There are so many awesome eateries at Tanjong Pagar Centre, and I feel elated to have discovered the best hidden gem so far: The Little Island (小槟岛)! The Chinese name is literally translated as “Little Penang Island”, which is an apt name because the restaurant specializes in super delicious and authentic Penang-style food. The first time I took a mouthful of the gutsy Assam Laksa, I fell in love with the restaurant and have been making multiple trips back.
Awesome Penang Food Restaurant
The Little Island hails from Malaysia, where it caters to locals who are fans of Penang food. A quick search online suggests that the restaurant has three branches in Malaysia, and the Tanjong Pagar Centre outlet is the first in Singapore.
True foodies will know that some of the best foods in the world are actually served by food vendors along the streets. However, at The Little Island, I was able to enjoy scrumptious Penang street food in a comfortable and air-conditioned environment. From Assam Laksa to Nasi Lemak to Fried Kuay Teow, and Cendol to Rojak to Lobak, this is truly Penang food heaven and I was spoiled for choice.
Old-School Interior Design and Good Service
The Little Island’s facade is reminiscent of a classic vintage restaurant, with its bright neon light logo flanked by orange, green and blue light-boards. Inside the restaurant, I saw a tidy sprawl of wooden stools and tables, along with old-school street food signs and baskets lining the walls. When I visited, the staff were quite friendly and they were very prompt in clearing the tables. My food came very quickly after ordering.
Assam Laksa ($8.90)
The Assam Laksa ($8.90) is arguably the most famous hawker food in Penang, and I wondered if Little Island’s version would live up to the reputation. I scooped up a spoonful of the laksa noodles doused in tantalizing spicy soup and eagerly put it into my gaping mouth.
And I was not disappointed! This was definitely different from the Singapore-style laksa, but nevertheless it was still extremely delicious. The highlight was of course the soup, which had a tangy spicy flavour that was so addictive. I am a chili lover and so I was happy to see a few slices of chili floating in the soup. The bits of mackerel in the soup tasted very fresh and savoury too, and went nicely with the thick noodles. I added in a little bit of prawn paste which served to enhance the overall flavour. Be careful not to add too much though or it can be overwhelming. On the whole, the impression was one of artful balance in the texture and flavour of the delicious Assam Laksa ingredients.
Nasi Lemak with Chicken Strips ($9.90)
On a separate occasion, I tried The Nasi Lemak with Chicken Strips ($9.90), which was quite an enjoyable treat. The coconut rice tasted decent, nothing too special but still quite satisfying. But when I ate the chicken strip, my eyes lighted up because I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious it was. It had delightful crispy fried skin covering tender and succulent chicken meat underneath. And there was a subtle savoury aftertaste which lingered nicely on my palate.
My Assam Laksa came with the Three Sour (usually $3.50 but complimentary with the main dish) drink, which is a concoction of three sour ingredients (yea duh), namely kumquat, lemon, and sour plum. This was a very nice tangy drink to go along with the laksa. For the Nasi Lemak, it came with the Nutmeg Juice (usually $3 but complimentary with the main dish); nutmeg is apparently a wonder food with many antioxidants, nutrients, and all that good stuff. It tasted sweet with an alluring piquant flavour.
So far, I have been reading rave reviews about the other bistros in Tanjong Pagar Centre but strangely no one has mentioned The Little Island (小槟岛) yet. With its delicious authentic Penang food, good service and nice ambience, this is definitely one eatery that you have to check out!
The Little Island (小槟岛)
Address: 7 Wallich Street #B2-29 Tanjong Pagar Centre 078884