A modest looking restaurant sits near 10th and Arch Streets in Chinatown. Could this be the same place whose popularity causes lines to form literally out the door and down the street?
It’s only 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday. It’s still early, so the lines have not yet formed. Inside, there are a few tables open. It’s immediately noticeable that the patrons are of diverse backgrounds. They are Caucasian, Chinese, Malaysian and Indian.
They are about as diverse as the island off Malaysia the restaurant is named after: Penang.
Pork intestines anyone? This is just one of the unusual and highly ethnic items on the menu. Duck web, maybe? At first, it’s easy to be intimidated by the menu. However, there are “safe” items for those, such as myself, who aren’t exactly adventurous in ordering.
A popular appetizer called Chicken Satay ($5.75) consists of mild, spicy pieces of chicken, which can be dipped in a sweet peanut sauce, a good start to the meal. The spiciness can be cut down with a beverage of refreshing watermelon juice. For the main entree, the friendly waitress quickly brought out the “safe” choices.
The Sizzling Beef ($10.95) came out sizzling, as its name promises, creating smoke around the table. It’s a delicious stir-fry with green and red peppers and white rice.
No one at the table had anything but praise for their delicious meals-for example, Boneless Curry Chicken ($5.50). Also ordered were the Shrimp and Szechwan Beans ($7.95)–Penang is not for those not used to fiery foods and cannot handle food with a spicy “kick” to it. Most items on the menu can result in an inferno of the palate.
After a week of eating bland Temple cafeteria food, the entrees had enough spices to reawaken taste buds and have our hands reaching for glasses of water.
Also recommended to those who dine here is practicing using chopsticks. Although a fork and spoon are provided on the plates when the entrees are brought out, most people in the restaurant are adept at eating with chopsticks. You would not want to feel left out.
Overall, the service is efficient and friendly, though a bit different from other restaurants. The servers help each other. We had one server who took the order, one who brought out the food and another who presented the bill.
Penang provides a unique atmosphere, good service, fine cuisine and affordability. Penang will be an experience you won’t forget, and it won’t be a place you’ll visit only once.
Penang Restaurant, 117 N. 10th Street.
For more information call (215) 413-2531
For information about the cuisine and culture of Penang, visit