BY CK Lam
1881 Chong Tian Cultural Hotel 中天酒店 is a restored Chinese heritage hotel, located along Jalan Pintal Tali (Rope Walk), Penang. This cultural hotel on PENANG’S UNESCO world heritage site features a rooftop bar, Eastern and Western restaurant, function hall, library and a museum with antique collections dating back to the 18th century.
I first arrived with some friends for a tour and a meal prior to its opening in December 2011. One gets transported back in time the moment you walk in the door of the refurbished pre-war house which was once a thriving hotel in the late 1800s.
Property owner cum antique collector K.H. Seah together with his partners have invested RM2mil and took one and a half years to renovate and refurbish the three 30-year old pre-war houses. The interior is surrounded by rich vintage furnishings, beautifully carved wooden doors, colorful fabrics, carpets, hand-carved tables and chairs, Venetian mirrors and intricate Chinese motifs of dragons and peonies.
The owner has constructed a garden in the air-well
The rooms are luxuriously furnished with unique antiques. With a total of 11 suites, the Seah suite with an air-well is the largest. This 1250sqf suite comes with the most expensive price of RM2,188nett a night, with complimentary breakfast for two. The suites start from RM588 nett.
Lim Suite at RM1,388.00nett comes with complimentary breakfast for two
Museum In Hotel
Inside the hotel is a museum which houses fine Chinese antiques from the different era of the China dynasties. The place is open for viewing and especially interesting for those who wish to garner in-depth information on these antiques. Guided tours are available daily, starting with the first session at 11am, 3pm and the latest at 5pm. Admission to the museum is free for room guests while the entrance fee is RM10 for the public.
What’s On The Menu
When it comes to food, there is something for everybody at Chong Tian. The hotel offers two dining venues, from the Western restaurant to the Chinese restaurant. The large dining hall can easily cater to a crowd of up to 150 people.
Chinese restaurant with hand-crafted wood ceiling, decorated with lanterns and chandelier
Western restaurant facing the pool
We sampled some finely prepared Chinese dishes from the Chinese restaurant menu, with appetizers, soups, mains and dessert. Chef Wah Keat who helms the kitchen, provides special touches in the preparation of the food. The first dish was the appetizer that came in a trio. It was a colourful dish with prawn, scallops and an interesting combination of asparagus with bacon. The prawn was split open and no peeling of the shell was necessary.
Scallops with mixed vegetable and nuts
The Cantonese delicacy of braised goose web and abalone is noteworthy. They are braised in a rich brownish gravy with delicate flavor. The gravy clings to the web and had us biting and licking the web clean. The abalone was meltingly soft and tender.
We were served with the Chef’s Special Crab Meat Shark’s Fin soup. The sweetness of the fresh crabmeat and the variety of overflowing seafood and dried scallop combined to accent the dish, giving it a superior taste and texture.
There was also the seafood noodle. Fried with strong wok-hei, the noodle came with plenty of crab meat, squid and prawns.
The ‘must-try’ dessert for visitors is the sweet double boiled melon with hasma (suet kap) and red dates. The chef had slow boiled the hasma (dried fatty tissue of the frog) after much cleaning and soaking. Additional red dates added a beautiful sweetness to this hot sweet delicacy which was attractively presented. We finished up the dessert with delight, with some having a second helping.
Chef Wah Keat emerged from the kitchen with the dessert
The food was simply great and it was a bonus especially enjoyed with a group of friends. I am looking forward to discover more hidden gems by Chef Wah Keat in this coming Chinese New Year Reunion set dinner, priced at RM688nett and RM1,288nett.
Jalan Pintal Tali is a one-way street and it is not easy finding a parking space. However more parking spaces are available on the nearby roads. Click here for the Map Location.
1881 Chong Tian Cultural Hotel
38, 40 & 42 Jalan Pintai Tali
Tel: 04 2631881
Restaurant Business Hours: 11am till 2pm and 6pm till 10pm
Website : http://www.1881chongtian.com/
* Many thanks to 1881 Chong Tian Cultural Hotel for laying on this invitation.
* This is a reproduction of my article published in New Straits Times