The first time we dined at atmospheric Kebaya, pictured above, we enjoyed it so much we returned again the next evening. While Kebaya has since steered away from a la carte to focus on four-course menus, Kebaya is still serving the elevated Peranakan, classic Straits cuisine and Indo-Chinese specialties with a twist that we savoured on those first visits, making it one of the best George Town Penang restaurants for modern Malaysian cuisine. Start with Kebaya’s take on miang kham, ‘envelopes’ of betel leaves filled with toasted coconut, shrimps, lime cashew, and Norwegian salmon roe, that you devour in a couple of bites. If it’s on the menu, don’t miss the otak otak, a baked curry of red snapper and spices such as turmeric and galangal in pastry, that is related to Cambodia’s fish amok and Thailand’s hor mok.
The rendang-like melt-in-your-mouth Kebaya tamarind beef was made with tender Australian beef shoulder that had been sous-vide for 72 hours and glazed with palm sugar and tamarind. While dishes remain authentic in flavour and traditional in essence, most have been given a modern spin or refined with French technique. All dishes are served on antique porcelain (which Ong collects) on marble-top tables in a sumptuous dining room decorated with Chinese lacquer screens and red velvet drapes and dripping with chandeliers. Make sure to reserve ahead so you don’t miss out – book tables two nights in a row in case you find yourself as eager to return as we were – and have a pre-dinner cocktail in the gorgeous bar. Stewart Lane, George Town, Penang, Malaysia.
Check in: Kebaya is located on the ground floor of Penang-born heritage conservationist Christopher Ong’s beautiful Seven Terraces boutique hotel, so you won’t need to go far after dinner. If you’re taken with the ceramics used in the restaurant, there’s a wonderful antique store on site.