These days, it’s hard to find great Peranakan food at the fine dining level. Luckily, there are still exceptions that satisfy appetites like ours, and one of those exceptions is Restaurant Kebaya Dining Room, in Penang. Peranakans have always enjoyed the arts and at Kebaya Dining Room, we were glad to witness that their descendants still do.
Ambient is Gorgeous
In this Kebaya Dining Room review, we will first check the ambiance here. This place is truly Peranakan! and you can tell that first second you step in. Colorful tiles, rich wooden ornaments and massive furniture with a lot of details. In the open area between the hotel and restaurant, there is a centerpiece that stands in the spotlight. For observers, it is crucial to have enough space to freely admire the metal art piece.
The giraffe’s outline changes its form into an elephant from a different angle. In order to admire, we circled around the piece without even noticing that we were doing that. To explain, the French sculptor Matthieu Robert-Ortis captured the transformative influence of perspective in this inspiring artwork. That is not the only art exhibit at this property, there are actually numerous Peranakan exhibits ranging from table wear to handcrafted furniture.
Modern Approach to Nyonya Cuisine
With a modern approach, Peranakan cuisine keeps evolving in the Kebaya Dining Room. The Nyonya food is prepared with modern appliances such as sous-vide and with ingredients of the highest quality. For the four-course menu, we got to choose between organically raised pork, New Zealand lamb, Australian beef and seasonal vegetables. Keeping an eye on every detail made us hungry and we couldn’t wait to start eating.
For the starter, we decided to go for the Pai Tee, which had impressed us in the past. The crispy base holds the julienne vegetables and sweet chili in place and it gives the dish its signature look. This tasty yet difficult to eat appetizer might have a hidden purpose. To start with Pai Tee is a nice way to share laughter before you head off to wash your hands.
The traditional Joo Hoo Char Roll was the second appetizer. It was in pair with an unbelievably delicious smoky sauce, which was also a little sour and spicy. However, the fried roll was filled with carrot, shiitake, pork and dried squid, all wrapped in rice paper. It was perfectly seasoned and we loved having it wrapped in lettuce and then dipping it in that sauce.
After such a tasty start, we were ready for the main course, where we had a few different sides along with the perfectly cooked rice. Lor Ark is a duck confit with plums and oranges. However, it is spiced with cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and nutmeg. To point out, the duck was perfectly cooked and its taste was very present in the gravy, even with all the seasonings. With this in mind the gravy was rich and not even close to the all times classic, duck with orange – and I mean this in a positive way.
Main Course With Compliments
Even though the duck was perfect, I liked the Prawn Geng even more. The perfectly salty coconut-based gravy, with lemongrass that became a meeting point for the prawns and the curry. To be honest, I don’t know what I liked more, the luscious gravy or the succulent wild prawns.
We mixed the protein with deep-fried vegetables and greens. The fried Nyonya Belachan Tempura vegetable wasn’t that oily, it was actually rather crispy. In addition the sweet potato, young corn and courgette were juicy on the inside and the delicate batter was dusted with homemade belachan chili seasoning. On the other hand, the greens were full of umami taste with soy, oyster and fish sauce and they still kept their crunchy texture and gentle taste.
Life is always better when you know the best is yet to come, and, luckily here at Kabaya Dining Room, they clearly know how important a photo finish is. When we saw the Gula Melaka Mousse, we knew we made the right call for dessert. A generous amount of homemade Gula Melaka in the mousse brought back memories we had at Wild Coriander.
However, the mousse that was layered on top of a sponge cake and sprinkled with candied nuts was ambrosial. The candied nuts provided the creamy mousse with a crunchy texture and the tastes of nuts and palm sugar really complimented each other.
In order to keep things local, our second dessert was a deconstructed Nyonya Classic, the Pengat: homemade coconut ice cream paired with jackfruit puree, Pandan gelee, sweet potato dumpling and banana chips. After all, the fruity puree surprised me, as for a minute I thought that it was made of mango. It was a perfect synergy of gentle coconut and intense jackfruit, with the mix of chewy potato dumplings and crunchy banana chips.
The more we get to know Peranakan cuisine, the more we like it. But there is more to it than just a tasty meal. It’s about the ingredients that make the dish, the beautiful plate on which the meal is served and the surroundings where the meal is enjoyed – this all matters greatly. The experience is different when you eat from a plate that is a work of art in itself. And when such a tasty meal covers the beautiful plate, I was tempted to lick all the sauces dry. This kebaya dining room review made us happy for sure and fell in love with Nyonya food even more.
Kebaya Dining Room Review Card
- ATMOSPHERE – 9/109/10
- SERVICE – 8.8/108.8/10
- PRESENTATION – 9/109/10
- FOOD – 9.4/109.4/10
- DRINKS – 9/109/10
- VALUE – 9.2/109.2/10
Price and Location
Diner, as we had will cost you about 35 USD per person. Here is a location to Kebaya Dining Room in case you would like to give them a try.