*This article was published in the New Straits Times (Life & Times) on 5th September 2010.

The Tree Monkey Restaurant is perched on the hill of Tropical Spice Garden in Penang’s Teluk Bahang. Surrounded by serene greens overlooking the Andaman Sea, this tranquil and romantic restaurant opened for business in July this year.

Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com

The restaurant is reminiscent of kampung-style dining, with a huge thatched roof made of alang alang grass imported from Bali along with teak furniture brought in from Chiangmai. The owner, Patt Khor, has built the restaurant with minimum use of wires and nails.

Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com

The restaurant invokes a reminiscent of the kampung style dining

The ambience is relaxing. In front of the bar counter is a tatami-style dining area where diners sit on comfortable floor mats.

Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com

Tree Monkey has a pork-free menu, offering mainly varieties of North-Eastern Thai and also a mixture of Asian and Western cuisines.  The food are prepared with the freshest herbs and spices grown in the Tropical Spice Garden itself.

The group of us sat at the spacious open-air dining area on the wooden deck and were treated to a colorful refreshing tropical fruit mocktail — Sunset Paradise (RM10). This concoction of  orange juice and pineapple juice was sweet and slightly sour.  It came decorated with a slice of orange and a cherry. It is available only at sunset, from 6pm to 7pm!

Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com

Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com

The meal began with the appetizer, Thai Tapas. The platter is priced at RM30, RM45 and RM60 for eight, 12 and 16 pieces (maximum four pieces of each item). We had two platters, both decorated with beautiful fruit and vegetable carving.

There were 11 varieties with different tastes, textures, aromas and colours. The choices consist of nine fried items such as mussels and steamed otak-otak and is accompanied by sweet chili sauce.

Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com

Among the irresistible bits were the two different deep-fried prawns. My favorite was prawn wrapped in crispy spring roll skin. It was juicy and the taste was well balanced while the prawn wrapped with crispy rice noodle was on the salty side.

Other delights were the simple crispy Thai toast with minced chicken topped with sesame seeds. I also had a shared of the Money Bag with minced chicken and vegetable, Herbs Chicken with lemongrass and the moist and flavorful Pandan Chicken wrapped in screw pine leaves.

Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com

There are many to sample in the Thai Tapas

Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com

Our next selection was the Asian Tapas. These are also priced according to the size portion, from RM60 for eight dishes to RM90 for 12 dishes (maximum two dishes on each item), along with two plates of turmeric rice.

The platter of 10 dishes was full of robust flavor. Each item has its distinctive flavor and texture. I personally favor the Nam Tok, a salad comprising tender pieces of beef with an explosive flavor of shallot, chili powder and lime juice. The owner said this is one of the popular dishes.

Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com

The Asian Tapas comes with 10 dishes full of robust flavor

Decorated next to the Nam Tok was a delicious prawn sambal cooked with roasted chili and shrimp paste. The prawns were very fresh and sweet.

There is also Masaman Curry, a red curry chicken dish cooked with potato, onion and peanut. Other than my stick of Chicken Satay, which was on the dry side, the rest of the dishes were best eaten with the turmeric rice.

All these dishes orbited around the refreshing and appetising sourish mango salad with papaya and onions dressed in chili lime sauce.

Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com

The Tomyum Soup, sour and slightly spicy, had a satisfying flavour of lemongrass and lime juice and plenty of squid, prawns and oyster mushroom. The chicken-based Tomkha Soup cooked with coconut milk, galangal and mushroom, was smooth and mild in spiciness. There’s something for everyone!

Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com

The spicy Tomyum and the mild Tomkha

The meal ended on a sweet note. We had Thai coconut ice-cream, which was an absolute delight, with the sweet jackfruit and attap chi (palm seed) and evaporated milk at RM8.80.

We lingered after the meal, chilling and relaxing over a cup of spice coffee and tea at RM8 each. The brew is light with the flavor of cinnamon, star anise, cloves and few others. Many found the coffee more pleasing compared to the tea which was too strongly flavored.

Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com

If you are looking for a meal or just a bite out of the town center, Tree Monkey, with great sea view and relaxing ambiance, is undeniably a welcoming dining place. But I heartily recommend putting on suitable clothing to avoid mosquito bites. Repellent is available on request.

Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com

Sunset view from Tree Monkey

The restaurant, open daily from 9am to midnight, also caters for private functions and can accommodate up to 80 people. Buffet option with customized menu is also available for groups above 50. This restaurant, with free wireless internet access, is a five-minute hike from the main foothill entrance. The steep uphill hike and the many steps leading up to the restaurant is a difficulty for the handicapped and elderly, however I hope the owner will make it more accessible with a little planning.

Tree Monkey @Tropical Spice Garden, Penang by what2seeonline.com

We enjoyed the meal from this kampung-style restaurant sitting on a hill. Thanks to Warren  and owner, Patt Khor for inviting all the food reviewers! Click here for the Map Location.

