Word on the street is that Chin’s Stylish Chinese Cuisine is the place to dine at these days.
Located at Weld Quay, Chin’s Penang sits perched above the sea and is set against the backdrop of bustling Georgetown.
Originally inspired by the success of Chin’s in London, owner Dave Chin made the bold decision to open Chin’s in Penang back in 2010.
It was a risky move, considering that the island is teeming with thriving local chu char businesses. But the gamble soon paid off as the classy establishment has taken Penang’s gastronomic scene by storm.
Having won a string of accolades left and right, Chin’s Penang has been voted among others, One of Asia’s Finest Restaurants 2010-2011 by The Miele Guide, Malaysia’s Best Restaurant 2011 by Malaysian Tatler and Malaysia’s Best Chinese Cuisine Restaurant 2010-2012 by Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards (HAPA).
So, armed with a voice recorder and a list of questions, I stepped into Chin’s one gloomy Friday evening and stopped in my tracks…
Let me explain.
I had already seen pictures of the restaurant’s interior during my midnight prowl on the Internet but man, nothing beats seeing it in the flash.
Opulent yet quirky, every nook and cranny of this swanky establishment holds a little decorative surprise of its own. A wooden statue here, an expensive-looking lamp there, even the ceiling is decked out with contemporary Chinese artworks!
The artworks, bathed in the warm glow of hanging chandeliers, add to the thematic décor and are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. But for all its luxurious décor, they pale in comparison to the floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a panoramic view of the azure blue sea.
After taking a full minute to register my surroundings, I was led to a table overlooking the calm waters of the harbour by Sam Chin, the son of restaurant owner Dave Chin.
Personable and with a fine eye for details, Chin thoughtfully explained how the restaurant found its prime location at Church Street Pier.
“The locality of this place, it really is a one-off. You can’t get this in KL. You’ve got the crew ship here and you’re not by the sea, you’re on the sea basically.
“When this thing came up, we thought it’s no point doing another pub or another bar because everyone is doing that, so why not do a fine dining Chinese cuisine instead?”
But for all his optimism, Chin acknowledges the competitive streak that is brewing within the island’s culinary industry.
“At the end of the day, in Penang, you’re competing with the hawker food stalls. Even though it’s on a different scale, Penangites are so used to having good food that cost RM5.
“We can’t compete with those guys at all, you know. We have to go a few notches up – something that’s totally different from everything out there. That’s how you survive and stand out.”
Reminiscent of the food in Chinese provinces such as Beijing, Hunan and Szechuan, Chin’s dishes are expertly prepared by a culinary team, flown in all the way from China.
“To keep the menu interesting, we have a lot of different flavours from different regions. We knew that we just couldn’t get away with one or two special dishes so we’ve got over a hundred dishes to choose from.”
The pork-free restaurant is famous for its aromatic crispy duck, brought over from the UK.
The duck meat is shredded at the table and then assembled atop a home-made pancake, drizzled with Hoisin sauce and sprinkled with scallions, cucumbers and cili padi to give it the extra oomph.
“For the aromatic crispy duck, you eat a lot of the meat as well as the skin. It gets marinated for some time, then it is steamed and finally, deep fried. This gives the duck a different texture when you put it in the pancake,” said Chin.
Other specialities also include the sizzling steak and prawn on toast.
When quizzed about whether some of the recipes are tweaked to cater to the Malaysian palate, Chin was quick to point out that only a small degree of modification is done so as to not lose the authenticity of the recipes’ tastes.
Chin also went on to explain that for the F&B scene for Chinese cuisine, the tastes have become more sophisticated as people travel a lot to China.
“It wasn’t like during the 80s, when chefs from Hong Kong and China went to Europe and created Chinese cuisine in a western way to appeal to the taste buds of the locals.
“With the current trend, customers no longer want to taste western inspired Chinese food. That’s why our menu tries to keep the food authentic because that’s what’s missing these days. If you go to fusion, at the end, you don’t know what you’re eating. It’s not organic anymore.”
Chin’s has also served the likes of Dato’ Jimmy Choo, Dato’ Michelle Yeoh and Malaysian supermodel Amber Chia.
“We’ve had Jimmy Choo quite a few times actually. Whenever he’s in Penang, he comes over.
“He even gave me his business card; I was thinking man, as if I don’t know who you are! It’s so weird, you know? I gave him mine and he gave me his.
“We try to give the personal touch, really. For those who haven’t tried Chin’s restaurant, they should come. Come and experience something different.”
For reservations, please call 04 261 2611. Do book well in advance to avoid disappointment.