3 February 2014

Penang Place for business lo heis: traditional Penang fare, all-you-can-eat

Penang Place at Fusionopolis, like many restaurants around Singapore, has been offering yusheng about a week before Chinese new year proper, and will continue to do so right through the Chinese new year season*.

The spacious restaurant is ideal for business lo heis in terms of location - with Fusionopolis just above One-North MRT station on the Circle Line - and also for the all-you-can-eat Penang-themed buffet. 

Another advantage is that it is something a little different with Penang food being unique in Malaysia, and there is no pork, no lard and all-halal meats in the fare served. 

I asked the restaurant if there was alcohol or gelatin in the food, and Leonard Ku of Penang Place responded no. "The restaurant is not certified because we serve alcoholic beverages. Although we serve beer and wine, we do not use any alcohol nor gelatin in our food," he said by email.

The ingredients for a lo hei.
Hao shi fa cai, a Chinese new year dish of lucky ingredients including "hao shi", dried oysters, and a hair-like fungus, "fa cai". The dish also contains egg tofu to represent gold, and sea cucumber.
Ku said Penang Place is Muslim-friendly. "If you require, halal certification from our vendors are available upon request. Kindly reserve and confirm your booking early, especially during this festive period, to avoid disappointment," he said.

Penang Place's char kuay teow (fried rice sticks with seafood and egg, S$9.90++ ala carte) and the Penang laksa (rice noodles in broth) come highly recommended. The char kuay teow is so popular, Penang Place even hires out chefs to make the dish on the spot at catering venues. 

The char kuay teow is seasoned just right, with tender kuay teow, lots of egg and seafood mixed in. While rice and noodle dishes are typically ignored by buffet diners, this is the one of the dishes which disappears minutes after it is ladled onto the chafing dish at Penang Place (the satay is also very popular). Diners are so enthusiastic that a small sign next to the dish requests that people be patient. 

Penang laksa garnishes
The Penang laksa served here is considered authentic. A variant of assam (tamarind) laksa, it is made with a mackerel and tamarind broth rather than with a thick curry gravy as with Singapore laksa. Wikipedia lists mint, pineapple slices, thinly sliced onion, and torch ginger flowers (top right corner of the picture) as common garnishes for Penang laksa. At Penang Place, lettuce shreds, cucumber strips and sliced fresh red chillis are also offered.

The Penang style fruit rojak is also worth trying. Diners create their own salads with local fruit like starfruit (Averrhoa carambola), green mango and jambu (Syzygium samarangense), mixed with finely crushed peanuts and sweet-and-salty rojak paste, which is made with fermented prawns. The rojak paste is extremely sticky, so adding peanuts helps to separate the ingredients.

Diners should also try pulut tai tai, a rice dish dyed a distinctive blue with butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea) flowers. Penang Place recommends that this is eaten with fragrant kaya, or coconut jam.

Call Penang Place at 6467 7003 or 6467 7008 for reservations. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner sessions Monday to Saturday. Pricing for the lunch and dinner sessions is listed on their website.

*Chinese new year lasts 15 days. In 2014, the 15th day coincides with Valentine's Day. The restaurant has a S$3 surcharge for adult prices for the lunar new year period, which covers the cost of festive foods as part of the buffet.

*Penang Place offers catering services for a minimum of 30 people, at S$27 per person (taxes may apply). There is a surcharge during the Chinese new year period.

*No pork, no lard. Meats are from halal sources.