[Penang, Malaysia] Modern-Nyonya dinner at Kebaya Dining Room, Seven Terraces

๐™†๐™š๐™—๐™–๐™ฎ๐™– ๐˜ฟ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™๐™ค๐™ค๐™ข at the Seven Terraces served an elaborate Modern-Nyonya dinner last night, as part of the on-going Penang International Food Festival. Interestingly, all the food was served on 19th-century Ming dynasty porcelain.

The menu degustation served consisted of modern interpretations of many traditional Nyonya dishes.

  1. Amuse bouche: Nasi Ulam rice puffs with local herbs, salt fish and Gula Melaka.

  2. Otak-otak-inspired fish mousse on crisp rice wafers. Kueh Pai Tee with line-caught blue swimmer crab, dressed with salted egg curry and lettuce, and Joo Hoo Char (sautรฉed carrot, shitake, pork & dried squid, wrapped in latticed rice paper).

  3. Grilled Chicken Curry Kapitan.

  4. Achar Fish - Seared Japanese Mackerel, with Galangal Jam, Pickled Vegetables, Crispy Ginger and Edible Flowers.

  5. Jackfruit Achar, with rose apple, and pickled vegetables.

  6. Sweet Potato Leaves Tempura, with coconut curry and chilli oil.

  7. Kerabu Kachang Botol.

  8. The Pearl Seafood Curry - local sourced prawn, octopus and red snapper curry, garnished with Vietnamese mint, ginger flower and kaffir lime zest.

  9. Smoked Beef Rendang, with pickled onion jam and crispy shallots.

  10. Roast Pork Salad, with Japanese cucumber, lemongrass, coriander and mint, dressed with Cincaluk- and Kaffir-lime-spiked dressing.
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  11. Pengat - deconstructed, served as Smoked Coconut Ice-cream, Banana Chips, Sweet Potato Dumplings, Pandan Gelee and Crispy Taro Dauphine.

  12. Petit Fours.
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Address
Kebaya Restaurant at the Seven Terraces
14A, Stewart Lane
10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +011 140 333 10 / +604-264 2333 / + 604-2612862
Opening hours: 6pm onwards (dinner only) daily.

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Very nice presentation, how was the food?

More like a fusion/modern take on traditional Nyonya cooking. The quality of the produce is very high, but I personally prefer the authentic renditions one gets in the markets.

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Love the antique porcelain. Food wise, it seemed more causal than the setting.

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Back to Kebaya for lunch today. Itโ€™s one of the many fine dining places in George Town thatโ€™s now re-opened for dining in, after the 2-month COVID Lockdown. Penang has not experienced any new COVID cases for the past 20 days, and is now one of the designated โ€œgreen statesโ€ within Malaysia.

Of course, the โ€œnew normalโ€ requires several restrictions: social distancing of at least 6 feet between tables, temperature screening of guests at the entrance, no more sharing platters, and each diner were served individual bento boxes.

Iced pandan-jamsine tea.

Our lunch bento box consisted of grilled pork satay, ikan asam (tamarind-flavoured barramundi) with sireh (betel leaves), prawn & pineapple curry, green mango salad, chap chai (Nyonya mixed vegetables) and achar (pickled cucumbers).

Desserts are kueh kochi (steamed mochi rice cakes with grated coconut/palm sugar filling) and durian pound cake with kaya (coconut jam).

The number of tables have been reduced by about a quarter, but the restaurant was already half-filled by 12.30pm.

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Beeeaauuuutiful place and food. (Though I canโ€™t eat any version of mochis. Texture aversion.)

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Back to Kebaya again today. Itโ€™s very quiet (only one other table besides us at lunch) as Penang had just lifted its COVID lockdown partially this week, and people are still treading out of their doors with a certain amount of trepidation.
No interstate travel allowed, so Penang still doesnโ€™t have visitors from KL or anywhere else - folks who normally patronize Kebaya, besides overseas tourists whoโ€™ve all but disappeared completely with the widespread ban on international travel worldwide.

Still, the quietude does lend an air of serenity to the whole place:

Our lunch today consisted of:

  1. Popiah taco with blue swimmer crab, black bean sauce, stewed jicama, egg ribbons and pickled green chili - one of the more unusual creations. Light, crisp and crunchy.

