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Archive for the ‘penang’ Category

PANICKY IMPROMPTU DINNER PREPARATIONS

Posted by Criz Lai On February - 4 - 2009

In a Chinese family, serving “Lam Mee” or Birthday Noodles at a birthday celebration is important as the long noodles are meant to represent longevity in a person’s life. When I thought a simple noodle dinner with the family members to further celebrate my Dad’s birthday was fine, I had received news that there would be two more guests joining us. I got panicked. With all lethargy from helping out and cooking during the festive season, I had decided to just order some “Lam Mee” from a nearby stall, although not my favorite one. By the time I had received the call, it was already too late as the stall was closed. Help! What should I do now?

The dinner was expected to be around 6.30pm that day and it was almost 3.00pm here. When I thought the best alternative was to go around town to search for good food to compliment with the noodles, the results was none as all my favorite places were still closed for the celebration. My mind went berserk seeking for solutions. Should I cook up something? What have I left in the refrigerator that I can cook up in less than 3 hours? Luckily, I’m a person who would always keep my fridge well stocked or else it would be dooms day.

I rushed to the nearest shopping mall and grabbed whatever ingredients I needed for the rest of the meal. The noodle dish would need to be pepped up with flavors as the taste was not as I wanted. Even the soup needed some fine tuning. Moreover, the ingredients and garnishing were not that impressive to be served to my guests. I had to cut the meat slices smaller and halves all the large prawns that came with the order and marinate them again with some pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil and fry them with chopped garlic. On top of that, I had some pounded dried flounder to garnish the noodles as this pounded ingredient would give the noodle a unique fragrance. I then gave the noodles a final touch by garnishing with some scrambled eggs, chopped spring onions and coriander. Viola! The “LAM MEE” had a total makeover!

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One dish settled. The next was another headache as the clock was clicking real fast and I did not even know what would impress my guests. I needed to think of a dish that would require minimal cooking time. I grabbed some apples, pears, hami melon slices and cherry tomatoes that I had in the fridge and cut them into cubes. I then diluted some mayonnaise and mixed with some fine sugar, pepper, pasta herbs, milk powder and a dash of sesame oil. I folded in the fruit cubes. Since I had just bought some chicken fillets a day ago, I sliced them thinly and marinated the slices with some sesame oil, soy sauce, some grounded black pepper and ginger juice. I then coated them with some multi purpose frying flour and deep fried them to golden brown. These pieces were then garnished on the fruit salad with an additional sprinkle of mixed herbs. Here’s the masterpiece – Crunchy Chicken with Fruit Salad.

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Two dishes on the table sounded odd as three would be a great number for a Chinese family. Three means “San” which has a similar intonation and meaning of “alive”. Now what else could I cook to make up the number? I remembered having some roasted chicken in the fridge. Half a large bird would be enough for everyone but serving that plain would be quite embarrassing, especially in the eyes of my guests. Well, I had the bird chopped up into bite sizes. I then sautéed some chopped garlic in some oil, throw in some ginger slices and stir fry them until fragrant. I added in some soy sauce, a pinch of fine sugar, some pepper, some dark say sauce, some oyster sauce, some sesame oil and mixed them well in the wok. I then pour in some stock and let the chicken simmer for awhile. To thicken the gravy, I had used some corn starch. When the gravy thickened, I poured in some Chinese wine (Shao Xing) to add that special taste into the dish. I called this dish Braised Roasted Chicken in Wine.

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It was 6.30pm right on the dot when I heard someone came into the house. Phew! I had everything handled well except that I did not have time left to prepare desserts. To my surprise, both guests brought in an ice cream cake each. I was saved!

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I just hope that I won’t have to face such limited time again to come up with an impromptu dinner. It could really be stressful mentally and physically.

SET LUNCH AT SALSAS RESTAURANT

Posted by Criz Lai On February - 1 - 2009

It was another reunion meal and a birthday celebration for my Dad on the fourth day of Chinese New Year. Most of our chosen restaurants were either closed or fully booked on that day. To avoid any disappointments, we had booked a long table at the Salsas Restaurant at Hotel Continental for early lunch instead. The restaurant was indeed very crowded. Walking into the restaurant, you can feel the coziness of the whole setup. Here’s a glimpse of the whole place.

