Kebaya Dining Room in Penang: Nyonya cuisine reinterpreted
Or rather, to be honest, we almost wish it was literally our own dining room. Local street fare aside, Kebaya Dining Room is one of the most recommended places to eat in Penang with their modern interpretations of Nyonya cuisine with hints of Vietnamese, Thai, and French influences in their cooking styles.
As part of the Seven Terraces hotel, the restaurant not only boasts of an exquisite 4-course menu of classic Straits and Indo-Chinese dishes with a twist; but also of its gorgeous interior and impeccable attention to detail from its menu to tableware. In short, it was a great way to start (as well as end) our first night in Penang during the #BuroRoadTrip.
Round marble tables and wooden chairs with plush cushions dotted across the tiled floor with wooden door frames in dark brown colour accompanied by gold detailing accents serving as the backdrop of the restaurant. I was instantly reminded of what my grandparents' childhood home could have looked like - that, or a set out of a kungfu movie. The design element didn't stop there as we saw these beautiful plates laid out on our table and thereafter were handed the menus which have an illustration of a vase with floral patterns on the front. We were amazed already.
Note: There's no à la carte menu at Kebaya but the options within the 4-course menu are plenty. It's split between four categories which are To Begin, Main Course, Greens, and Dessert and since there were eight of us, it was easy to try almost everything.
To begin our dinner, we had appetisers ranging from the Kebaya Ban Xeo (crispy wafers stuffed with shredded chicken, crispy tofu and stir fried vegetables in tamarind sauce), which was one of our top favourites, to Chao Tom (minced prawn, herbs and spices wrapped around a sugar cane stalk that has been grilled) to the ol' Otak Otak (decent in taste but lacked in texture).
Then, it was time for the mains and greens, and almost every dish was brought out around the same time (not entirely a complaint but it was quite overwhelming at first). The Thai Soft Shell Crab Salad was a refreshing mouthful with chilli lime dressing, mango, green apples and pomegranate while the Organic Roast Pork is slightly above you average siew yuk except more tender and just the right amount of pork belly fat. If you're a fan of lamb shanks, the Hong Bak Lamb that has been cooked sous-vide for 48 hours is a lovely and tender melt-in-your-mouth flavour.
The Grilled Snapper was also a delight as we could taste the freshness of the fillet as well as its spicy marinade without one overpowering the other. As more of a meat-eater (excluding lamb), my love, however, went to the Kebaya Tamarind Beef cooked sous-vide for 72 hours - so tender, so juicy, so delicious.
With that being said, my true love (there were just too many things at Kebaya to adore) has always been desserts, as many of you would understand how that feels. It is also something that resonates within the team as everyone couldn't decide which one to pick and we ended up sharing spoonfuls of each other's choice. I chose the Pandan Crème Brûlée, an egg custard spiked with the right amount of pandan essence. A few ordered the traditional Tang Yuen which actually came in blue, stuffed with gula melaka-infused coconut à la onde onde and served in a warm coconut-y broth. It was a lighter dessert to end after a full meal, one which I'd recommend over the Pandan Crème Brûlée. That, or the Gula Melaka Mousse which is another dessert that's light in both texture and taste yet extremely satisfying.
It was certainly a feast for both the eyes and stomachs; and one we will never forget. It has been two weeks since the #BuroRoadTrip and I'm still thinking (and salivating) about some of my favourite dishes from that night.
Kebaya Dining Room's 4-course menu is priced at RM120++ per person. For more information or to make a reservation, visit their website.
Photos of the food were taken with an Olympus Pen-F camera.