  2. Pie tee cups with peanut brittle, achar, prawns and sesame seeds - another sweet-savoury concoction.

  3. Kerabu wing-beans with toasted coconut, calamansi lime and sambal belachan - the โ€œusualโ€ version of this dish tend to be rather spicy, but the version here is almost too mild even for me.

  4. Char-grilled seabass, topped with sambal chili jam, laksa leaves and ginger flower - fresh seabass steak, with a light, almost neutral-tasting sauce. It tasted almost too โ€œhealthyโ€. :joy:

  5. 48-hour sous vide โ€œHong Bakโ€ lamb-shank - melt-in-the-mouth tender lamb shank. Itโ€™s a favourite among many patrons here, but not for me as its marinade included sand ginger (known locally as โ€œcekurโ€; in Indonesia, itโ€™s โ€œkencurโ€) which has a dull smell which is a bit too obnoxious for me.

  6. Soft-shell crab kerabu with shredded green mango and ulam, dressed in sambal belachan - this was pretty good: expertly crisp-fried soft-shell crab, which was greaseless. The mango salad was very mildly-flavoured.

  7. Madeira vine leaves masak lemak, topped with sweet potato chips - my favourite dish today - it has the consistency of creamed spinach, but with a mildly spicy, but coconut-rich gravy which I absolutely adore.

Kebayaโ€™s cooking is not out-and-out Nyonya, but a dialed-down version - less spicy, less assertive flavors or scents, in order to cater to the non-locals or foreigners. But its subtler-tasting dishes may also appeal to those who balk at chili-laden Nyonya cooking.

Desserts
8) Gula Melaka mousse with almond dacquoise, crisp tuile and palm sugar glaze - lovely texture from the almond dacquoise. I could eat this every day.

  1. Pandan creme brulee - this dessert is a standout, with its aromatic pandan aroma and smokey-rich sweetness of Gula Melaka/palm sugar.

  2. Bunga telang tang yuen in coconut milk - Iโ€™m not a fan of mochi-like Chinese glutinous rice balls, so this didnโ€™t appeal to me.

  3. Passionfruit semi-freddo, with lime crumble, passionfruit glaze and nutmeg jelly - quite refreshing, although a bit too sweet for my taste. Still, well-conceptualised.

Overall, standard of desserts are better than we expected, based on previous experiences. Theyโ€™d improved. Prices are pretty high by Penang standards: MYR 25 = US$6.15 each. But service is exemplary, and the ambience, nonpareil.

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We were back at Kebaya again yesterday evening for the traditional Tok Panjang, a hybrid Hokkien-Malay term which translates literally as the โ€œLong Tableโ€.

The concept of the โ€œTok Panjangโ€, a term used by the Straits-born Chinese in Singapore and Malacca (in Penang, itโ€™s called โ€œTโ€™ng Tokโ€, a wholly Hokkien term meaning the same) is an elaborate, sit-down celebratory meal, usually held for birthdays, weddings or some auspicious occasion.

The concept was adapted from the traditional Malay โ€œkenduriโ€ or feast - all guests are seated at the same long table, but share communal dishes which would be served in sets for 4 persons. So, you might get between 7 to 10 communal dishes platters for you and three dining companions to share.

Kebayaโ€™s Tok Panjang last night had 40 diners - the number limited due to the social distancing required by the pandemic SOPs.

What we had last night:

  1. Started off with dainty little Chinese tea-cups of laksa tea, a clear herbal fish consommรฉ, flavoured with torch ginger and Vietnamese mint. A tiny piece of red snapper at the bottom of each tea-cup hinted at the brothโ€™s โ€œtom yumโ€ origins.

The communal main dishes:
2) Achar fish - deboned whole mackerel, stuffed with a turmeric-scented prawn pate, topped with crispy turmeric floss. Itโ€™s served atop a creamy tahini-thickened sauce.

  1. Grilled beef buah keluak - charcoal-grilled tri-tip, with the traditional truffle-like Indonesian buah keluak sauce. Very more-ish, and probably the star of the show on this lavish spread.

