Sure the hawker fare in Penang is the stuff of legends, but once in a blue moon, one yearns for quiet and to be fêted, for white tablecloths and the gentle clinking of glasses. All this and more can be discovered at Indigo in The Blue Mansion.
Initially the private residence of a high profile politician, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion – colloquially called the Blue Mansion – is no longer out-of-bounds as it was in the 1900s; the mansion and its fine dining restaurant open six days a week for public enjoyment. Both Indigo’s front and back of house saw changes in recent months; the restaurant was given a transformative facelift and the staff welcomed a respectable associate in May. Penang-born Executive Chef Beh Weng Chia, whose culinary prowess was honed at Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco, is now permanently based in the city he calls home.
Keenly aware of the Asian palate, Chef Beh created more tummy-warming appetisers than chilled canapés for Indigo’s menu. If you don’t mind the latter, crunch on the House Salad with tofu, onion, pomelo, cucumber, tomato, fresh herbs and Thai dressing (RM32). Otherwise, the Curried Pumpkin Soup with chicken and eggplant (RM32) and the Seared Scallops with marinated konbu, capellini, edamame puree, olive oil (RM58) will whet your appetite for the following courses.
Be sure to prioritise your entrée, especially the seafood dishes. Food trends don’t escape the chef’s attention, as evidenced by the Salted Egg Grouper with octopus, squid ink risotto, zucchini, basil, capsicum oil (RM68). Meanwhile, the Grilled Japanese Mackerel with pineapple ‘n’ cucumber salsa, lumpfish roe, chilled pasta and mint will surely resonate with Penangites. Personified, it’s pretty much Assam Laksa in a suit and a bowtie. Such fun takes on familiar ingredients and flavours prove equal parts nostalgic and novel.
Chef Beh’s sweets, too, give a nod to local flavours. Take the Pandan Panna Cotta with Gula Melaka, Sago and Candied Red Beans, for instance – a configuration of ingredients borrowed from old-timers such as ais batu campur and cendol. Diners who prefer unusual pairings can opt for the Jasmine Tea Pudding with Chocolate Pearls and Mango Sorbet instead (both desserts RM25).