Street food may be fabulous in Penang, but sometimes travellers fancy a different experience to sitting next to a longkang slurping up laksa. Here are the ten best restaurants in the whole of George Town.
When vegetarian cuisine is this
good, who needs meat? Located at the heart of the newly revived Nagore Square, this little gem is furnished with Chinese-style door frames with floral motifs, round marble-topped tables, and sturdy wooden chairs — the better for you to feast with.My personal favorites are the Kung Pao Aubergine and the Taiwanese Monkey Head Mushrooms
. If you come to Penang without trying this — sorry, I cannot friend
Okay, Penangites, you’ve got to hand it to the travelers and expats — they know where to eat. And Mews Cafe is proof. This café features innovative Nyonya-fusion cuisine that will knock your pants right off (or at least stretch them around your belly). Ever heard of Otak-Otak
with crispy prawn crackers? Well, you will – just try the Amok.If you’re in for a meal, try the duck leg too — it’s crispy and
tender, which is a culinary triumph rarely achieved.
Restaurant, Indian, Malaysian, $$$
Indian food may be good, but Malaysian-Indian is even better. Named after the largest city in Sivaganga, India, this restaurant is fiercely proud of its naan (fluffy and warm), vegetable samosas, and paneer dishes.For dessert, there’s Carrot Halwa, Pazha Payasam, and Gulab Jamun. Sugar rush should be expected.
The best Italian restaurant in town, Il Bacaro is where everyone goes for their Mediterranean fix. Fresh pastas are a specialty (they make their own gnocchi), served in generous portions and usually topped with parsley and cheese.We recommend the Linguine Crab, a scrumptious little affair with chunks of crab meat and cherry tomatoes tossed in Aglio Olio style — it’s probably the best Italian linguine this side of Malaysia.Oh, and if you have a birthday coming up, they do a little song for you too — just order dessert.
Restaurant, Malaysian, Asian
This fancy restaurant with thick drapery, pendant chandeliers, and colorful tiled floors hints at the high prices you’ll be paying for your meal. But if you’re willing to splurge, this Nyonya fine dining is the way to do it.Start your meal with the Pai Tee, a shy platter of shredded vegetables and sweet prawns in crispy “cups,” before moving on to the Lor Ark (duck confit with spices) and the Crispy Nyonya Tempura (deep fried vegetables in delicate batter).There are only two seatings a day — 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. — so you’ll need to make a booking in advance. Kebaya only features fixed-price menus, typically with 4-5 courses (with a slight variation for seasonal menus, e.g., Chinese New Year). Prices range upwards of RM$130 (US$33) per person.
Restaurant, European, Asian, Fusion
Want to impress your new sweetheart? This dine-in-nature concept is taking Penang by storm. With a boisterous tangle of plants, rustic timber furnishings, and a running water feature throughout the alfresco seating area, this is where Penangites now visit for first dates, second dates, and Instagram posts.Main dishes range upwards of RM$40 (US$10). Compared to the other restaurants on this list, it’s a little further from town, but reward comes in the form of seafood platters, great ambience, and the Batu Ferringhi bazaar nearby.
Restaurant, Malaysian, $$$
This old shophouse on Armenian Street has been transformed anew — thanks to Chef Nurilkarim. Celebrating the Jawi Peranakans (indigenous Malays who married Indian, Arab, Turkish and Persian migrants) of the region, the restaurant’s star chef combines flowers, herbs, and spices to revive the fragrant cuisine of the community.Of note: the Lemuni, a rice dish cooked with blue telang flowers and lemuni leaves. It’s the lemuni that gives the dish its greenish hue and herbal taste — you’ll want to plant some of these babies in your backyard.
Cafe, Restaurant, French, $$$
A café, bakery, and restaurant, this French-fusion bistro offers a small but memorable selection of food. The Provencal Chicken features fresh, tangy ratatouille under pan-seared chicken, and the Pouisson En Papillote delivers steamed Tilapia cooked with white wine and Shoyu dressing.Cake-lovers, you won’t regret the Flourless Orange. It’s citrusy without being too sharp, moist without being too wet, and sizable but not on your waist!
Lagenda House & Cafe
This innovative bistro preserves its local heritage by serving up side dishes in a congkak set (a traditional mancala game). Set in the busy, bustling Campbell Street, this newly renovated shophouse is now one of Penang’s most popular destinations for Malay cuisine.
The menu features the bestselling Prawn Lemak Pineapple, presented in a blue conical tower, and the fragrant Chicken Rendang served with homemade sambal (a spicy chili condiment) and egg salad.
Chok Dee Thai
Restaurant, Thai, $$$
If you’re craving authentic tomyam, only Chok Dee Thai will fix it from this side of the border. The Burma Road establishment has been here for years (since 2000), and its pungent tomyam and green curry dishes continue to delight locals.
For your money, order a Green Chicken Curry, a wonderful culinary triumph infused with basil and coconut cream, and the Tom Yam Seafood, spicy and tangy and served up in a hotpot. Top it up with white or fried rice, and your taste buds won’t crave anything else for another week.