We FINALLY arrived in Penang 7 hours after original planned (but seriously, I shouldn't complain given the trouble it took to get me there). By then we were starving and just ready to begin our real vacation and start eating! Our first dinner was at Bali Hai (touristy but who can say no to a restaurant that features a gargantuan display of live seafood?). Jared first heard about it when he was doing his Penang restaurant/food stall research. He discovered a Penang food blogger by the name of CKLam. Go check out her site
when you are researching where to eat in Penang- we found a few good places to go through her suggestions and blog posts.
And now onto the meal (and these photos aren't so great, we were too hungry to care).
On display were live seafood from all over the world- king crab, snow crab, mantis prawns, grouper fish, shrimp, shellfish... the list goes on an on. The grouper on the bottom left, we'll call him Mr. Ugly Fish- and he was huge! We asked one of the staff to hold up this ridiculously large langoustine. We have eaten langoustines before in Hong Kong, but none that were as large as this. We were tempted to order it but by then Jared had already ordered 5 dishes and there were only two of us. So unfortunately we had to pass on this little (big) guy.
The shellfish spread.
To quench our thirst and the overbearing heat, we ordered a nice cold beer. It looks like Carlsberg is the local favorite beer in Penang (or atleast the most heavily advertised beer). It came with a frosted glass mug which was very much welcomed. I stared at this mug intently, like a long lost lover and then slowly took a large gulp. Ahhh. I suddenly felt so much better. The long wait at the airport and the frantic run to the U.S. embassy were soon forgotten.
Once we were ready to order, Jared and the waiter/waitress went to the tanks and selected our meal for the night.
To start off, we had blanched live fresh shrimp with a choice of a green and red chili garlic sauce. These unlucky guys made it to our table. It was fun watching the staff fish out the shrimp as they tend to jump out of the water into the neighboring tanks. The shrimp were nice and firm and meaty. Don't forget to suck out the brain juice from the head. So good!
We wanted to try some more of the local seafood, so these are the dishes we ordered.
From top to bottom, left to right: Stir fried clams (LaLa) in chili sauce with curry leaves, black pepper crab, salted egg yolk crab and to make sure we got some greens we got a plate of stir fried on-choy with sambal
Lala clams are local to Malaysia, they are relatively small with little meat but having it stir fried kam-heong style, (with curry paste and leaves) offers great flavor. The curry paste adds a nice heat to the dish. However, we felt that the wok-hei was a little lacking in this dish to bring out the true flavors.
Since we heard so much about the Sri Lankan mud crab in Malaysia, we had to have it. The first was the pepper crab. The crab came with a sweet and spicy black pepper sauce. The heat was just the right amount, but dish also lacked any wok-hei. We were also not too fond of the sweetness as we prefer savory in our food.
Up next was the fried crab with the salty egg crust. This dish we can eat again and again. The golden salted egg yolk formed a nice crust on the shell, each bite/lick gave us a scrumptious mouthful. Jared is hoping to re-create this dish at home soon. Originally, Jared wanted 2 crabs of each dish (total of 4 crab dishes), but our honest waitress advised against it and boy was she right. We were full with just 2 crabs.
And finally we had the stir fried on-choy with sambal. We found that we really like the sambal sauce and it was a great dish to round out our seafood dinner.
Overall, our experience at Bali Hai seafood restaurant was pretty good. For the price of $40 USD we had a great seafood meal. This place is located on Gurney drive along the stretch of beach. There are many higher end hotels nearby so you have both tourists and locals dining here. This place is literally packed from morning to night.
With our belly's full we ended up zonking out the minute we got back to our hotel. Though I guarantee you we were eager for the next day and to taste what Penang is famous for, hawker food.
Bali Hai Seafood Restaurant
90A-90D, Persiaran Gurney