The Place Located with the conservation and heritage hotel building of Seven Terraces, Kebaya Dining Room is a gorgeous restaurant in George Town which has an interior and setting like a scene out of Crazy Rich Asians. Of course, not all good food in Penang comes with such setting, read our recent article on some of the best restaurants in Penang on other dining spots. And lucky for us, the good thing is that you don’t have to be a crazy rich Asian to dine here at Kebaya. Upon entering the elegant restaurant, I was drawn to the piano and Chinese Gu Zhen in the middle of the space, where the left is the pre-dinner drinks bar, while the right is the main dining room.
Even the yard is beautiful, which I managed to catch a glimpse while heading to the bathroom.
The Food Kebaya prides on using a modern approach to Classic Straits and Indo-Chinese cuisine, where it only opens during dinner with two seatings at 6pm or 8pm. Note that no ala carte menu is offered here, but a standard 4-course menu at MYR128+ per person, inclusive of an Appetiser, Main Course, Greens and Dessert.
I like it that the menu is very extensive, which also means that it is most ideal to come in at least a group of three and optimally four pax. The reason is because you could order different dishes from appetisers all the way to desserts for every diner, where you are able to then try most of the dishes on the menu for a good variety. For appetisers, I tried a mix of the Kebaya Ban Xeo, Otak Otak and Crispy Joo Hoo Char Roll. The most interesting bit is the Otak Otak, which comes in a crispy puff pastry which contains the Red snapper.
I was most intrigued by the Kebaya ‘Ben Xeo’, which is essentially a thin crispy wafer stuffed with shredded chicken, bean sprouts, crispy tofu and stir fried vegetables in a tamarind sauce. It sounds interesting on the menu, though I find that there is too much going on here with no obvious highlight.
Joo Hoo Char Roll is quite a classic dish in most Nonya restaurants in Penang and this version is a modern twist. The lettuce rice paper is fried here which gives it that crispy texture, whereby the filling is a mix of sautéed carrot, shiitake, pork and dried squid.
For mains or the protein options, I tried a mix of the Lor Ark, Kabaya Tamarind Beef, Organic Roast Pork and Grilled Snapper. The best ones for me are the Lor Ark and Grilled Snapper. The Lor Ark is essentially duck confit here, where the meat is tender and well paired with caramelised sour plums and oranges in cinnamon. The Grilled Snapper is fresh with a slight spicy marination, where it is charcoal grilled.
Comparatively, the Roast Pork is not that tender as per the menu’s description. As for the sous vide Australian beef shoulder glazed with tamarind and gula Melaka, the flavours could have been more pronounced.
For greens, it was a mix of Sambal Goreng of French beans, Cher Chai, Crispy Nonya Belachan Tempura and Wing Bean Kerabu. The best ones for me are the Crispy Nonya Belachan Tempura where the deep fried vegetable is coated with a crispy batter dusted with homemade belachan chilli seasoning; as well as a simple plate of Cher Chai which is sautéed fresh selection of greens.
I was already quite filled at this point but I knew that there is one item I needed to try on the dessert menu, the Pandan Creme Brûlée. Indeed, this turned out to be the best dessert I tried here which has a strong pandan essence flavour.
Other desserts my other companions tried are the Tang Yuen which consists of glutinous ‘onde onde’ rice balls stuffed with coconut and served in warm coconut broth, as well as the Gula Melaka Mousse served as a sponge cake. Alas, both of these two desserts are not as good as it sound.
Rants The pacing of the dishes could be improved. There was an interval of about 30 minutes between my appetisers and mains which the staff were inattentive to. After my friendly reminder to the staff to check on my dishes, it all arrived on the table shortly after. A case of coincidence in timing, or a case of forgotten orders?
Will I Return Again? In short, Kebaya is worth trying if you are looking for a beautiful and comfortable dinner setting and great dining ambience in Penang. That said, there are some hits and misses on the menu and for some people, this might be unacceptable given the fine dining price tag it commands.
Taste bud: 3.5/5
Hole in the pocket: 4/5
Overall Experience: 3.5/5
Kebaya Dining Room
Stewart Lane, Georgetown
10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +60 4-264 2333
Daily: 6pm to 10pm
Ranted by The Ranter