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Jan 30, 2002 01:59 AM

Penang Overrated

  • b

I really think the Penang in Boston is way overrated. Instead of the hustle and bustle restaurants typical of Chinatown, they have decided to cater to the upwardly mobile. While lacking the sophistication of service, they do not lack in the ways of a monopoly.

I would never bring someone from Malaysia (or even New York) to Penang. But don't worry, there exists much better Malaysian food.

After reading an article in the paper where the author specifically traveled from New York to Boston just to eat at Anna's Taqueria, I think I will do the same and take the $20 shuttle to New York and eat a Nyonya (or even the Penang there).

Although I disagree with the consensus on this board about Penang, I have no qualms at all about endorsing Taiwan Cafe or for that matter Victoria's on Comm. Ave.

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    Peter Pancetta

    I think nobody has any basis for comparison unless you 've had that type of food elswhere.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Peter Pancetta

      I actually HAVE had Malaysian food at Tiger Lily and at the Malaysian Rest. in Brookline,(oops, sorry, flu- medicine-moment, can't remember the name, and I threw away their take-out menu),which is now gone, and I think Penang is significantly better than both of them.

      Is there better Malaysian food in New York? Probably. Is there better ANY kind of food in New York? Probably again. Since there is more than one Penang, it seems to have become very fashionable to bash one of them on the NY board. However, I have not found better Malaysian in Boston. Bruce, if you find some, please let us know! I have found my meals at Penang enjoyable, tasty and different enough that I wouldn't do an 8 hour bus trip to make up for my denial...Now, 8 hours to eat stree-food all day in NY is a different story!!!

      1. re: galleygirl

        The place in Brookline was called Pandan Leaf, and while it was better than Tiger Lily, it wasn't close to Penang(no fab seafoood)..I still think it would have stayed in business, food-wise, but it was in one of those "unlucky rstaurant" spots...Someone just opened an upscale Thai place there. let's see how long that lasts...

        1. re: galleygirl

          I think the problem was the ridiculous rents in Coolidge Corner. And maybe not huge enough crowds to keep it going, but I know the rent was killing that guy as it does many businesses in that area.

    2. Penang in Boston is the only Malaysian food I've nothing to compare it to. That being said, I always enjoy it. Be careful which Penang you go to in NY..the chowhounds down there have been pretty hard on them..I guess there are a few and 1 is better than the others. Be a shame to take a long bus/van ride only to eat in the same kind of place as the 1 in Boston.

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        robert belson

        I've been to Penang twice and would never go back. Felt rushed by the unhelpful waiters and the food was nothing special and portions small for the price.
        I've had plenty of Malasian cooking while traveling in SE Asia, so I have an idea of what to expect. What did Calvin Trillin once say -- the quality of food in Asian restaurants is in inverse proportion to the quality of decor. Give me harsh lighting, formica and signs on the wall I can't understand.

        1. as a native of Penang , Malaysia,i can speak with some authority on the food that is served at the reataurant. bear in mind that the sprawling menu that they have is very ambitious - it combines food that you would find at multiple roadside stalls (and those stalls would almost always specialise on a Single dish), chinese restaurants that mainly focuses on seafood dishes as well as a smatering of other sources. so one could expect that not all of its food would be totally 'authentic' or great. personally, the restaurant has done a decent job of covering such a broad territory. some of their most succesful renditions are some of the stir fry noodles like char kuey teaw and mee siam. i do Not recommend dishes like Mango chicken which is hardly found back in malaysia!