penang street, funan digitaLife mall

decent penangish, asian dishes at this (relatively) new cafe in the funan mall – great flavors and colours, but let down by the terrible rice. I’ve recently been into all these spice-y, exotic asian flavors, all potent examples of what long stewing and high heat can bring to food – and I really liked this place.

it is therefore (as some terribly formal people like to say in conversation) regretful that I can’t give it more than a cautiously pleasant review – I don’t take rice, so the bad quality makes no difference to me – to all you typically-asian rice-eaters though, that bowl of bad stuff will keep you from returning (and if you have a dad like mine, it’ll keep you from coming at all).


saying rice-eater makes me laugh, incidentally – as we had a somewhat xenophobic hallmate in college who collectively referred to all us asians as rice-cookers (presumably because those machines all came out during meal times). it’s slightly rascist, but he was an idiot – so it’s easy to laugh it off.

he wasn’t wrong though – rice means a lot in asian meals, and I can’t help but stress that what you’d get here is utterly disappointing. it comes individually steamed in porcelain bowls, some bits uncooked, some bit clumpy, some bits a rather perplexing and unsettling brown colour – it’s nothing you’d really want to eat.

terrible pity then, as the dishes are full-flavored, well-seasoned, and very good – but almost too intense without rice. we started with blanched cuttlefish strips and kang kong (morning glory stalks) under a bed of sweet bean sauce and chopped peanuts, before our plates of chap chye (braised cabbage and vermicelli) and sambal kang kong arrived.

the cuttlefish was chewy without that rubber-bandness, and the vermicelli had soaked up all that delicious braising liquid. very nice.

we continued with a white bait omelette – small, plump fish in a semi-greasy (very traditional) omelette) – as well as a dish of grilled chicken, which nicely browned skin and tender dark meat. the turmeric was pretty subtle, but delicious.

I’ve almost forgotten to mention the beef rendang – which was a nice chunky stew of beef dice. I like that the beef had cooked long enough to form dryish, distinct, long strips – which may not sound particularly good, but is properly traditional, and goes perfectly with the sauce.

so, dishes good, rice bad. it’s a cute little cafe, and very modern – it’s all done up in bright cheery shades, and a dominant run of turquoise grows through the entire place. the menu itself is well-shot and properly done up – and service is earnest if sometimes hurried. almost perfect – but not quite.

Penang Street
#02-09 Funan Digitalife Mall
109 North Bridge Road
Singapore 179097
tel +65 6336 8924
$$: 20ish a person

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