By Aaron Falzerano
On the streets of Hongdae is Penang, a Chinese restaurant of high quality. In fact, I wasn’t even looking for Penang when I came across it, but it gives you this “why look any further?” feeling. So I turned around and went inside, all the time thinking “Well, I’ll just leave if the menu’s too expensive.” Once inside you don’t want to leave, it is definitely the atmosphere that makes this restaurant different. The colors are soft pastels, the ceiling has stucco archways in an off-white...and also, some of the food is incredible.
The clientele is diverse, ranging from large families to chatting friends, but one of the great feats of Penang, is that you feel like it is your place. The restaurant achieves a certain harmony, where diners are free to take in the food, music, and each other without distraction. This mood settles on everyone, reflecting from the wait staff, and creates a living peace. If art is the removal of disruption, then Penang takes its space and cleans it, giving us a chance to enjoy life free from confusion.
I started with a Tsing Tao (love that beer), and had crab soup too. The soup was plain, though the amount of crab in it was decent (I kind of wished that they'd had salt at the table). After the soup I was a little disappointed, so when my Steamed Pork in Oyster Sauce came out I wasn’t expecting too much. I turned out to be very wrong. The dish consisted of bite-size pieces of pork beside steamed baby bok choy and roasted garlic, all on top of thinly sliced stems of shiitake mushrooms. This was covered in an intoxicating oyster sauce that I kept sipping with my spoon after all of the other food was gone. Chinese sauces can be astounding, and this place knows how to do them right.
Penang is located to the right of Hongik University across from the Krispy Kreme donut shop. Entrees are in the 20,000 – 30,000 won range. Inside the restaurant there is an air of purity, creating a great venue to enjoy some amazing flavors.