Calling Penang Café & Restaurant (6 Station Road, Otahuhu, Ph: 09 – 270 0668) a ‘café’ seems like an insider gag; there are certainly no lattes served here or schmancy sandwiches in sight. The faded signage and plastic tablecloths hark back to the 80’s, and its location just off the main street of Otahuhu makes this place an easy one to walk past without a second glance.
The gregarious waitress greets you like an extended member of the family. A pot of tea is quickly brought out, and the hot jasmine tea is a comforting brew on a chilly Spring day. There are both lunch (rice and noodle dishes) and dinner menus offered, and we ordered off the dinner menu.
Penang Café & Restaurant is well known for their chicken rice. If you want a half ($18) or whole steamed chicken, you have to order this a day in advance. We ordered a half chicken as we wanted to sample their other dishes. When you bite into the chicken, you understand why this gets raves, – the meat is velvety soft, and perfectly seasoned with just a touch of ginger and soy. The accompanying rice is flavoursome ($1 per person).
Their special tofu ($15) is four huge pieces (a knife is supplied for you to cut these into more manageable sizes) of custardy soft tofu, which has been deep-fried so the ‘skin’ is crispy, and is served with some soy and sesame oil.
Penang Café’s version of roti ($2) is fluffy and delicate, but can be a bit too oily. It was still very good though and comes with thick curry gravy.
The eggplant and pork in claypot ($22) is exactly that, – generous serving of eggplant, onion pieces and shredded pork in a thick, savoury gravy.
The waitress had recommended the butter coconut prawns ($25), and even though we had already ordered enough food for 4 people, I was glad we succumbed. The prawns had an addictive buttery crunchy coating and a luscious taste.
Penang Café is extraordinarily good value, – the servings are huge (3 mains for 4 people is plenty) and everything we ordered was superbly seasoned and cooked.
Coming to Otahuhu is a real treat. On the day we visited, the local Tongans and Samoans were exhibiting their ardent rugby team allegiance (less than a week to Rugby World Cup kick off) by enthusiastic flag-waving and noise making all along the main streets. The joyful celebrations and good-natured rivalry between the fans was a delight to watch.