Penang Top Five: Chef Nizar Achmad
Updated: 30 Aug 2012

Photo by Andrian Cheah


Here’s a chef who exploits his Indonesian culinary roots and combines it with Swedish and French culinary arts. He has flown in from Sweden to guest chef in Suffolk House’s restaurant and now, back for the third time by popular demand, Chef Nizar Achmad is once again the guest chef at 32 at the Mansion. Excited by ingredients that are not only fresh and organic, but also those that are forgotten, Chef Nizar is constantly on the quest for new flavours. This is reflected in the composition of his many dishes. Inspired by what sights and smells that surround him, here is his top five of what to do and eat in Penang.

1. 32 at the Mansion 
This is where I am cooking now as a guest chef until early September. It’s located on Penang Road, just down the road from the E&O hotel and it’s right on the beach. Due to that, it has the best view and especially pretty during sunset hour. Its menu’s staples consist of a balance of Western and pretty good and reasonably priced Asian fare. You should try its Vietnamese pho beef koay teow soup and laksa lemak.

2. On the sea in Penang 
Every now and again, Mr Oh Kean Shen whose family is in the shipyard business will take his yacht out for a sail around Penang island. This is when I get to view Penang from the sea, and when coupled with good wine or champagne, oysters and caviar, the whole picture becomes a rather breath-taking one. 

3. Hiking in Muka Head 
It’s a reserve forest located in the north of the island. There’s a lighthouse there which is over a hundred years old. I think it’s one of the very few lighthouses that still exist in Penang. This trek will inevitably lead you to pretty bays and one which I especially enjoy is Monkey Beach for its serene views and a shady beach.

4. Cilantro’s Farmers Market, Tanjung Bungah 
I do enjoy going to my friend Charles place at the newly opened Cilantro’s Farmers Market at Lebuh Lembah Permai 4 in Tanjung Bunga because I can get fresh herbs and vegetables. And Charles also has his own farm in Cameron Highlands, which is about a couple of hours from Penang. The place is open from 9am to 5pm on weekdays, until 1pm on Saturdays and closed on Sundays.

5. That Little Wine Bar 
On nights when I am not working or after I’m done with work, I enjoy meeting with chefs who work on the island like Suffolk House’s Dave Looi and Macalister Mansion’s Lance U`ren at That Little Wine Bar on Jalan Chow Thye. Of course, there’s also Tommes who runs the kitchen in that place. Over bottles of nice wine, there are always food ideas discussed as we wind down for the week.