  2. Itik sio is a slow-cooked tamarind-braised duck casserole, of Malaccan and Singaporean-Nyonya cooking, but atypical to Penang-Nyonya cuisine.

Itโ€™s one of Kebaya chef, Zachary Choongโ€™s revisionist take on Penangโ€™s local cuisine. He tends to break boundaries and throw away all the taboos - even the use of blue-and-white crockery on the table (a symbol of mourning) here was a case in point: its akin to someone deciding to deck oneโ€™s home with black buntings for Christmas.

  1. Belachan fried chicken - a Penang-Nyonya dish: chicken marinated in fermented shrimp paste, battered- fried till golden-crisp. These were really good when served fresh and hot from the wok.

  2. Gulai nenas prawns - curried prawns and pineapple, in a spicy, coconut-enriched gravy.

  3. Jiu hu char - a classic Penang-Nyonya dish of braised jicama with dried cuttlefish, topped with crab-meat.

  4. Kerabu pucuk paku - a popular Malay fern salad, dressed in sambal belacan.

Desserts are a selection of Nyonya kueh, or sweetmeats/puddings (clockwise from top): Kuuh Kosui, Onde-onde., Ang Ku Kueh, and Tapai on Mango.

Absolutely love the ambience. But am in two minds about the food - a mish-mash of non-traditional dishes, and only the โ€œjiu hu charโ€ is a Penang-Nyonya โ€œtโ€™ng tokโ€/tok panjang dish. Itโ€™s akin to throwing a Christmas dinner without the roast turkey or honey-baked ham & the trimmings,

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George Town Heritage Hotels (GTHH), which owns and runs a stable of boutique hotels which included The Seven Terraces, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a traditional ๐—งโ€™๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ง๐—ผ๐—ธ (โ€œLong Tableโ€) dinner at its flagship Kebaya Dining Room at The Seven Terraces, this evening.

60 guests were seated at the table to enjoy a sumptuous Nyonya spread.

What were served this evening:
:small_orange_diamond: ๐™ƒ๐™ค๐™ ๐™ ๐™ž๐™š๐™ฃ ๐™ฅ๐™ค๐™ฅ๐™ž๐™–๐™, ๐™ฌ๐™ž๐™ฉ๐™ ๐™›๐™ง๐™š๐™จ๐™ ๐™˜๐™ง๐™–๐™—-๐™ข๐™š๐™–๐™ฉ - DIY fresh spring roll, where guests were given spring roll skins and a platter of filling options: stewed jicama, creab-meat, julienned egg omelette, cucumber strips, etc.

:small_orange_diamond: ๐˜พ๐™ง๐™ž๐™จ๐™ฅ-๐™›๐™ง๐™ž๐™š๐™™ ๐™—๐™š๐™ก๐™–๐™˜๐™–๐™ฃ ๐™˜๐™๐™ž๐™˜๐™ ๐™š๐™ฃ - chicken pieces here were marinated with fermented shrimp paste, then batter-fried.

:small_orange_diamond: ๐™‹๐™ค๐™ข๐™›๐™ง๐™š๐™ฉ ๐™›๐™ž๐™ก๐™ก๐™š๐™ฉ ๐™–๐™จ๐™–๐™ข ๐™ฅ๐™š๐™™๐™–๐™จ - very good rendition of this spicy-sour-sweet dish, with fresh pomfret fillets, cherry tomatoes and pineapple. Absolutely scrumptious.

:small_orange_diamond: ๐™‹๐™ง๐™–๐™ฌ๐™ฃ ๐™ข๐™–๐™จ๐™–๐™  ๐™ก๐™š๐™ข๐™–๐™  - my favourite dish for the evening: fresh, large prawns and spinach cooked in a rich coconut milk-fresh turmeric gravy.

:small_orange_diamond: ๐™„๐™ฉ๐™ž๐™  ๐™จ๐™ž๐™ค๐™ - tamarind-braised duck-breast meat.

:small_orange_diamond: ๐˜ผ๐™˜๐™–๐™ง ๐™–๐™ฌ๐™–๐™  - a traditional Penang-Nyonya pickle with Burmese origins.

