It didn’t take long for the chilly rains to arrive as soon as autumn switched to winter. I can’t say I’m a fan of this time of the year, especially when the rain sops up the city, morphing roads and footpaths into sudden creeks. Extra layers, warm socks, scarf and a good hot feed of something that warms the insides. These things make winter a little more bearable.
I stumbled upon a newish place that first caught my attention with its bain-marie, glistening with curries and tasty-looking tidbits. From the street, Penang Kitchen looks to be nothing more than a Malaysian takeaway that also sells a variety of quality teas. It’s early days for these guys as the plan is to introduce a full menu upstairs, sometime down the track. In the meantime the menu is limited.
Curiosity got the better of me, so before a late start at work I stopped in and tried the house specialty. Har mee ($9.9).
The chef hails from Penang, and this is one the house signatures. A beautifully rich bowl of life-giving goodness. The chilli heat doesn’t come as high as ones I’ve previously tried, but the mild heat is still enough to clear the sinuses.
Oddly, there are a couple of menu items that I’ve never seen on a Malaysian menu. Scallop and lobster mornay. I’m never one to say no to grilled cheese so I gave the scallops ($5) a go. It’s just as you’d expect. Copious amounts of béchamel and molten cheese and a decent scallop beneath it all. Love it.
The hawker centre favourite, cha kway teow ($9.9), doesn’t disappoint either. All the usual suspects are in there; fish cake, sprouts, rice noodles, prawns. But no cockles.
The nasi lemak ($9.9) is just like any that comes out of a hawker centre. Really good curry chicken (there is the option to have it fried) and the usual accompaniments of ikan bilis, cucumber, egg, sambal belacan and rice.
Order the curry chicken & rice ($9.9) and you’ll pretty much get a nasi lemak sans the ikan bilis, egg and sambal. You may as well get your money’s worth and go with the latter.
One thing that caught me off guard was the combination laksa ($12.9). I’ve been a little uninterested with the good old laksa, of late, thanks to so many ordinary ones blighting the landscape. If the chef does a pretty good har me, then perhaps he knows his hand in the laksa game. Well, this one is the best I’ve had for quite some time. Even better than the last one I had at Malay-Chinese Takeaway down on Hunter Street. Yes, the one I then considered to be the best in town.
What was different here at Penang Kitchen? The first thing I noticed was in the soup. It had grit. Good grit. The kind of grit that comes from real paste, made by hand. The flavour is deep, rich, creamy, a tiny bit sweet, but more savoury. Big chunks of sliced chicken breast, rafts of fried tofu bobbing about, two types of noodles and some boiled egg. The chilli is toned down to mild levels, which of course can be jacked up with the addition of sambal. The only down side? One of the king prawns had escaped the deveining process. A bit of sand is never fun in the mouth, but one thing for sure is that I’ll be dropping by for more menu choices.