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Page history last edited by Mark P 11 years, 8 months ago

Original Announcement / Context

Ever since Di Yin told me about a wonderful dinner she had at Penang Garden, a Singaporean/Malaysian/Thai restaurant in Chinatown, shortly before moving to Cambridge, I've wanted to go. Yet, I never managed to make it there until nine months later when Di Yin came back to California to visit.



I now visited Penang Garden four times, once one 2007-05-18, once on 2008-01-26, once on 2010-09-12, and once on 2012-10-14 with Di Yin, her parents, and lots of relatives (14 in total) for a big (mostly off-menu) banquet (details not recorded).

Penang Garden 2007-05-18 Review

Every dish at our meal at Penang Garden satisfied us. Some even impressed us with their presentation.


We had: 

  • Roti Murtabak. An Indian-style flatbread stuffed with a thin layer of minced chicken and potatoes. Came with a curried, oil-based dipping sauce. I enjoyed the roti by itself better, liking the subtlety and the texture of the filling. I admit the dipping sauce was good, and Di Yin enjoyed the roti better with it. Some pieces of the roti were crispy; some were not.
  • Belachan Kang Kung. Kang Kung is a vegetable that looks much like pea shoots with longer stems. It's often called Chinese water spinach. When it arrived hot, it was wonderful, practically melting in one's mouth. Di Yin says this is because it's been fired at such high heat and in so much oil. Delicately flavored with a hint of seafood -belachan is shrimp paste-. Sadly, when it was cool or when leftovers were reheated, it never regained the same melty goodness.
  • Thai Jumbo Prawns. Artistically presented in a banana leaf, topped with a slice of lemon cut into a swirl, sliced onions, parsley, and an ephemeral ball made of really long carrot shreds. These strings must've been eight inches long! And they really are strings -- I picked one up and it bent like crazy. That's not easy to make! Anyway, as for the dish, the prawns, which were indeed huge, and vegetables were tossed in an orangy, sugar-tainted sauce we enjoyed. Di Yin remarked she could probably make it by mixing salsa, sugar, and shrimp sauce. Still, that doesn't detract from the fact that we liked it.
  • Santan Sea Bass. This didn't look like what we expected. It was a huge sea bass steak, possibly eight inches across, deep fried, on a banana leaf, surrounded by green beans, dried green onions skins (the green section, about three inches long), red onion slices, carrot shreds, basil, and mint. Good, like everything else. A moist interior and a skin thick from deep frying that was hard to rip through with chopsticks. Surprisingly, I didn't write down the flavor of the dish. Di Yin writes, "The fish was fresh enough that they did not flavor it with many spices, just a bit of salt - most of the flavor came from the curry that laced the bottom of the dish. The green beans were lightly sauteed, so that they remained crispy. "


The service was very good. The original dish of Thai jumbo prawns they served us had mango in it; this wasn't listed on the menu. Di Yin is allergic. When she complained, they took it away without a question or even a second glance and brought us a preparation of the dish without mango quite quickly. The replacement had short green beans, absent in the original serving.


As another example, we took a long time to decide what to order, often becoming distracted by conversation. We repeatedly had to turn waiters away, saying, "we're not ready yet." Although many waiters get irritated by this treatment, ours did not and still returned regularly (but not too frequently) to check on us.


As a third example, they asked us whether we preferred the prawns to be shelled or de-shelled. We said shelled was fine. Apparently all this means was that they left the tails on.


Finally, though I don't think this qualifies as a service feature, when the waiter came to clear our table at the end of the meal, he stacked all the plates and utensils and thus only made one trip. It was an impressive, heavy pile of dishes he managed to carry away.


The total was $38/person, including tax and a generous tip.


Comments from Other Attendees


From reading online reviews, there doesn't appear to be any must-haves on the menu. Most people seem to order the traditional Malaysian fare like roti, rendang beef, Hainanese chicken, and char kway teow, though none of these get uniformly positive reviews.


The items Di Yin got on her earlier visit that we didn't get a chance to order this time are chicken with ginger sauce, lobster with pepper and Thai sauce, fish eaten two ways (broth and cooked with tofu and veggies), and desserts like glutinous rice cooked in strawberry cream sauce, Thai pumpkin cooked in sweet milk, and fried bananas with ice cream (green tea and strawberry).


Feel free to add remarks here.

Penang Garden 2008-01-26 Review


Di Yin and I returned to Penang Garden. Nothing was amazing, but all were satisfying. This time, we ordered: 

  • Roti canai. Everyone else in the restaurant seemed to order this as well. Definitely good.
  • Belachan pea sprouts. We tried ordered belachan kang kung, which is a very similar vegetable, but were told it wasn't in season. This dish wasn't as amazing as the melty previous version we had, but was nonetheless pleasing. I think this was more pungently spiced than our past version as well.
  • A stir-fried noodle dish. I forget if it was "chow kueh teow" (a Malaysian dish) or "Singapore rice noodle" (a similar version, only with (yellow) curry added). I recall this was fairly good, though I forget the details.


Comments from Other Attendees


Feel free to add remarks here.


Penang Garden 2010-09-12 Review


Di Yin and I returned to Penang Garden with her parents and relatives for an extensive banquet.  Many things we had weren't on the menu.  (The woman organizing the dinner knew the manager.)  We ate:

  • Roti mortabak.  Good.  Thin roti stuffed with ground meat and served with a curry sauce.
  • Papaya salad.  Quite good.  Not too spicy.
  • Fried cabbage appetizer.  Good.
  • A white-broth soup containing tofu.  Meh.
  • Fish with tofu pot.  Decent.  A full fish--I accidentally picked up the head and eye--with tofu skins.  Fish was tasty.
  • Drunken chicken stew.  Definitely not my thing.
  • Quail (a.k.a. pigeon).  Very good.  Crispy, succulent, well-seasoned skin.  Good flesh too.
  • Beef with broccoli.  Very good.  Nicely velvety beef.
  • Seafood fried rice.  Fine.  Not much seafood.
  • A green Chinese vegetable in soy milk with garlic.  Good.
  • Singaporean chili prawns with bread.  Delicious!  Basically Singaporean chili crab, with prawns substituted for crab.  The sauce was great; I ate it poured over the bread.  Large succulent prawns too.
  • Lobster with udon noodles.  Di Yin was a big fan.  Many people really loved this.  I wasn't excited.
  • Watermelon.  Trimmed nicely.  Quite sweet.
  • Mango.  Not liquidy / well prepared.


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