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Salsas Restaurant does not provide many ala carte dishes. Instead, it has 26 impressive set lunches in the menu, ranging from as low as RM13.50 to a higher range as much as RM27.50. Every single set lunch would come with Soup or Salad of the Day, Main Course, Coffee, Tea, Iced Lemon Tea or Fruit Juice, and Dessert of the Day. It’s quite a good money-for-value meal. Just click and enlarge the below photos to know what they have in their menu.

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Let us just look at how a typical set lunch at the Salsas Restaurant would look like. First you would be asked on whether you would wan coffee, tea, iced lemon tea or mango juice on top of the plain glass of water you would be served.

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They would also serve everyone with a hot toasted bun each with butter while waiting to the set lunch courses to start.

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We were given the option to choose between the Soup of the Day and the Salad of the Day. The Soup of the Day was Asparagus Soup. It was creamy enough for my liking. The Salad of the Day was some fresh lettuce and tomatoes with mayonnaise and garnished with toasted bread cubes. It was refreshing.

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We ordered the main course from 3 different price ranges in the menu. The first range was RM13.50. We had Double Jumbo Chicken Sausages and Grilled Dory Fish Fillet with Salsa. The sausages were good but a bit salty to my liking. The dory fillet was also good combined with the tomato salsa it came with.

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The next range was RM15.50. We had Baked Penne Pasta and Lamb Pepperpot. The pasta tasted great with lots of chicken cubes and creamy cheese. On the other hand, the Lamb Pepperpot was braised with the right herbs and had the tenderness I would like. This dish came with 3 slices of richly toasted garlic bread.

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The next range was RM18.50. We had ordered Grilled Sole Fish Fillet and Grilled Lamb Leg. The fish was fresh and it went well with the lemon crème and shrimp butter. It has some salty breadcrumbs garnished on the boiled cauliflower. It was very yummy indeed. Next was the Grilled Lamb Leg. The lamb leg was grilled well and the tenderness blended in real well with the accompanied salsa.

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The set meal ended with Dessert of the Day which consist a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a fruit cocktail and two mini cakes. It was nothing to brag about but the presentation was great.

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All the set lunches would come with a 10% service charge and 5% government tax. The total bill was RM162.73 for 9 persons. I would say it’s rather reasonable although the main course size was a bit too small to fill me up. I would surely visit them again to try out their other set dishes.

If you are driving down from Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah into Jalan Penang, you will see the restaurant right at a corner within Hotel Continental’s premise. As the road there can be quite jammed up, I would advise you to park your car at the Red Garden Café parking lot just a block away and walk to the restaurant.

SALSAMAP

Name: SALSAS RESTAURANT @ HOTEL CONTINENTAL
Address: Ground Floor, 5 Jalan Penang, 10000 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-263 3923
Opening Hours: 11.30am-2.30pm, 6.30pm-11.00pm
GPS: 5.421928, 100.334470

RATING:
Ambience: 8/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 classy)
Food Choices: 8/10 (1-4 limited, 5-7 average, 8-10 many choices)
Taste: 8/10 (1-4 tasteless, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)
Pricing: 7/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 8/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)

REUNION EVENTS FOR CHINESE NEW YEAR

Posted by Criz Lai On January - 28 - 2009

(Warning: This is another long post to cover the many reunions within the last 3 days)

There were so many reunions during the recent Chinese New Year celebration that I had practically lost track of what I had consumed for the last 3 days. LOL! In fact, the meals may look simple but the preparations for all the yummy goodies could be real tedious and tiring towards the end of the day. Let’s just look at the simple beverage itself. Most people would just buy those package/can/bottle drinks to serve their guests. I, on the other hand would brew my own preservative-free beverage to quench the thirst of my guests. Who would resist a drink which would relax the body and purify the blood systems on a hot and humid day? It sounded simple right? Try preparing 20 liters and you would see the amount of sweat dripping furiously down your forehead for the next 3 hours. Haha!

