Pasta Penang, I hardly knew ye. To be honest, I never did get around to trying the Pasta Penang that had been on the Main Street Bistro menu for many years. That enduring favorite, along with many others (see gallery below), are bittersweet memories now that one of Princeton’s favorite dining destinations has closed after 30 years.
It was my go-to place for an easy meet-up with friends over a civilized meal that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Their narrow bar and the fair weather Clocktower Cabana in the courtyard had their own devotees, too. The food, healthfully prepared, tended toward comfort food, but offered a good range of American (North and South), European, and Asian flavors.
I woke up at 4:00am this morning and realized I didn’t even think of trying to get one of their cookbooks when I was there last Thursday. We walked in thinking the place would still be open for a few more weeks, but left knowing that was not to be. I was glad I’d ordered the baked fish & chips, even though by then they were out of chips and offered a nice potato hash instead (really just cubes of browned potatoes). They didn’t have my friend’s long-time favorite PEI mussels, so instead she demolished every bite of a bleu cheese burger.
In the end, the staid atmosphere did them in. Even in Princeton, younger diners, especially those with families of their own, want a more vibrant atmosphere. I get it. But this makes me glad I am not reviewing restaurants any more, because I freely admit that, except for the occasional special night out, I really prefer lower-key places, without the cramped quarters, intrusive music, and hard noisy surfaces that make up so much modern dining. And don’t get me started on bistro seating, small plates, or pretentious menus that pound you over the head with their “curated” ingredients. Sometimes you just want to eat.