Japanese & Korean
Aji No Ren Japanese Restaurant
98-G-35, Jalan Fettes (04 899 4720).
While most Japanese restaurants in Malaysia mimic Japanese decor only so far as to inject the atmosphere with a tinge of Hokkaido (by way of a tatami mat or two), Aji No Ren looks to traditional Japanese houses for inspiration. They’ve even taken it so far as to renounce the use of chairs for one section and have their patrons sit on the floor in true Japanese fashion. Food-wise, there’s a good range of bento boxes, sushi and sashimi. While waiting for your orders to arrive, you can browse through the Japanese comics on the shelf by the corner.
Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Tue–Sun, 12noon–2pm & 6pm– 10pm. $$$
Azuma Japanese Restaurant 2F-87 (South Zone), Queensbay Mall, 100 Persiaran Bayan Indah, Bayan Lepas (04 641 3118).
Having joined the influx of Japanese chain joints nearly two years back, Azuma has benefitted quite a lot from the unwaning popularity of the kaitenzushi (conveyor-belt sushi) restaurants, and the trend doesn’t seem to be dying down any time soon. Amongst the many franchises of this sort of restaurant in Malaysia, Azuma finds itself somewhere in the middle range, characterised by spacious, classy seats and affordable prices. Sweeping dishes off the belt onto your table may be the fastest way to get your food, but order from the à la carte menu for Azuma’s larger and more popular dishes – the shake tataki maki, the una cheese maki and the eringi butter abalone.
Pork-free. Child friendly. Kids’ menu. Disabled friendly. Daily, 11.30am– 10pm. $$$
Edo-Ichi Japanese Cuisine G-05 & G-06 Island Plaza, 118 Jalan Tanjung Tokong (04 890 3199).
Edo-Ichi, a relative newcomer to Penang’s already saturated Japanese dining scene, has somehow, by beginner’s luck or by virtue of its good food and good atmosphere, managed to thrive under competitive circumstances. The place is often filled to the brim – as it should be, with its unique decor (aquarium by the tables) and quality Japanese fare: the dragon roll (sushi with crab meat and unagi), the grilled salmon belly and the una cheese maki. With top-notch food and a sleek, modern interior, it’s no wonder that Edo-Ichi attracts as many customers as it does.
Pork-free. Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Disabled friendly. Mon–Thu, 11am–3pm, 6pm–10.30pm; Fri–Sun, 11am–10.30pm. $$$
413 Jalan Burma, Pulau Tikus (04 226 2577).
In direct contrast to the Japanese restaurant chains that have in recent years been invading Penang’s dining sphere, Furusato doesn’t sport the sleek, reflective, black shine that most of the others have come to adopt. Instead, its decor is influenced by the homeliness and cosiness personified by the tan-coloured wood and slide doors that are so often found in ordinary Japanese homes. There is a shelf of Japanese books and comics that you can browse through while waiting for your food to arrive. And if you’re keen on having something special, instead of the usual bentos, dial in beforehand and order a serving of sea urchin.
Tues–Thur 5.00–9.30pm, Fri–Sat 5.00–10.00pm, Sun 5.00–9.30pm. $$
Matsu Lone Pine Hotel, 97 Batu Ferringhi (04 886 8686/www.lonepinehotel.com).
Matsu (meaning pine in Japanese) is the only restaurant along the touristridden side of Batu Ferringhi Beach. Matsu exemplifies luxury in all aspects – its food, its service, the presentation of its food and its decor. The restaurant is adorned with tall glass windows and chic black surfaces that lend it an air of elegance. Its must-tries include the kohitsuki miso yaki (grilled lamb cutlets seasoned with miso) and the Yakimono, Matsu’s signature chargrilled dish.
Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Disabled friendly. Daily, 6.30pm– 11.30pm. $$$
NEW Miraku First floor, G Hotel, 168A Persiaran Gurney (04 229 8702/www.mirakurestaurant.com).
Sporting a simple, elegant design, Miraku offers Penangites a true Japanese fine-dining experience. Opt to sit Tatami-style in a private room, or take a seat at the bar for a front row view of the chefs as they prepare your food. Don’t miss out on their kobe beef steak, served with deep-fried fries and stir-fried bean sprouts, broccoli and carrots. The juicy, succulent pieces of beef are so tender they’ll literally melt in your mouth. Or order the Sashimi Moriaware, with a wide selection of freshly imported sashimi such as prawn, salmon, tuna, scallop and octopus. For dessert, try their wasabi ice cream – the sweetness of vanilla mixed with the heat of homemade wasabi will give a tantalizing finish to your palate.
Daily, 12noon–2.30pm; 6pm– 10.30pm. $$$
Restoran Yosenabe 763 Jalan Sultan Azian Shah, Bayan Lepas (04 644 1196).
Yosenabe translates, quite literally, as ‘put together in a pot’, so it is fitting that Restoran Yosenabe is a steamboat restaurant. The difference is that Yosenabe chooses to provide smaller, individual pots for each diner, instead of the usual communal pot – an effort at being more hygienic. Of course, this takes away the sense of camaraderie one gets from throwing ingredients into a shared pot, but for those who are wary of spreading germs, Yosenabe’s concept is a godsend. Especially noteworthy are its seafood boat (a set consisting of fishballs, tiger prawns, beancurds, squid balls and so on) and its mutton slices.
