Penang's collection of innovative, young, good-looking chefs is certainly a contributing factor in terms of flavours and dining experience. Chef Jack Yeap, part proprietor and menu-architect of this tapas bar on Jalan Burma, falls into this catergory.
The restaurant itself is spacious both indoor and outdoor, its ambience welcoming and casual with a tinge of elegance, and a service staff that are attentive and friendly. From the range of more than 20 hot and cold tapas available from RM12++, we pick a few of their house specialties to try. Each tapas portion here is large enough for a group of four to five to sample.
To start with, we enjoy boquerones or pickled Spanish white anchovies, sitting atop thick cubes of sweet watermelon capped by mint leaves and sprinkled with sea salt. Vivid in colour but summery in flavour, it’s a good one with a sip or two of ice-cold dry white wine.
While your palate is still cool and salty, take a bite of their sultry anchovy, seared red pepper and aubergine on toast before moving on to Jack’s rendition of happy flavours through his really good cold capellini topped with salty caviar. This one is deceivingly simple but so elegant in texture and taste, and makes for a terrific light meal at RM18++. And if we’re not mistaken, El Faro is very possibly the only place in Penang that offers this.
The crispy ham croquettes are perfect transition bites between chilled white wine and a Banfi chianti. And it is after a sip or two of the amiable chianti that Jack’s seductive Bikini or croque-monsieur that’s a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, shines. Just don’t be fooled by its simplicity because his version consists of imported cheese, cured ham and sprinkled with truffle honey that gives a distinct, memorable pungent and sweet finish.
As the evening progresses, we move on to the more substantial tapas choices to go with the lingering Cullen pinot noir. A plate of rocket and tomato salad with a surprising crunch nestled within from baked cereal and drizzled with sweet-tangy balsamic vinegar follows a hot pan of El Faro paella filled with seafood such as prawns and scallops with saffron and hints of ground black pepper.
Both paella and greens, as you can imagine, exude colour, texture and dramatic flavours that add creaminess to the sips of pinot noir. A salty end to punctuate these tapas is their fried crispy chicken drummets coated with salted yolk that’s both comforting and exotic in terms of flavour.
Most of these tapas are either available in tapas portion or as main meals and the paella will need around 20 minutes preparation time, but it’s certainly worth the wait.
Finally, what truly amuses us (and many of El Faro’s regulars) is Jack’s Dessert On The Table. Such a cool novelty, this RM45++ dessert is – painstakingly and artistically – assembled right on your table. It’s creative entertainment and food combined, which is the dining experience at El Faro in a nutshell! That and their good selection of wines available at reasonable prices from RM87++. Kitty Kaye