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The beverage is mainly formulated by boiling with water a combination of special grade and/or first grade of chrysanthemum, honeysuckle, liquorice/licorice roots and minimal sugar. Chrysanthemum can be remedies for anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antihypertensive, clears heat, disperses wind, soothes the liver and improves vision. Honeysuckle can clear heat, detoxify, detumescence, improves vision, evacuate chill, cure hot poisonous swollen disease, ache subcutaneous ulcer, hot warm disease, blood dysentery, haemorrhoids, throat aching and fever caused by internal hot or external infection, etc. Liquorice roots are commonly used in herbal formulae to relieve a spasmodic cough, to prevent cavities and to treat canker sores or ulcers.

My family reunion dinner has since switched to steamboat gathering for quite a few years already as it would at least ease my Mum from cooking up too many delicious dishes which would require days of preparations. Well, preparing steamboat dinner could be real tedious as well… for me. It would start from the “simple task” of buying of all the fish and meat balls, seafood, vegetables, boiling of stock and arranging the many varieties of items on small serving dishes. By the end of the day, I was even too exhausted to eat, needless to say to shoot too many photos of the annual event. Just to summarize everything, we had 20 types of fish and meat balls, tofu, mushrooms, chicken meat, pomfret, prawns, cuttlefish, sea cucumber, fish bladder, 3 types of vegetables and spinach noodles and all of them subsequently ended up in a hot pot of gelatin filled chicken/pork bones stock.

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There were a few of the fish balls that would be worth mentioning here. One of them caught the attention of all my family members. “Gosh! Are you going to ask us to eat that disgusting brain-like thing?” Seriously, the way the fish balls were produced, they do look like brains from one angle. If you display it the other way, they looked like cute flower blooms. The fish balls came in two flavors, plain and spinach flavored. In fact, they were not as flavorful as I had expected. They would surely be out from my list next year.

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Another two worth mentioning would be the seafood tofu and cheese fish balls. The seafood tofu pieces were smooth inside with some blended seafood and the cheese fish balls had creamy cheese oozing out with every mouthful.

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That was part of my family reunion dinner on Chinese New Year eve as I do not have more photos to share due to exhaustion. The first day of Chinese New Year went on with the usual visiting to my relatives’ houses. How I wished if not for the economy downturn this year, I would have collected more $$ in the ang pows (red packets). LOL!

Well the next reunion was with Mother Nature. Coincidentally, the first solar eclipse of 2009 fell on the first day of Chinese New Year, 26 January 2009, between 4.30pm and 7.00pm and Malaysians were to be able to watch the eclipse partially. With the bad gloomy weather and clouds of dark clouds floating about, it was a disappointment. All I caught was a patch of sunlight hidden behind some gloomy clouds. Let’s hope I would not miss it again this coming 22 July 2009, where it would be the longest total solar eclipse (almost 6 minutes) of the 21st century in Anji (near Hangzhou and Shanghai), China. Malaysians would be able to watch it partially from 10.34am.

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The night was another reunion with my Singapore friends. It was at another hidden treasure on Penang island itself with cool breeze and nice soothing background music which brought back many fond memories. I won’t touch on that at the moment but you could have a glimpse on how beautiful the place was.

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The second day of Chinese New was another yearly reunion at my aunt’s place with beautifully cooked and rich flavored dishes to yearn for. Being a part of my demise grandmother who was a great cook, my aunt had learned a lot in pepping up great dishes to make everyone craving for more. The first dish was very local – Fried Belacan Chicken (Shrimp Paste Fried Chicken). In fact, this dish is very famous in the Northern part of Malaysia. I would share the recipe in another post. The secret to this recipe is that the chicken had to be marinated with the specific amount of shrimp paste in order not to have the overpowering taste and smell. Secondly, the marinated pieces would have to be fired in high heat to get the crunchiness on the surface while maintaining the juiciness of the meat.

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The next dish may look simple but it has the fragrance from the specially prepared fried wheat vermicelli (mee suah). It has cabbages, Chinese mushrooms, button mushrooms and large prawns in it. It was a hit amongst my family.

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Choon Pneah or Spring Rolls was next. The process to prepare this crunchy dish was indeed very time consuming as it involved a lot of delicate work of chopping, cutting, mincing and frying of the filling before being wrapped together with fresh crabmeat in square spring roll skins. These would then be oil fried until golden. You could image how long it would take to extract the meat from the steamed crabs too. We had two of these spring rolls each as they were too delicious. Even the special sauce served with the spring rolls was specially prepared by brewing special soy sauce with mustard powder and accompanied by cut red chilies. Now you should know why they charged so much for each roll in restaurants. Haha!

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Here’s a glimpse of how the filling and unfried spring rolls looked like prior to frying.

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There was also a bowl of very richly cooked soup for everyone. The stock itself was boiled for hours using more than 6kg of rib bones. The stock was later filtered and boiled with choice chicken drumstick pieces, together with carrots, jicama slices, mushrooms, ginkgo nuts, fish bladder and served with steamed meatballs. Every single spoonful of the rich tasty soup left a sticky sensation to our lips. It was indeed the greatest soup I had in ages.

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As the meal came to the end, we had a simple yet fulfilling dessert – Canned Longan served with Shaved Grass Jelly and ice cubes.

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I would surely look forward to the next gathering at my aunt’s place next year. I wondered what else she would cook up next. After all the feasting during this festive season, I guessed I would have to go for more exercises. Now I know why some of the food bloggers were so busy this season as most of then were so engrossed in eating and having the fiesta of their lifetime… LOL!

YELLOW LIGHT RESTAURANT

Posted by Criz Lai On January - 16 - 2009

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Most Penangites would have known about this Thai Restaurant with no signboard except for a yellow round light along Jalan Fettes since 1982. Yellow Light (Thai Food) Restaurant was one of the finest Thai cuisine restaurants ever existed in Penang, managed by the then founder, Madam Yoke Payong. Subsequently her daughter, Chef Loh took over the business and continued to serve great Thai cuisines to patrons from all over the world. The business eventually moved to 8 Row along Jalan Krian off Jalan Macalister. Somehow, I guessed another golden opportunity knocked at the right time and she’s right now with her new restaurant along East Coast Road, Singapore.

The continuity of the current restaurant, under the same name, is under a different management now. Will the food be as good as before ever since Chef Loh had moved to Singapore since January? Let’s look at some of the dishes I had ordered here compared to the one I had tasted by Madam Yoke as well as her daughter, Ms Loh.

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The first dish that was served was just another simple dish in any household, Phad Phak Ruam (Stir Fry Mixed Vegetables – RM9). Except for some Chinese cabbage, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and wood ear fungus, there was not a piece of meat or prawn in it. The taste was just normal without any Nam Pla (fish sauce) to bring out the best in the dish.

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Next was Yam Woonsen (Glass Noodles Salad – RM12). The dish has cooked glass noodles, prawns, dried shrimps, chicken dices, onions and chili paddy mixed all together with some sauces and garnished with some coriander. The dish was a bit too sour and the glass noodles were so soggy that all were lumped up. We had to request for a pair of scissors to cut them up.

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Thailand is famous for some of their seafood dishes. We tried out the Poo Cha (Deep Fried Stuffed Crab – RM6/pc) and Poo Neung (Steamed Stuffed Crab – RM6/pc). Both had the same ingredients such as minced meat, prawns, crab meat, water chestnut, Chinese celery, chopped chillies and topped with some salted egg yolk. The fried one came with some breadcrumbs. As for the taste, I find the stuffing rather soft to my liking. I guessed the cook might have put too much of corn starch into the mixture, thus making the stuffing too sticky and slimy.

