[Penang, Malaysia] Modern-Penang omakase at Juju Lounge

We ventured forth rather nervously for our dinner engagement at Juju Lounge on Stewart Lane last night. Situated in the grungiest part of town, the tiny restaurant is one of George Town’s best-kept secrets. Advance reservations, preferably a week ahead, is recommended - no walk-ins are entertained.

To reach it, one turns off from busy Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling (Pitt Street), into dimly-lit, narrow Lorong Stewart (Stewart Lane) bordering the 300-year-old Goddess of Mercy Temple. You’ll see Penang’s most infamous liquor store, the Antarabangsa Enterprise, there, with its usual scattering of customers loitering on the pavements, on the lane itself, in fact, everywhere.

Pick your way gingerly past the tipsy mob - you’ll need to make a left turn into Lorong Muda (Muda Lane), an even darker, more dimly-lit side-street off Stewart Lane. You will see a shophouse with a red frontage & Chinese lanterns on the right. Turn right into the tiny alleyway there.

At the end of this alleyway, is a black door on the right. That is the entrance to Juju Lounge.

This speakeasy omakase bar serves some of the most sought-after meals in George Town at the moment. Self-taught owner-chef, Lee Chong Chee’s cutting-edge, Iberian-inflected, mainly seafood omakase menu depends on the freshness and quality of the ingredients he could procure for the day, which were then given the lightest touch on the stoves. He will personally greet you at the door, and bring you through a narrow corridor, and up the narrowest, steepest set of steps in Penang to reach the dining area.

Juju Lounge’s narrow dining room can fit perhaps 10 persons snugly. The woven rope artwork above gave the high-ceilinged space a somewhat magical forest feel.

There is a well-stocked bar at one end. We started off with a French Cabernet Sauvignon:

Our omakase dinner last night consisted of:
:small_blue_diamond: Kuala Kurau mud-crab, with roe, red & white grapes

:small_blue_diamond: Four types of tomatoes: Momotaro, Roma, heirloom and cherry, with pesto & crisp ice plant

:small_blue_diamond: Italian Chizze Reggiane made with wantan skin, filled with Pecorino, served with Caldo Verde, cooked using Ayer Itam kai lan greens instead of collard greens, topped with a slice of chorizo

:small_blue_diamond: 3-finger bream (Malay: senangin) from Teluk Bahang, and threadfin bream (Malay: kerisi), with sea salt butter, onions & capers

:small_blue_diamond: Palate cleanser: green olive in EVOO

:small_blue_diamond: Grilled Tanjung Bungah prawns

:small_blue_diamond: Baby squid on squid ink sofrito

:small_blue_diamond: Venus clams with pork, fermented red capsicum (salt-cured, then blended with EVOO into sofrito and, fermented for a month)

:small_blue_diamond: Prego sandwich, using Argentinian beef steak

:small_blue_diamond: Dessert: Crema Catalana

Chef Lee gave us what our somewhat jaded palates really yearned for: the freshest ingredients given the lightest touch in cooking, and with the barest minimum in seasoning. No heavy-handed sauces or marinades here - only a wispy shake of freshly-ground pepper, or a light sprinkling of sea salt. One of the best meals we’d had in a while.

Juju Lounge Penang
No.19, Lorong Stewart (Stewart Lane), 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6016-404 0195
Opening hours: 6am to 12 midnight daily