Gēn 根 Penang – Tasting Menu Penang
Gēn 根 Penang after a year has settled very nicely like a genial neighbor to the century-old street food scene outside.
Just like her founder Chef Johnson Wong, Gēn 根 is winsome, delightful, and ever charming. This kitchen has stood the test of time in an unassuming, unpresumptuous way.
Ever since I’ve known Chef Johnson, he has held on to his vision of creating a purist cuisine – using only the freshest local ingredients. He has over the years remained steadfast and takes great pride in his calling to provide a magical mouthfeel dining experience.
There aren’t many fine dining restaurants in Penang serving a clean delicate palate.
When everyone else battled for sensational cooking to assail the tongue and senses, Gēn 根 has kept to the pure essence of ingredients.
There are no heavy sauces, triple cheese or Blinding Chili Grenades in your mouth.
What you get to enjoy is a light touch and savor the bounty of Penang’s seafood and local produce and herbs.
If you are a regular, you will know what I mean.
Chef Johnson has taken the new tasting menu up another notch.
What is Gēn 根?
The concept is simple. Gēn 根 is a “New Malaysian” Cuisine restaurant that serves creative cuisine made with local and seasonal ingredients.
Gēn 根 uses the best Malaysian produce to deliver an articulation of the finer flavors and nuances of the culture with core values that embrace sustainability.
How does Gēn 根 prep the dishes?
Chef Johnson believes in using local Malaysian ingredients. The restaurant makes everything from scratch in house using the best available ingredients found in Penang.
The cooking method is what transforms each dish into a tantalizing morsel with an intense burst of flavors interspace with a delicate touch.
Chef Johnson uses pickling, slow cooking and even fermenting.
The menu features the abundance of seafood found in the surrounding seas with a few dishes served raw.
Let’s take a look at Gēn 根 New Tasting Menu
I have been going on a regional run and eating magical dishes from so many places.
From homes to seating low on stools that I need my companion to pull me from, to dining at an organic farm and eating freshly plucked greens and herbs.
In my travels, I’ve had pure capsaicin with the heat searing like an inferno in my mouth which I tried to neutralize with milk.
So returning to Penang and Gēn 根 Tasting Menu with a promised medley of local flavors was something I looked forward to.
The 7-course tasting menu has many surprises in between. In the end, I counted 13 excellent and memorable serves with a dessert that I enjoyed before, amped up.
1. Charcoal Manitou Cubes, Sweetcorn Cream
Charcoal Manitou Cubes with Sweetcorn Cream topped with chili powder.
I’m just not a huge fan of the charcoal food trend. I know that activated charcoal has certain health benefits and I agree that visually the black coloring gives the food a fashionable appearance.
It’s just a personal preference; I love regular Manitou Cubes and Creamed Corn to death.
Gēn 根 version of the Sweetcorn Cream is one that I adore for its hint of smoky richness and sweet creamy texture with a tiny hint of spiciness. I can easily have seconds for this alone!
The 3 Starters
2. Dough Stick, Shrimp, Jicama
A section of deep-fried Dough Stick (Youtiao) smeared with Shrimp Paste (a fermented condiment called “Hare Koh” locally) and garnished with Jicama (“Seng Kuang” or “Yam Bean)
3. Chicken Wing, Curry, Romaine Lettuce
A one bite cocktail serve, I love the intense curry flavor of Deep Fried Chicken Wing.
4. Papaya, White Prawn, Fermented Chili
The Papaya pickle is fine but I’m not a fan of raw mushy chopped Prawn and fermented chili. Again, this is a personal preference.
5.Tuna, Kaffir Lime, Longan
This is the prettiest presentation that I rather enjoyed visually. The dish has raw local tuna, pickled Longan, local herbs and kaffir lime leaves.
6. Leek, Minced Pork, Dried Shrimp
Large leeks are generally more fibrous in texture. This dish is too overly fibrous and tough for me. The Minced Pork, Dried Shrimp, Black Moss, and Egg Yolk Sauce are rich and creamy which I enjoyed without the leeks.
