A gastronomic feast for the senses at lunch today by the very talented Sue Ching of Third Culture. Sequestered away in a graceful bungalow along Codrington Avenue, Chef Sue Ching conjured up a delightful train of comestibles guaranteed to rejuvenate the most jaded palates.
Back in 2020 when I first came across her, Sue Ching was a young but already very accomplished chef, having honed her skills at 3-Michelin-star Troisgros and Astrance in France. She was last in Hawaii, before coming back to Penang in 2018.
Her supper club then was ensconced in a townhouse overlooking College Square, and sailed silently below the radar of ordinary folks. In the often madcap world of social media food-blogging and Instagram-chasing, camera-toting crowd, awareness of Third Culture was clandestinely whispered only among the serious food lovers - a form of culinary insider trading.
Sue Ching today is more confident, and her cooking showed panache, whereas it was subtle and restrained previously.
For our lunch today, we started off with a really good sourdough, accompanied by a delightful trio of flavoured butters: garlic-and-parsley butter, salted duck’s egg yolk-and-sambal butter, and smoked butter.
Lunch partner #1 is a vegetarian who chose the Gazpacho - chilled tomato soup, basil oil, marinated cherry tomatoes, and whey granité.
I opted for the Cream of mushroom soup, grilled Penang oyster mushrooms, poached kampung egg and butter croutons. Earthy, creamy-rich and with lovely slices of fresh mushrooms. The coddled egg was unnecessary, but gave an added richness which was very much welcomed.This was what I looked for in a start to a meal: simple, comforting, but with enough character to make me sit up and look forward to the next course.
Lunch partner #2 opted for the Layered baby Romaine, smoked salmon mousse, pickled shallots and squid ink tuille - he pronounced it to be a total delight - both aesthetically pleasing, and gustatorily satisfying.
Lunch partner #1 had the Mushroom bourguignon, with cauliflower mash and crispy shoestring potatoes, which I eyed suspiciously. For me, anything “bourguignon” should be preceded by “boeuf”, let alone a fungi! But my lunch partner pronounced it a complete delight!
It came with a cauliflower mash which looked like pommes purée, but which my lunch partner said was “just as good”.
Balik Pulau duck-leg confit, watercress salad, house mash, red wine sauce poured tableside. I’d always loved duck confit - one of my must-orders if offered by any French bistrot - whether in Paris or San Francisco or Tokyo. I was wondering how it’s going to be like here.
Interestingly, Chef Sue Ching explained that she flame-grilled the slow-cooked duck-leg at the end, instead of giving it the customary sear in a very hot oven. It was, I was delighted to find, the tastiest version I’d had in a long while.
The red wine sauce she prepared had an elusive, fruity taste, with hints of mace.
Lunch partner #2 chose Grilled seabass, beurre blanc, braised leeks and dill. It was pronounced a triumph - not a surprise as the locally-sourced ingredients were the freshest one could find.
Duo of chocolate (Valrhona chocolate), orange compote, orange sorbet and Maldon salt. - a beautiful composition which melded sweet, salty, chocolatey and orangey flavours, and seemed more than the sum of its parts.
Coconut panna cotta, passionfruit compote, almond crumble, Sauvignon Blanc jelly. - this was so creamy and delicate, you want to keep prolonging the pleasure of savouring it as long as you can.
An enormous talent lies behind the casual veneer of fresh-faced Sue Ching - her food is light but lip-smackingly delicious, and one continues to eat long after one is no longer hungry - simply because each component on the plate looked too beautiful to leave behind. A return visit beckons.
19F, Codrington Avenue, 10350 George Town, Penang
Tel: +6012-723 6861
Operating hours: By appointment