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

Kebaya Restaurant 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 (sautéed 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.

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

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Back to Kebaya for lunch today. It’s one of the many fine dining places in George Town that’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 “green states” within Malaysia.

Of course, the “new normal” 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 can’t eat any version of mochis. Texture aversion.)

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Back to Kebaya again today. It’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 doesn’t have visitors from KL or anywhere else - folks who normally patronize Kebaya, besides overseas tourists who’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 “usual” 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 “healthy”. :joy:

  5. 48-hour sous vide “Hong Bak” lamb-shank - melt-in-the-mouth tender lamb shank. It’s a favourite among many patrons here, but not for me as its marinade included sand ginger (known locally as “cekur”; in Indonesia, it’s “kencur”) 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.

Kebaya’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 - I’m not a fan of mochi-like Chinese glutinous rice balls, so this didn’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. They’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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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
Credit: TXMX 2