7. Squid, Salted Duck Egg, Bitter Gourd
Normally I don’t particularly like cooked squid. I only like the Penang style “Sotong Bakar” which is grilled over hot coals and served with a dipping chili sauce.
I was very intrigued with this dish which is made entirely of Squid, Salted Duck Egg, Bitter Gourd and <yes> Squid Ink which is blended entirely. It is steamed into black spongy ribbons.
Yes, you’ve won me over Chef Johnson with this dish, knowing my aversion for black squid ink “everything”.
The Palate Cleanser
Bilimbing, Pomelo, Lemongrass
This palate cleanser is a neutral-flavored coconut pannacotta served with the citrusy sweet juice sacs of the Pomelo intact. The combination has the acidic flavors of belimbing (baby star fruit), lemongrass oil, and kaffir leaves without the bitterness that is associated with grapefruits.
8. Flower Crab, Beansprout, Peanut
This delicious flower crab wanton is visually deceiving but a delight to savor. Again, I carved for half a dozen plump wantons in that delicious gravy.
9. String Ray, Ginger Flower, Stinky Bean
This dish has such strong elements in a combination of flavors. Sting Ray, combined with the strong pervasive and lingering smell of the Stinky Bean (Petai) is not a Chef can pull off successfully.
Chef Johnson’s use of the marvelous Torch Ginger Flower and Curry Leaves imparts an intoxicating, hypnotizing special fragrance to this dish that is beautiful.
10. Duck, Old Cucumber, Herbal
Old cucumber soup is a nourishing flavorful classic slow-cooked Cantonese soup that is heartwarming and simply delicious. Chef Johnson’s modern twist on the recipe has grilled Duck Breast, dried Enoki Mushroom, slices of Old Cucumber and Black Garlic Powder.
This anti-aging Chinese Herbal Chicken Soup is both satisfying and soul-warming.
11. “My Childhood Memory Part 1”
This is a brilliant interpretation of his favorite childhood dessert. I have had pineapple twist sauce and chili too as a child. The wicked twist that got me was the slivers of leaves with the darkest having the sharp heat of the chili.
There’s everything that I didn’t expect in this dessert. Pickled Pineapple Juice with coriander, more Pineapple Gelato, and Pineapple Chips.
Just as the pineapple is such a versatile fruit, Chef Johnson has shown his versatility in creating something totally exciting from this simple fruit.
I can’t wait for the metamorphosis of his favorite desserts next!
12. “My Childhood Memory Part 2”
We share the same childhood dessert apparently. Just a 2 decades difference in between. I do like a nice big bowl of wilted guava pickled with sour plum most days. Chef’s version has Guava Sorbet, freshly carved from a block of frozen deliciousness. What I like most is his version with Lime Meringue and White Chocolate topping.
As much as I hate to admit it publicly, I have a soft spot for desserts done right. This is one that I like without the heaviness of santan and cream.
13. Tuak, Nutmeg, Gula Melaka
For the finishing note, Gēn 根 Penang serves a nightcap of a Tuak Sorbet with Gula Melaka Syrup, Coconut Flakes, and Rose Rice Cake.
The instruction from the server was to blend the ingredients together for a flavorful balance taste of texture and delicate sweetness.
The finale to the beautiful dinner is a nice glass of warming Nutmeg Tea.
The Tasting Menu is RM250+. You can request for wine pairing.
Review of Gēn 根 Penang – Tasting Menu Penang
Gēn 根 Penang is fine dining with great local flavors. Each dish is beautifully plated; every single dish is a celebration of the innovative concept to create a truly Malaysian Restaurant that utilized fresh local, sustainable produce.
If you have a peanut or shellfish allergy, or any other dietary restriction, do inform the chef before you place your order.
Some dishes may contain crushed peanuts and use shellfish in its preparation.
Gēn 根 Penang | 68A Lebuh Presgrave, George Town, Penang
Business Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 6 pm to 11 pm | Closed every Monday | Reservation: 012-578 3323