Penang has always been a favourite dining destination of mine, with its colourful cuisine, from street food to fine dining, the city has really elevated itself over the past few years. While many know Penang as a destination for cheap eats, there’s really so much more with its maturing dining scene. This is a selection of places I personally enjoyed, with spots to eat, drink and stay. Here are my picks.
AUNTIE GAIK LEAN’S OLD SCHOOL EATERY
Michelin Starred Peranakan restaurant
The much talked about Auntie Gaik Lean’s recent win of the Michelin Star is a family style restaurant, serving one of the best dry fried asam prawns you will find. Dishes here are cooked well with high quality cooking, a restaurant perfect for families as they’re meant for sharing. Get the Egg Belanda, Kapitan Chicken and definitely the Asam Hae. A pork free restaurant which helps with mixed company.
CEKI NYONYA RESTAURANT
Great tau ewe bak and duck and yam soup
Another frequently recommended restaurant, Ceki serves a great tau ewe bak (braised pork in soy sauce) and great sharing dishes, with the usual suspects, but I also enjoyed the asam fish. Do give the paku (fiddleleaf fern) a try and the duck and yam soup, those were lovely.
Classical Cantonese fare
Although not under any scope of fine dining operation, Tek Sen offers classical Chinese cooking, with every dish full of flavour and cooked to perfection. You should definitely go early if you want to get in line, and definitely order the belacan chicken wings, asam prawns and stir fried pork.
Reinterpreted Malaysian Chinese heritage
Gen is one of those underrated restaurants, serving dishes based on chef-owner Johnson Wong’s heritage. Each time I dine here I find the plates evoke a feeling of nostalgia, whether it being the chicken essence soups that you grew up on or in its latest menu, the interpretation of a frog porridge. A polarising restaurant to say the least, for those that appreciate it, it’s a great experience, and for those who lean traditional, do keep an open mind.
COMMUNAL TABLE BY GEN
Elevated Malaysian sharing plates
The other more casual offering by Johnson Wong, headed by Wagyu Tan, Communal Table is an exciting restaurant perfect to go in groups of twos or fours, with each dish catered for sharing. The Pork Collar was perfect and the Aged Bidor Duck was succulent and greatly portioned.
Wiener schnitzel and Austrian dishes
Christoph’s is run by, you guessed it, Christoph, Austrian native who has settled in Penang. The restaurant serves an authentic take on the Wiener Schnitzel, which Christoph says must have “danube waves” the air pockets between the meat and batter. Many many know a schnitzel but not many may know of a kaiserschmarnn, a caramelised fluffy shredded pancake.
Authentic pasta done well
Known for its notoriously difficult to book, Jaloux is a great breather from the local flavours you will find around Penang. This restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so queueing up is a must.
Fine French techniques with Asian ingredients
Au Jardin is helmed by Kim Hock Su, serving an eclectic take on cooking styles, with predominantly French techniques, but using local ingredients and luxury where its needed. The cuisine here is a great showing of different techniques, such as his coconut oil sorbet, but its also all the small attention to detail and how they update their menu so frequently. Very understandable why they were awarded a Michelin Star.
UN POCO LOCO
High quality Spanish tapas
Un Poco Loco is the latest offering by Kim Hock Su, serving a nice selection of tapas, but what makes this place stand out is the high quality of ingredients used, particularly the locally sourced oysters and mussels, especially the mussels. If you’re looking for a few plates to share, its great, or if you’re looking for smaller bites, you can go for the canned food. Obviously get the sangria.
Seafood focused tasting menu
Juju Lounge was another recent find which offers an omakase dining which lets the ingredients do the talking. The styles used are those you find on the coastal Iberian Peninsula, with Portuguese, Spanish and broadly Mediterranean being the main focus. Seafood here is seasoned lightly with salt, letting Spanish olive oils take centre stage. Juju is a place that you should go with an open mind, and a place for those who appreciate natural flavours.
OSTRÉA OYSTER & SEAFOOD BAR
Seafood with a view
Ostréa is one of the newer additions to Georgetown, located on the 23rd floor of Courtyard by Marriot. What is great about this place is really its unmatched view overlooking Penang island. Come here for their decent selection of oysters, which works great with their gin cocktails, and for those wiling to splurge, there’s also champagne.
GOOD FRIENDS CLUB
Local flavours craft cocktails
A blink and you’ll miss it bar that has an eclectic menu celebrating Penang culture. We enjoyed the Pah Poh Old Fashioned very much, but also, pretty good martinis. A place with a lowkey vibe but very enjoyable experience.
Penang’s Asia’s 50 Best Bar
Backdoor Bodega is a speakeasy bar known for making it to the 51-100 List of Asia’s 50 Best Bars, also making it the first bar from Penang to make the list. The latest menu is based on the food culture of Penang, with dishes such as Ais Kacang, the Tom Yam Collins and Rasam.
A fun way to choose a cocktail
Rebranded Mish Mash has now taken a new design, full with mood lighting making it feel like a slick bar. Cocktail menu here is interesting, articulated like the dewey decimal system, where flavours are chosen with types of spirit. Fun fact, the bar takes its name from what used to be the location of an actual fox hole.
THE EDISON HOTEL
Experience-focused colonial mansion
The Edison is one of those hotels located in a beautiful colonial mansion, but what sets them apart from the others is their attention to experience. Here, they want to make sure you enjoy your stay, more than the usual. The concierge will take your through the hotel detailing its history, and also suggest things to do and eat nearby. They also have a 24 hour Lounge where local food and drinks are served.
THE PRESTIGE HOTEL
Victorian inspired contemporary design
The Prestige Hotel is based primarily off the film The Prestige starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, with the shower built to mimic the cage trick. The rooms are beautifully pristine and the infinity pool has a nice view overlooking the sea. The hotel is also home to Gen, a great modern Malaysian fine dining restaurant and decent coffee across the street at Norm Micro Roastery.
THE GEORGE HOTEL
Brand new heritage hotel
The George is another new place that’s open only for 2 months, and is pleasantly nice to stay. Rooms are spacious and is located across Line Clear Nasi Kandar. Because of how new it is, it’s a great time to visit while furnishings are still new. They also have a nice pool that is shielded from the rain, so that’s an added bonus.
COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT
Contemporary hotel with seaside view
As one of the newer properties in Penang, Courtyard by Marriott is one of my favourite hotels to stay at, and is perfect for those who want a view overlooking the sea. The hotel is located on Macalister Road and is easily accessible to many places. The hotel also houses the Gin Library, a nice place to unwind over drinks and seafood.