Tree Monkey
@Tropical Spice Garden
Lone Grag Villa
Lot 595 Mkm 2
Teluk Bahang
11100 Penang

Tel: 04 8813494

Business Hour : 9am – 11pm (Sunday – Thursday) & 9am – midnight (Friday & Saturday)


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This entry was posted on Sunday, September 5th, 2010 at 10:18 am and is filed under International, Invited Review, Media Preview, New Straits Times (Life & Times), Penang, Pork Free, Restaurant, Teluk Bahang, Thai Cuisine. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

18 comments so far


How very exotic! A hidden wonder in Penang… I’ll be sure to drop by the next time I’m in town. :)

September 5th, 2010 at 11:16 am

I’m a Penangites and didn’t even know this place existed. Thanks for the reviews.

September 6th, 2010 at 12:28 pm

A place where I will definitely stop by when back to Penang.

September 6th, 2010 at 11:47 pm

ahhh..this place one in my list must hunt when i go back pg..nice environment perfect for phothoshoot also..:d

September 7th, 2010 at 11:52 am

Beautiful place for a quiet dinner for two, though prices certainly on the higher end pricing for a Thai meal.

September 7th, 2010 at 9:17 pm

is it Halal?

CK Lam Reply:

Hi Yus, Tree Monkey is only a pork free restaurant.

October 5th, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Fantastic Tom Yam!!

October 19th, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I came across this when my boss asked me to recommend all the good restaurants in Penang. He is from New York. I would probably go there first and try it out. Seems intresting.

October 25th, 2010 at 9:16 am

Just had lunch there and can’t say we will go back for another meal.
We went straight for the mains because we were hungry and wanted something with “controlled chili” but in the end the steamed snapper came out pretty spicy (wonder how spicy it would have been if we had asked for spicy?) and the fish had LOTS of scales which was disappointing as it spoilt the dish for us.
It took a while to serve up the TWO main dishes and the interval between the tofu and the steamed fish was another minus. Waitress apologized for the delay because the restaurant was running at full – so the kitchen couldn’t cope……
In other words – avoid this place on the weekend/holidays at lunch time?
BYO shade….. we picked a table which started shady but turned out to be blistering hot before we were halfway through the meal and that probably didn’t help the experience…
Disappointing experience – we were so looking forward to it after reading the reviews…..

CK Lam Reply:

Thanks for sharing your outing experience with me. Hopefully the management will looked into it.

November 21st, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Bea, thanks for the update.
It, at least, spare me some back kick as I plan to visit it next week.
At least, I will not put a very high hope on it until I visited.

November 22nd, 2010 at 11:53 am

Dear Bea, we’ll looking in to it and thank for the comments. We’d already ordered big umbrella for more shade. We have choice for filet fish without bone, also other version of non-spicy fish. During sunset between 6 to 7 pm are the good time to visit on weekday. We’re getting more busy with school holidays and tourist on weekend. We’d already put more staff on weekend and try our best to improve the service. Kob Khun Kha

November 24th, 2010 at 11:44 am

does it have a pathway or is it convenience for a person who is using a wheelchair?

CK Lam Reply:

The many steps leading up to the restaurant was difficult for the handicapped and elderly during my visit.
Now, I am not too sure if the management have make it more accessible or not. Do give them a call to find out.

November 26th, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Went to check out this place, very dissapointing. Although we didn’t go with the full course, we only tried the phad thai and thai fried rice, both were mediocure only. The worst part of the meal was the drinks. We had thai ice tea (which was very watery and blant), and a very very lousy herbal tea claimed to be their signature (the Lemon grass tea) which was a tea bags soaked in 1 gallon of water, very very tasteless. will not go back again

January 4th, 2011 at 12:31 pm

The service is out…the staff wouldn’t know how to talk with customers. We went there to chk on the wedding pkges, but the supervisor told that they were too busy..she didn’t even look at us while answering….too busy means there were about 15 ppl to serve….gosh!!!

February 7th, 2011 at 1:39 pm

need to booking ???
Just had lunch no dinner are there..??

CK Lam Reply:

The business Hour is stated in the above post….from 9am – 11pm (Sunday – Thursday) & 9am – midnight (Friday & Saturday).

February 18th, 2011 at 8:10 pm

One of the most lovely and inspiring restaurants I have been to and certainly the best in Penang. Significantly ahead of all the leading hotels of the island, the most modest with a sunset and position amongst the illuminated trees is exotic.The food is exquisite, divine, fresh spices abound and the short wine selection appropiate.

April 5th, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I have been in Penang all week and tried out many restaurants, this was however THE best place I’ve eaten so far!

My wife and I had the Thai and Asian Tapas along with the spicy Tomyum soup – WOW! The whole experience was so amazing that we had to call the Chef (Wisah) out to congratulate her.

Ps – Only recomended for those who have taste and are willing to try out something new.

April 18th, 2011 at 12:11 am

hi may i knw any kids meal there? and how much is it? tq

October 18th, 2013 at 2:52 pm

4 Trackbacks/Pings

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