When it comes to Penang, most of us instinctively have hawker foods in mind, and with good reasons since the island is arguably the best place to be for street food.
Well, the same taste for good food in Penang also extends up the pricing and quality ladder. Case in point – Maple Palace Chinese Restaurant.
Maple Palace is a pretty well known restaurant among Penangites, in fact, my mom, relatives, and everyone I know who are from Penang knows or have dined there before (sometimes calling it Maple Gold, the building name).
The restaurant has been around for a long time, and for the past decade or so, run by Chef Loy Tan, who was our host for this exclusive lunch session. The special tasting menu we had was created by Chef Loy himself to showcase some of the dishes in his new menu, an exercise that is done every couple of years to keep the restaurant’s offering fresh.
We started off with the Seafood Ice Plant Salad with Iberico Char Siew.
Right off the bat, a marriage between Western Ingredient of the Spanish pork is used in making the traditional char siew that we’re so familiar with, the cut used was perfect with ample fat content, and with the additional nuttiness distinctive of Iberico pork, the result was excellent. Contrasting this with salad gave it an additional layer of sophistication (instead of just raw cucumber, right?)
Next up was Pan-seared Foie Gras with Breaded Crab Claw.
Crab claw covered in a layer of breaded prawn paste is basically the best way to enjoy crab without having to put in any work, and with that piece of foie gras, an exercise in umami overload, heaven.
Then came Iberico Pork Rib with 8 head South Africa Abalone. For those who aren’t familiar with the measurement of abalone, size of this delicacy is measured by 600gram/x where x is number of weight. For example, 8 head abalone = 600/8 = 133 gram. Similarly 12 head abalone would be smaller at 50 gram each.
This dish was a showcase of East meets West, perfectly marinated and baked Iberico pork rib alongside a piece of abalone prepared in the most traditional Chinese method imaginable. Somehow, they worked out very well.
The forth dish that came was Oven-baked Cod Fish with Egg White and Black Truffle. Cod is always great when cooked just right, and with the additional flavor of truffle in egg white that’s typically found in Western fine dining menu, the combination elevates the flavor of fish to another level, delicious.
My favorite dish of the day was perhaps the Ramen with French Blue Lobster with Ginger Scallion. The dish is as simple as it is exquisite, the ramen was finished almost like angel hair pasta but with less chewiness, soaking with the juice from lobster and ginger scallion makes for a carb portion that worth a lot more than its calories. The taste of lobster meat, well, spoke for itself.
I could have more of this!
Desserts were Chilled Mango Sago with Pamelo (fun fact: scientifically named citrus maxima cos it’s the biggest citrus) and Black Glutinous Rice Dessert, both with accompanying Deep Fried Sesame Ball.
Both were cold desserts fitting for the occasion and provided sweet ending that certainly did not disappoint. Sweetness level were properly calibrated, and if you only have to choose one, go for the glutinous rice version, a Penang favorite.
I came away very impressed with Chef Loy’s creations and what Maple Palace has to offer.
For fine Chinese dishes, or one with a touch of what the other side of the world has to offer in terms of ingredients and techniques, you can’t go wrong with Maple Palace in Georgetown. Hope to re-visit for sure.