Chef Yen to provide meticulously-prepared pasta dishes when we yearn for them.

We started off with some antipasti options:

  • Burrata Caprese - burrata cheese, cherry tomatoes and basil, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

  • Iberico sticky ribs - this was more American than Italian, but tasty all the same and very satisfying: fall-off-the-bone tender pork-ribs, blanketed with a sticky-sweet glaze that’s finger-licking good.

Our pasta mains:

  • Tagliatelle with seafood, saffron cream, garlic, chili and sun-dried tomatoes - this was a taste sensation: perfectly al dente paste suffused in a rich, creamy-tangy sauce which tasted of the sea, topped with plump prawns and octopus. It was simple and relied on the freshness and quality of the ingredients.

  • Nero di seppia spaghetti with carbonara sauce- raw yolk, smoked bacon, peppers, Parmigiano-Reggiano - this dish has a depth of flavour like no other: the smoky-deliciousness of the bacon playing against the richness of the carbonara sauce and yolk. I could eat this every day.

Desserts:

  • Pandan Panna Cotta with salted caramel - absolutely delicious. Chef Yen is really at the top of her game as she created this fusion concoction: perfuming creamy panna cotta with the intoxicating scent of the pandan, then pairing it with a swirl of buttery, smoky salted caramel sauce. Sheer genius!

  • Crème brûlée with grapefruit, vanilla and lychees - I’m lesser inclined towards this dessert, as I was never a big grapefruit fan. The lychee pieces do provide bursts of fruitiness to offset the sweet, creamy crème brûlée, whilst the unmistakable bitter-tartness of the grapefruit adds another taste dimension. Still, too many flavour profiles going on in that little saucer - I wouldn’t have minded just a plain, old-fashioned crème brûlée.

One thing’s for sure here - no meal at Jaloux ever disappoints, nor fall short of our expectations.

Century-old Chinese clanhouses right next door

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold