Morpheus Restaurant Penang, making culinary dreams come true
Morpheus Restaurant Penang is located at Lorong Abu Siti in the bustling city of George Town. It first opened its doors to the public in April 2023 by head chef and owner Andy Lai. Using top quality ingredients, each dish is crafted to showcase the coupling of culinary artistry and elegance. Here is an account of my inaugural dining experience at Morpheus.
To begin the culinary escapade at Morpheus, a tray of thick slices of warm sourdough bread was served with some butter and sea salt flakes. I am a huge fan of sourdough bread as it has a lovely, distinct flavour with a chewy interior and a crackly crust. Sourdough bread is considered to be the oldest form of leavened bread dating back to as early as ancient Egypt. Unlike conventional white bread, it does not use commercial yeast to rise. Instead, it leavens naturally using a "starter" containing wild yeast and good bacteria. Furthermore, ample time is given (sometimes up to 24 hours) for the flavours of the bread to develop slowly.
For entrée, my friends and I opted for the octopus tentacle, served with Patatas Bravas (spicy potatoes) seasoned with paprika and a vibrant in-house Chimichurri sauce. The tentacle was savoury and truly tender. This dish illustrated the skill of the chef. The octopus was cooked to perfection, allowing the tough and chewy collagen in its flesh to transform into a silky and tender gelatin. If you are a seafood lover, be sure to add this to your list of items to order at Morpheus.
Fresh oysters, foie gras served with an ulam salad, crispy tuna, escargot en croûte and melon with serrano ham were among other intriguing entrée options on the menu. There were three choices of soups – mushroom porcini, French onion and pumpkin ginger. We will definitely return to sample some of these items on our next visit, as they all sound rather tempting.
For our main courses, we decided to sample several dishes. The first to arrive was the delicious squid ink pasta with a chorizo sauce, topped with a jumbo-sized tiger prawn that extended across the entire dinner plate. The juicy prawn was seared with a blowtorch, infusing the dish with a rich smoky aroma. It was a true umami showstopper, brilliantly executed and presented – a culinary masterpiece deserving of a chef's kiss.
The seafood fettuccine cooked in a seafood cream was served with tiger prawns and scallops, topped with black caviar. The briny and decadent flavour of the caviar, combined with the creamy seafood sauce, was a brilliant combination in this dish.
Italians tend to be strict about what is appropriate for the different pasta cuts. In general, the wider the noodle, the thicker the sauce needs to be. Flat pastas like fettuccine are best paired with cream or meat sauces.
One of the most popular fettuccine recipes has to be Fettuccine Alfredo, named after its creator, Alfredo di Lelio. He owned a restaurant on the Via Della Scrofa in Rome and created his synonymous signature pasta dish in 1914 using only butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano in the sauce. Unlike the popular American version that has swept the globe by adding cream, the original Italian version remains true to its roots. According to The Italian-American Cookbook by John Mariani and Galina Mariani, since American butter and parmesan cheese then lacked the richness of their Italian counterparts, cream was added to the sauce to compensate.
We also enjoyed a serving of pan-fried red snapper accompanied by a mild curry sauce, julienned bell peppers and whole chickpeas. Since the red snapper is a lean, moist fish with a firm texture and a distinctive sweet, nutty flavour, it lends itself well to everything from hot chillies to subtle herbs, including the harmonious combination of flavours found in this dish.
The roasted chicken leg, accompanied with confit potatoes and jus corsé (chicken jus reduction), was tasty and delectable. The meat was moist and tender.
The tender pork-ribs, glazed with an in-house Balinese sauce, was among my favourite dishes of the evening. Served with some seared corn ribs, this culinary creation was truly scrumptious! The succulent meat effortlessly fell off the bone, providing a delightful treat for the palate. I enjoyed the crushed black pepper in the glaze that added that necessary peppery hit to harmonise with the flavours of sweetness, heat and tanginess. I am certain the chef invested a great deal of tender loving care when preparing the ribs.
To conclude the meal, we chose two desserts – tiramisu and burnt Basque cheesecake. The former, a no-bake coffee dessert of creamy mascarpone, had a strong alcoholic kick the way I like it! This Italian Classic was served in a glass dusted with a generous amount of cocoa powder.
Baked in-house, the burnt Basque cheesecake was divine! I am glad that the chef did not "burn" the cheesecake to a charcoal-black surface but instead kept it a beautiful caramelised hue. This addictive cheesecake (sans the press-in cookie crust typical of the classic New York–style cheesecake) has a light creamy interior. Tradition has it that La Viña, a bar-restaurant in the old part of San Sebastián, served the Basque cheesecake for the first time some thirty years ago. Today this version has taken the world by storm, captivating some of the most diverse palates.
The charming decor and attentive staff were the perfect complements to the scrumptious feast we had at Morpheus, making our evening truly delightful.
Morpheus Restaurant Penang
26, Lorong Abu Siti, George Town, Malaysia
Tel: +6012-273 9743
Open daily from 5 pm to 11 pm except Mondays
About Chef Andy Lai
Chef Andy left Malaysia to pursue my passion for the culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, graduating in 2019. Founded in Paris in 1895, Le Cordon Bleu is today considered the largest network of culinary and hospitality schools in the world. It combines innovation and creativity with tradition through its training courses enabling aspiring culinary professionals to turn their ambitions into reality.
Chef Andy further honed his skill at the famed Alain Ducasse’s Hôtel Plaza Athénée for a year before returning home. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he started his online catering business. When business opportunities improved after the pandemic, Chef Andy took the bold step to launch his own restaurant and never look back.
He wants to offer Penang something exciting, away from the street food galore, mundane buffet lines and fast-food craze. He aims to provide nouveau French fusion offerings that would titillate the taste buds and awaken the senses. His goal is to fuse traditional French gastronomy with local flavours and ingredients using French techniques. Take for example the exquisite foie gras dish that is carefully created, pairing quality Rougie foie gras with the aromatic local ulam sauce.
Chef Andy highlighted that the cooking methods he has mastered, from precise temperatures and timing, are what transform quality fresh ingredients into uncomplicated offerings that sing on the plate. Armed with determination, skill and the creative culinary flair, Chef Andy is poised for great success. I support young chefs who are willing to go the extra mile in making a difference to the culinary landscape of Penang.
Morpheus, named after the Greek god of dreams, is quite apt for Andy's restaurant. Dining here, one's culinary dreams could all come true. I hope yours will too, Chef Andy.
Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah
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Updated: 16 September 2023