When I was on the beach in Penang, I almost stepped on a hypodermic needle. Then I decided to go for a swim and narrowly avoided another needle floating in the water. That made me decide I didn't like Penang the island very much. But I did have some excellent goat curry there.

Penang the restaurant thankfully does not have hypodermic needles lying around at every turn. Instead, it is big, cavernous and noisy. The service can be so slow that you almost give up hope. But then the roti canai comes, and you can't be mad at them anymore. The nasi lemak, with its sweet preserved vegetables, its soft and comforting coconut rice, its complex chicken curry ...the nasi lemak forces you to forgive them for the airplane hangar ambiance. Even though Penang is a chain and the waitresses ignored us for 25 minutes once, we will keep going back.

Can't say the same for the island.

Categories: Chicago
May 30, 2005

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