Penang is located on the south end of Dupont Circle/West End/Foggy Bottom area. It sits above the Chipotle at 19 & M and close by to other good eats such as Nooshi, Luigis, and Smith & Wollensky. Penang is a Malaysian restaurant and it was a cuisine that I neither EA or I had ever tried before. I heard that it is almost a cross between Thai and Indian, so I definitely knew that it could be something that I would thoroughly enjoy. Then again, restaurants that are very veggie friendly always get a plus in my book.
Walking into Penang, you take note of the very modern decor filled with reds, low lighting, hardwood floors and a nicely open restaurant. You are met with the bar when you walk in and then you proceed to a "two" level restaurant but more like 1 1/4 level. It appears to really only be a restaurant suited for an older crowd, you don't really get a lot of college kids or anyone younger for that matter.
For starters, I opted to get a soup so I tried the Seafood Tomyan Soup which had Shrimp, squid, scallops and mushrooms in a spicy tomyam broth. It had a really good and well seasoned flavor and definitely helped warm me up on a cool rainy evening.
We then ordered the Roti Canai which is a Crispy Indian style pancake served with a curry chicken dipping sauce. This came out with our entrees (we ordered it late), so I did not actually eat it with the dipping sauce. EA tried it with the dipping sauce and said it was quite tasty and I actually fell in love with this little bite of heaven. Although this wasn't actually Malaysian and it was Indian, Penang does an outstanding job with this bread. Surprisingly, I had never had it before (I say this because I am a BIG fan of Indian food/restaurants), but I guess because I am so used to automatically ordering the typical delicious Naan bread, I had always overlooked the Roti. Trust me, I won't make that mistake again.
We both opted to order some of the "Fried Noodle" entrees but this is a term used to just illustrate that they were pan-fried at some point but they are not actually "fried". EA ordered the Penang Char Mee Hoon which is a Rice vermicelli with chicken, egg, bean sprouts, julienned red and green peppers, lemon grass, and dried red pepper.
She really enjoyed it and said the flavor was really great and seasoned just right. I went for the Penang Char Koay Teow which is their famous flat rice noodles with shrimp, squid, eggs, chives and bean sprouts in a spicy black soya chili sauce. I was really impressed with how flavorful this dish was and how it had the perfect amount of spicy kick that I was still able to enjoy it while my sinuses were definitely being cleared out. Sorry if that was too many details.
Because she didn't get an appetizer, EA opted to order a desert to go, the Peanut Pancake which is a crispy pancakes stuffed with ground peanuts, Crispy outside, moist inside. After talking to her later that week and asking her how it was, she said it wasgood and definitely something that she had never tried before and pretty unique.
All in all, we had a really great experience at Penang. After reading other reviews, I take it that your experience can be pretty hit or miss with the restaurant but for us, the flavors and seasoning was well balanced and decently complex. I've also heard that apparently on thursday-saturday, Penang turns into a dance club, so if you plan on going one of those nights, I recommend you go earlier lest you want a dance party to break out during your meal. however, that may be exactly what you want. I recommend Penang for both a date with your significant other or unformal dinner with friends after work. The vibe is very relaxed and apparently, they also serve up some great happy hour cocktails. If going on a weekend, I would pair this with maybe a trip to the National Geographic Museum a few blocks over.