Penang is the newly opened Malaysian(?) place on the northeast corner of 19th and M above Chipotles. Is this a chain? Full bar, maybe 12 seats, with good beers on tap. Big place with a contemporary setting and pinpoint halogen lighting. Seating is very low. The varnished, dark wood tables are nicely set with a linen napkin, napkin ring, quality chopsticks, and unique cutlery. Service was good during a busy lunch, but curiously, there is not a single Asian on the staff.
I didn't open the regular menu. There is a lunch special menu that offers maybe a dozen items; Chicken and Asparagus, Shrimp and Broccoli, Wide Noodles with Beef, Paad Thai, Chicken Curry, various Fried Rices, an Indian noodle dish with Squid Sauce, etc. Each comes with Seaweed Soup, "salad," choice of appetizer (spring roll, taro shrimp or ?), and rice (unless you order a rice or noodle dish) for $9. There's also a nice little wine list, including a Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonay by the glass.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, for the price, but the entire "special" arrives at once on a single, large, square, white plate. The soup is salt water with two specs of seaweed and some mushrooms and tofu dropped in at the last minute. The spring roll was inedible. The taro shrimp possibly even worse. The "salad" is a tear of iceberg lettuce with a few shreds of mango(?) with an indistinquishable dressing. The Chicken Curry was pastey and raw tasting, as far as possible from the wonderful, coconut milk infused Panang Curry served in dozens of Thai restaurants in the area. The last dish, however, was quite good. The Indian noodles with Squid Sauce was a mound of deep, rich, seafood coated rice noodles tasting of shrimp paste and crustacean shell, similar to Paad Thai, but much more complex.
Malaysia Kopitiam has little to fear.
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