:small_orange_diamond: ๐™†๐™š๐™ง๐™–๐™—๐™ช ๐™ฅ๐™ช๐™˜๐™ช๐™  ๐™ฅ๐™–๐™ ๐™ช - wild ferns salad, with sambal belacan dressing.

:small_orange_diamond: ๐™Ž๐™–๐™ข๐™—๐™–๐™ก ๐™œ๐™ค๐™ง๐™š๐™ฃ๐™œ - another rich, tasty vegetable dish, with long beans, French beans and baby corn, in a coconut milk-enriched gravy, strewn with toasted cashewnuts.
Traditionally, Penang-Nyonya sambal goreng has large prawns as the central ingredients, complemented by the other ingredients mentioned earlier. But we were served a vegetarian version this evening.
Still, Kebaya Dining Room has never professed to serve authentic Nyonya cuisine. Its Cordon Bleu-trained head chef, Zachary Choongโ€™s offerings are best described as fusion-Asian, with Nyonya, Vietnamese and Thai influences interplaying with each other.

Dessert:
:small_orange_diamond: ๐™‹๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™๐™–๐™ฃ ๐™˜๐™ง๐™š๐™ข๐™š ๐™—๐™ง๐™ช๐™ก๐™š๐™š, and ๐™ ๐™ช๐™ž๐™ ๐™จ๐™š๐™ง๐™ž ๐™ข๐™ช๐™ ๐™– - the creme brulee was more successful, whilst the kuih seri muka was the dinnerโ€™s Achilles heel.

As always, service here was exemplary, and we came away totally sated.

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Wow!

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The first edition of the Michelin Guide to Kuala Lumpur and Penang will be unveiled next month. Iโ€™m guessing Kebaya Dining Room may be the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Penang.

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Nothing brings the grandeur of the Kebaya Dining Room to life more than a lavish dinner party - and that happened last night when one of my friends celebrated her 60-something birthday with a Marco Poloโ€™s Silk Road to Xanadu-themed birthday dinner.

Fabulous food as always:

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Back to Kebaya two nights ago for dinner - a visiting Singaporean friend wanted to try the food there, first-time for her:

We started with the George Town Cooler - nutmeg, Bombay Sapphire gin, grenadine, lemon, lime and longan.

The dinner menu options have changed little in the past 5 years.
Starters:

1a) Crispy Joo Hoo Char Rolls - these were crisp-fried rolls of finely julienned carrot, shitake mushrooms and dried squid, wrapped in latticed rice paper.

1b) Otak-otak - shredded seabass cooked with turmeric & garlic, baked in crispy puff pastry, served with a lightly-spiced, coconut milk-enriched dip.

1c) Pai Tee - crispy pastry cups with peanut brittle, Nyonya achar (pickled vegetables), fried prawns and toasted sesame seeds.

Mains:
2a) Confit Beef with Buah Keluak Jam - pan-seared confit oyster blade, topped with buah keluak-chili jam, celery ribbons, daun selom and crisp-fried shallots.

2b) Hong Bak Lamb - prime NZ lamb-shank, sous-vide for 48 hours, and slow-braised in spices and its own jus.

2c) Gulai Tumis Pomfret - pomfret fillets in a sour-sweet-spicy gravy with Japanese Momotaro tomato concasse, garnished with shredded torch-ginger flowers and Vietnamese mint.

Sides:
3a) Sambal Goreng - sauteed French beans, baby corn and cashew nuts, in a lemongrass-scented, belacan-infused, coconut milk-enriched gravy.

3b) Kerabu Green Mango with Soft Shell Crab Add-on - green mango and local herb salad in a sambal belacan dressing, with batter-fried soft-shell crabs.

3c) Masak Lemak - sweet potato shoots in a coconut milk-infused spiced gravy, topped with crispy sweet potato chips.

Desserts:
4a) Gula Melaka Parfait - Gula Melaka-infused parfait, with almond dacquoise, crisp tuile and palm sugar glaze.

4b) Pandan Crรจme Brรปlรฉe - pandan-scented egg custard with crisp caramel topping.

4c) Tang Yuen - glutinous rice balls with pal sugar fudge, in a warm coconut milk broth.

Always good to be back at the Kebaya, with its impeccable service. Just wished theyโ€™d introduce more seasonal specials, to break the monotony of its regular menu.

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