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One of my most ordered dishes in Thailand other than Tom Yam Gung would be the Thod Nam Pla (Deep Fried Fish Cake –RM2.50/pc). The ones served here was not as spicy and thick as those I had taken before. I find the whole fish cake rather bland to my liking. Moreover, the amount of vinegar in the chili sauce provided was too strong.

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A Thai meal would not be complete if you do not try out the Gai Bai Toei (Fried Pandan aka Screwpine Chicken – RM2.50/pc). This was another let down as I could not really bite out the toughness of the chicken pieces. There were just too much of spices in each wrapping than the actual meat. Moreover, the meat was over marinated until they became over soft like minced meat.

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As for dessert, I ordered the Tub Tim Krob (diced water chestnut in colored starch and jackfruit strips served with thick coconut milk –RM2.50). The dessert was rich with coconut milk but was too sweet to my liking.

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Maybe I could have ordered the wrong dishes from the drastically reduced food list compared to the previous ones I had at the original house but if the basic dishes from a Thai cuisine had failed my taste bud, it would mean that the rest would not be as interesting anymore. The damages were RM55.35 for all the food ordered with drinks, optional wet towels and 5% service tax. I hope that the new management would try to improve further with the food quality. I also hope that I don’t get to see the good image and reputation of the former heavenly Yellow Light tarnished and vanished from the face of Penang.

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If you are driving down from Komtar into Jalan Macalister, you will see a petrol kiosk on your left and then Grand Paradise Hotel. Immediately after the hotel and before the traffic light, there is a left turning, Jalan Krian (Krian Road), where the 8 Row heritage restaurants are situated. The restaurant is occupying the first two shop houses.

YELLOWLIGHTMAP

Name: YELLOW LIGHT RESTAURANT
Address: 2-4, Jalan Krian, 10400 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-227 6072 (Mr. Ooi/Ms. Wong)
Opening Hours:
Restaurant: 11.00am-11.00pm
Bistro & Karaoke (upstairs): 9.30pm-2.00am (min 3 tables)
GPS: 5.416714, 100.322076

RATING:
Ambience: 7/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 classy)
Food Choices: 7/10 (1-4 limited, 5-7 average, 8-10 many choices)
Taste: 5/10 (1-4 tasteless, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)
Pricing: 8/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 7.5/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)

CUISINE EXTRAVAGANZA AT CHIN BEE TEA CAFE

Posted by Criz Lai On January - 12 - 2009

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Who would have expected hidden amongst some of the heritage houses in Georgetown would have a tea café that served quality choices of tea as well as food? Of course, that would be Chin Bee Tea Café, an established tea supplier to most of the restaurants and hawker centers in Penang. I found out about this place a few months’ ago when they were still undergoing renovation works and this place ended up as a treasure to me and I would strongly recommend them to my friends. I have even lost count of how many visits Steven Goh, whom I had first introduced this cafe, had brought his family along to patronize this place.

From the exterior of this place, most people would just assume it as a place serving solely tea and some light bites as most tea houses. If you look into the clear glass panels, you would even see rows of cupboards and urns filled with tea leaves and flower tea buds. Anyone would surely have that wrong perception.

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Going into the café is like moving into a place filled with hospitality. You would be served by the members of this family run business with all smiles. The service is remarkable. You would be given a menu with a list of tea which you would like to have as well as a simple menu for the food.

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Do try out their quality Chrysanthemum bud tea which would give you the unique sweet after taste as well as their Ginseng Tie Guan Yin which would energize your moods and alertness.

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Do not be fooled by the simple list of food as shown in the menu as there are still many other wonderful dishes that the over 60 years old Sifu (Grand Master of the Kitchen), Mr. Malai Chong, have under his sleeves. I was truly surprised on how impromptu and creative this Sifu was in coming up with dishes that will make anyone drool just by looking at it. This showed that with his seasoned experiences, he could just combine any ingredients in the kitchen to make great dishes. What else would you expect from a chef who had work in overseas restaurants such as Ireland and UK, and also in reputable Malaysian hotels and restaurants for the past 40 plus years?

