Malaysian cuisine was Pan-Asian before Pan-Asian was cool, fusing Chinese, Indian and indigenous Malay influences into dishes that are savory, substantial and unique to the region. And Penang happens to be the only spot in Chicago that features it. At Penang, you can find traditional Malaysian dishes like laksa
, a rich, complex soup of noodles and meat; and roti canai
, in which the Indian crepe is paired with a dipping sauce that's both spicy and sweet. Penang's menu offers many of the more Chinese-influenced dishes, including Hainanese chicken and rice, which can be found in food courts all over Malaysia and Singapore. Chicken rice is just that: a huge chunk of stewed chicken, chopped into strips and served with rice and a dipping sauce.
When Penang started offering sushi alongside its Malaysian dishes a decade ago, sushi was still relatively new to the Midwest. All that's changed, of course; however, it's still interesting to know that Penang was an early adopter of those too-good strips of fatty tuna. Penang's owner, Ken Lim, says that the restaurant serves most of its sushi on the weekends; during the week, the local clientele prefers the Malaysian dishes. You might, too, once you've sampled a roti canai.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Alan Simmons