Penang - Old-World Hainanese cuisine at Hollywood Restaurant, Tanjung Bungah
Hollywood Restaurant (Est. 1945) is one of the last remaining Hainanese restaurants in Penang, offering old-world Hainanese- Penang Nyonya classics like "Kari Kapitan", "Inche Kabin", "Choon Peah" and "Roti Babi".
The current proprietor, Tan Wee Chong, is the grand-nephew of the original founder of the restaurant. The family is of Hainanese descent ( 海南人), traditionally famous in Malaysia and Singapore for dominating the food & beverage business for the past century. Almost every single traditional coffeeshop or "kopitiam" in Malaysia and Singapore will be Hainanese-owned.
Our lunch today:
- "Choon Peah" - huge deep-fried spring rolls filled with shredded turnips, cabbage, sprouts, tofu, pork, shrimps, onions & carrots. It'll be served with homemade Worcestershire sauce - less salty, sweeter and more piquant than traditional British ones.
- Steamed "siakap" - steamed local seabass in a slightly spicy and sour sauce. Very fresh fish but with slightly bland-tasting - probably farmed ones, not wild seabass.
- Hainanese tofu, stir-fried with mushrooms, finely-diced pork, shrimp and salted fish, laid on a bed of "kai lan" greens.
- Hainanese mushroom soup, which is a light consomme with mushrooms, glass noodles or tung hoon (冬粉), chopped chicken livers and gizzards, flavored with miso-like fermented beanpaste or taucheo (豆酱). Very traditional soup dish which I'd not had for quite a while.
- "Kari Kapitan" - traditional Penang-Nyonya dish of chicken marinated in fresh turmeric, then cooked with fresh spices consisting of lots of fresh red chilis, fresh blue ginger (galangal), fresh lemongrass, onions, "belachan" (fermented shrimp paste) and candlenuts. It'll be served topped with finely-julienned kaffir lime leaves. The version here was not as assertive as those I'd had elsewhere.
- Caramelised prawns in dark soy sauce. Average-tasting.
- "Roti Babi" - local Penang-Nyonya french toasts sandwiching a rich filling of minced pork, grated turnips, carrots and shallots, served with Worcestershire sauce dip. Hollywood's rendition was a bit too rustic and a bit on the heavy side. It's tasty but lacked finesse or subtlety on flavor..
- "Inche Kabin" - local spiced fried chicken. Again, pretty bland and not outstanding for such an old-school restaurant with a long, illustrious history.
Overall, Hollywood Restaurant offers visitors to Penang a peek into the island's traditional restaurant cuisine, with dishes from a bygone era. The beach-side restaurant looked pretty worn, though it has a nice sea view during the day. But the current set of chefs really need to improve their standards to compete with other top local restaurants like Sin Kheng Aun (perhaps Penang's top Hainanese restaurant at the moment), Hainan Town in Weld Quay, or Hainanese Delights at 1926 Heritage Hotel.
543 Tanjung Bungah
I didn't like the food there the last time I went. The old Hainanese chefs have all retired and the current ones are just not cooking real Hainanese food as I remember from my younger days.
I think Hollywood should turn their restaurant into a seafood restaurant, sure can improve their business tremendously.