Halal. Credit cards accepted. Mon–Sat, 11.30am–3pm, 6pm–10pm; Sun, 6pm–10pm. $$
Shinju Tei Japanese Restaurant 39B Jalan Cantonment (04 228 8853).
It might be tempting to believe you can’t have a decent Japanese meal on a budget, but then a place like Shinju Tei comes along. Its food is considerably cheaper than most of the other Japanese restaurants and, arguably, on par in terms of the quality. Some of its signature dishes are its pork katsu curry and its shake don (rice with raw salmon slices and prawn roe). The compromise that comes with enjoying good food at good prices is that Shinju Tei has, inevitably, kept afloat by not spending too much on its decor; so if you value good taste and cheap prices over ambience, Shinju Tei should be at the top of your list.
Credit cards accepted. Daily, 11.30am– 2.30pm, 6pm–10pm. $$
Soba Yoshi First floor, Block 303 Krystal Point Jalan Sultan Azian Shah, Sungai Nibong (04 646 8650).
Widely acknowledged as one of the better Japanese restaurants in Penang, Soba Yoshi is especially favoured by Japanese expatriates, with the staff’s fluency in Japanese being a sure contributing factor. Spanning Soba Yoshi’s extensive menu are bento sets, teppanyaki sets, sushis, beverages and à la carte items. Standouts include the nabeyaki soba udon (hot claypot noodles with prawn tempura, egg and vegetables), soba yoshi bento (assorted sashimi and sushi, cold soba, tempura, unagi, shitake yasai itame, chawan mushi and miso soup), and the sukiyaki
tei (sliced beef or chicken, vegetables and bean curd in a sweet sauce).
Halal. Child friendly. Disabled friendly. Daily, 11.30am–2.30pm, 6pm–10pm. $$$
Sumida Japanese Restaurant 93-G-23A Prima Tanjung, Jalan Fettes (04 898 2126).
The interior and exterior of Sumida isn’t particularly fancy; in fact, it’s a bare, basic (albeit sufficiently comfortable) imitation of the Japanese tatami-style seating with classic wooden panels and wooden tables. Sumida more than makes up for it, however, in the quality of its food: Its menu boasts the usual Japanese fare, but of the highest quality and freshness. The signature moriawase matsu (a platter of seafood sashimi) and the surume ika bata-yaki (grilled giant squid) may be pricy, but well worth it, given the high standard of the food served.
Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Wed–Mon, 12noon–2.30pm, 6pm– 10.30pm. $$
TAO Cuisine 1820-f1 & 1822-f1, Jalan Perusahaan Autocity, North South Highway, Juru Interchange, Prai (04 501 7826); 1-0105 & 1-01-06 ground floor E-gate, Lebuh Tunku Kudin 2, Gelugor (04 658 7826/www.tao-cuisine.com).
TAO Cuisine offers a Japanese allyou-can-eat buffet that differs from the rest in that you aren’t expected to leave your seat at all; the menus are brought to you, whereupon you can order the à la carte items to your heart’s content. There are more than a hundred items to choose from, ranging from the must-order sashimi deluxe (raw cuttlefish, tuna slices and salmon) to the lamb chop to the grilled codfish. The portions are customised based on the number of people in your company, but try not to be greedy – food wastage will be billed at a rather high price.
Pork-free. Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Daily, 12noon–4pm, 5.30pm–11pm. $$$$$
Chou Shun Kan Korean Restaurant
B 303-01-06, Krystal Point (04 644 1161).
The primitive charcoal stoves aside, the concept of Chou Shun Kan isn’t foreign – DIY Korean Barbecue with plates of raw, marinated meat, which you can grill over the stove installed into each table. There are various choices of different packages comprising a wide range of ingredients – be it marinated chicken, pork, duck meat, Kobe beef or many others on the list. In a considerate gesture, Chou Shun Kan has installed fume extractors over each table so that customers don’t have to come out reeking of barbecue smoke; it also provides chewing gum after the meal for breath freshening.
Mon–Sat, 11.30am–2.30pm, 6pm– 10.30pm; Sun, 6pm–10.30pm. $$$
Daorae Korean BBQ Restaurant 15-2-D Bayan Point, Medan Kampung Relau (04 640 2616).
Daorae shouldn’t be a foreign-sounding name to ardent fans of Korean barbecue, although it’s only in recent years that Daorae has crossed over the waters that separate Penang from the rest of the peninsula, to open an outlet on these shores. The decor of Daorae is as standard as it gets, save for the somewhat menacing tubes that descend from the ceiling and stop short of the tables. Don’t worry, they’re fume extractors – they prevent the smoke from the barbecue from forming a haze over the restaurant. Take your pick from the menu and the servers will come around to cook them for you.
Child friendly. Disabled friendly. Daily, 11.30am–3pm, 5.30pm–11pm. $$$
KimChi BBQ Korean Restaurant 2C Jalan Tanjung Bungah (04 899 7032).
Unlike the more established Korean barbecue chains, KimChi is a downto-earth eatery, as is evident in its simple, minimalist interior, as well as the fact that it’s housed in a doublestorey semi-detached house. But even if one doesn’t believe that less is more, KimChi makes up for it in the Korean fare that it offers, which are, arguably, truer to the authentic Korean style than most other restaurants that make the same claim. Some have opined that the à la carte menu may not be entirely to everyone’s taste, especially if one is not accustomed to Korean food – but that’s as much praise as it is a disclaimer, because it makes KimChi the perfect place for those who prefer, or are intent on, trying authentic Korean food.
Daily. 6pm–10.30pm. $$