Island Problems, Penang | A restaurant worth the WhatsApp booking spam
The only problem I had with Island Problems, was getting a seat. And occasionally, parking.
This Thai-Japanese fusion restaurant is the new cool kid in heritage Penang that has everybody hyped. And with the explosion of Instagram posts, blog posts, and Youtube vlogs, I did wonder if I should pollute the internet with yet another article on Island Problems.
But you know what?
After 7 attempts at reserving a seat, (and now my WhatsApp chat with them is pretty much me spamming them with booking information), the two opportunities to FINALLY try this restaurant presented itself in the most spontaneous way.
So here we go. A full recollection of my experience(s) at Island Problems.
- Interiors & Ambience -
It was yin and yang.
You get a really cool, dark minimalistic counter experience at the ground floor...
... and very cosy, Muji-esque sofas on the top floor.
So do you prefer the fiery intensity of a kitchen at work in front of you?
Or if you long to have a quiet chat with friends or get some work done (they offer charging points upstairs), then the top floor had a really nice, calming atmosphere.
Just beware that the stairs had no railings so heels and senior citizens may not go so well with that.
Reservations were required and can be made via Whatsapp, which you can find on their page.
They work in sessions. And there is a 1.5-hour time limit for every table from the session you've booked.
- Food & Drink -
Top / Ebi Hotate; Left / Salmon Krapacio
They had a rather extensive Japanese-Thai fusion menu.
Appetisers included a range of sinful delights like sweet potato fries. Or lighter options like the Salmon Krapacio / RM 29 - basically a sour Thai salad take on Salmon Carpaccio.
But I highly recommend the Ebi Hotate / RM 29. It was on the spicier side, but the chilli sauce drowning that set of prawns and scallops was absolutely addictive.
Don? Pasta? Ramen? Japanese Sando sandwiches? They have it all!
And as is wont of typical Malaysians, everyone ordered something different to sample across the table.
Left to right / Trio Roe Pasta; Tom Yum Goong Pasta
Having pasta in Island Problems is bound to be a unique, delicious and rich affair. They offer a range of fusion pasta dishes, such as their signature Trio Roe Pasta /RM 39 and my personal favourite, the Tom Yum Goong Pasta / RM 34. Think al dente pasta drenched in an umami-packed rich cream sauce.
These dishes were a most satisfying guilty pleasure. One had to forcefully hold oneself back from having more sauce despite a stomach screaming protest.
Team Don / Japanese Rice bowls
The best rice dishes, in my opinion, were the Truffle Scramble Unagi Don / RM 34, and the Salmon Blanket Mentaiko / RM 34.
The creamy, slightly undercooked eggy goodness was oozing with a strong truffle scent and topped with tender slices of glazed unagi.
While the Salmon Blanket Mentaiko was a flavourful mix of tender sashimi under a mountain of creamy mentaiko sauce.
They also offer Gyu Katsu Curry / RM 31, which was a safe bet for any Japanese curry fans. But be warned, the portion was rather large.
Other than the Niko Neko matcha latte, their drinks menu was quite a unique one in comparison to other restaurants- with a series of curious names leaving one guessing as to what they were about to drink.
For example, the Honey Melon Lemon / RM 13 - a lemony take on the popular winter melon packet drinks.
Our collective favourite was the Watermelon Lychee Cooler / RM 13 - a very refreshing, icy blend.
This is not exactly the place to go if you want a really slow and relaxed meal, for one tends to get swept away by the fast pace that this restaurant operates at. And though it took almost a commitment to get a reservation, this place was worth the splurge.
The food was rich, but delicious and really one of the most unique menus heritage Georgetown has to offer. It definitely kept me wanting more.
Looks like I'll continue spamming their Whatsapp booking chat in the future!
- At a glance -
The top floor had a nice, more relaxed ambience for groups. Or you could opt for the first floor if you want to experience the fury in a kitchen.
Food / Japanese-Thai fusion
An extensive and delicious fusion menu that was more on the richer, contemporary side perfect for lunches and dinners.
Price / $$$
The mains were around RM30+.
There is an open-air parking lot just a few blocks beside it so it wasn't too bad.
Contact details & recent news/
- Around the hood -
It was in that desperate search of a parking spot, did I realise just how vibrant and happening the surroundings were.
Smack in the centre of the historical Campbell Street, which was once a Red Light District, the tiny, modern storefront of Island Problems was almost invisible between the colourful rustic facades of the surrounding shophouses.
The short, narrow lane was lined with Chinese goldsmiths, snack shops, clothes shops. Turn a corner and you'll see the famous local coffeeshop - Toh Soon Cafe - by an alley! At night, the quiet street made for quite a nice stroll as vendors and hawkers emerge with enticing snacks.
With a chorus of 'ahhhh's, we found the newly-opened Haru Stationery Cafe just a few blocks down where one might stop for a quiet cup of tea.
And that sums up my new discovery.
Thank you for reading and stay safe!