Gēn 根 @Lebuh Presgrave, Penang – Modern Cuisine & Local Produce
Gēn 根 (also known as roots in English) marks a ground floor corner spot at Presgrave Corner where Lebuh McNair and Lebuh Presgrave meet. The restaurant for fine dining experience is covered, with the long communal dining table and open kitchen inside the confines of a glass facade.
The decor is minimalist with a wine display making a welcoming piece. Seating is at the long table that could fit 20 guests comfortably.
Simple furnishings give the venue a kind of charming look
Headed by chef Johnson Wong, who previously helmed the kitchen at Macalister Mansion, the chef and his kitchen team from all over Malaysia will introduce a theatrical display of food being prepared right before you.
According to chef Johnson, the name Gēn 根 most certainly see him focusing on using locally sourced produce and presenting them into creative modern cuisine with local Malaysian flavors. Many of the dishes wind back to our childhood memories.
From the dinner menu, diners can pick one of the two options on offer: a la carte or monthly changing tasting menu. The latter with prices ranging from RM100 to RM200 for one person is the best way to sample the highlights of the month.
We had the a la carte menu and the chef Johnson walked us through the dishes as they were served to the table. For the complimentary snack offering, we had what is described as crispy rice cracker topped with sweet mango and refreshing herbs (mint leaves, kaffir lime leaves, chili oil, and torch ginger flower). The perfectly sized snack (one mouthful) prepared the taste buds for the upcoming dishes.
No sooner have I finished my snack than my fingers is ready picking up a piece of deep-fried mantou. The serving of the mantou with flower crab meat, ginger flower, pomelo, coriander, crushed peanuts, and chili is a delightfully balanced and tasty iteration of the Malaysian chili crab dish.
It is all the better with the petite pillow of deep-fried mantou sopping up the rich briny crab bisque with hints of pineapple, coriander, and tomato ketchup.
The 62.5 slow-cooked egg is made more amazing with coconut, sambal, salted fish, puff rice, whitebait, and dehydrated curry leaves. It is delicious with the blend of creaminess of egg, spice, saltiness, and crunchiness.
With the combination of right quantities of ingredients, the egg dish is a whole different culinary experience.
The next dish has de-shelled river prawns served with ginger flower, wax apple, lemongrass, cassava root, mint leaves, and laksa leaves in appetizing sour spicy assam broth. The spices, and flavors of the dish offer a familiar, comforting feeling of the classic Malaysian assam pedas dish.
For the next poultry dish, the kitchen uses free-range chicken from Balik Pulau, with a marriage with chicken floss, winged bean, and basil. The dish arrives on the table, with the chicken meat laid on a bed of curry potato puree. A serving of curry sauce spiced with kaffir lime also finds its way onto the dish.
For a meatier option, the pork rib with fragrant shiitake mushrooms was presented topped with black moss, shiitake powder, and dehydrated salted duck egg. The stew has intriguing sweet and delicate Asian flavors drawing from star anise, cloves, and soy sauce.
When it comes to desserts, there are several options by pastry chef Javen Ang. Guests can start off with the pandan, coconut, almond, tropical fruits, and palm sugar, before moving on to the brown rice pudding served with crushed rose petals, yogurt, cardamom, rose meringue, and calamansi, or the full moon egg prepared with chocolate, mango, pickled nutmeg, mint, and spring roll pastry. Each of the desserts is priced at RM20.
Brown rice pudding, crushed rose petals, rose meringue
The star of the desserts, however, is the full moon egg. The dish arrived, beautifully presented in a covered kidney-shaped bowl.
At first glance, the dessert looks like an egg sitting in the center of the nest. According to the pastry chef, the red egg coated with white chocolate has egg white of nutmeg panna cotta, and egg yolk made of mango coulis. Sitting in the center of the ‘nest’ made of shredded spring roll pastry coated with nutmeg powder, the dessert is garnished with refreshing mint leaves and pickled nutmeg.
Crack the egg with the back of the spoon and dig in! We loved this original take which is precisely the kind of traditional food that celebrates the full moon of a newborn child. Do note that this dessert is available in the a la carte menu, with a maximum of six made each day.
Full moon egg
Our dessert courses also see pickled guava with white chocolate mousse, frozen white chocolate soil, and grated sour plum, followed by macarons which popped with flavors of tropical cempedak fruit besides profiteroles encompassing pungent durian cream.
Cempedak macarons and durian profiteroles
Pickled guava with white chocolate mousse
Pandan, coconut, almond, tropical fruits and palm sugar
Overall, it is a fine dining experience with dishes offering a flurry of different flavors and textures prepared using a celebration of local produce. We left pleasantly full and contented.
It has been a month plus after its first service night on 22 January 2018, and the restaurant has been steadily garnering a steady stream of customers. For those eager to discover its unique flavors, head over to Gēn. The restaurant is open daily except Mondays, from 6pm till 11pm.
68A Lebuh Presgrave
10300 George Town
Tel: 012-578 3323