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Let us now looked at some of the dishes the café is famous for such as the Special Pork Ribs (RM3/pc). The inner part of the ribs will always been soft while the outer layer has that crunchiness from the chef’s secret formulated flour. The dish would be served in some sweet and delicious sauce. This dish is highly recommended for those who would not mind some fatty layers on the belly cum ribs portion of pork.

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The next dish was a surprise. I wanted something nice mixed with some greens. The Sifu concocted a new dish called the Smooth Journey (一帆風順 – RM12). From the outlook of the long and round food on the plate, I was not sure what they were until I sliced open both of them. The long one appeared to be stuffed capsicum with some juicy minced pork and prawns. It was unique and yummy. The round one appeared to be stuffed button mushrooms with the same type of fillings. The slightly sweet and sour sauce made both simply irresistible.

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I wanted something lighter next and the Sifu recommended a homely dish called Three Jewels Steam Egg (三黃蛋 – RM8). It had three types of eggs, basically chicken eggs, salted duck egg and century eggs, all whipped up with some seasoning and steamed to perfection. The dish would then be garnished with some quality soy sauce, some fried garlic & oil and chopped spring onions. It was marvelous too as the texture of the steamed egg was without much bubbles and it was as smooth as consuming Japanese tofu.

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Next, I got my “sort of personal chef now” (LOL!) to serve me with some chicken dish that he did not have in his menu. Again I was stunned by how well he had presented in the next dish which was the Sweet & Sour Chicken (燒汁雞 – RM10). It was basically a large chicken drumstick (the size as you would get from Western food) but the preparation was ten times tastier than I have tasted anywhere. I guessed the Sifu used only the best sauce to come out with something as great as this dish. The batter coated chicken was very crispy. It blended real well with sliced onions, chillies, sugar snap peas (mange tout) with some touches of sweet and sour sauce.

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The next dish which was the Rakkyo In-house Tofu (蕎光豆腐 – RM12) was another eye opening dish for me. When I thought it was just the usual fried in-house made special tofu cooked with minced meat and mixed vegetables, the taste was totally not as I had expected. It was so appetizing. It has that unique sweetness combined with quality Chinese wine. The added sliced sugar snap peas, carrots and button mushrooms made the dish real colorful.

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Do you want to know the secret behind the appetizing dish? Here they are. The dish has finely sliced pickled ginger (調味醋姜片) and pickled Rakkyo bulbs (酸甜蕎頭). You might want to know what Rakkyo is. It is a native plant in South East Asia, mostly grown in China, Japan and certain parts of Malaysia (Cameron Highlands) where the bulbs would me made into pickles. It also believed to have some medicinal properties such as the prevention of thrombosis, treatment of heart diseases in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), remedy for fever, stomachache and eye infections. There are many names to this midget spring onion or allium-like plant such as the widely used English term which sounded so Japanese – Rakkyo, Japanese scallion or Allium chinense.

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Another dish that the Sifu had specially prepared for the Chinese New Year season would be the Dried Oyster, Scallop & Black Moss Stew (大蠔燉乾貝髮菜 – RM20-40). This is a wonderful dish as the dried oysters and scallops were braised in some seasonings such as ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce and Shao Xing wine until soften. These would then be simmered along with some young lettuces and black moss. This specially prepared dish would normally be served in family reunion dinners on the eve of Chinese New Year.

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On top of the above dishes with would be taken with rice, you could always opt for something lighter. They have only rice or Ee Foo noodles. Either you can ask the Sifu to cook Fried Ee Foo Mee or their famous Hong Tu Mian (鴻圖面 – RM8-15). This would be best taken with some black vinegar.

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If you feel that you would like something drier, you can try out their Yong Chow Fried Rice, Egg Wrapped Fired Rice or my favorite Hot & Spicy Fried Rice (特色炒飯 – RM5-RM15). The “Wok Hei” aka high heat frying for this fried rice dishes is real good.

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Overall, Chin Bee Tea Café is a great place to buy various quality tea leaves/flower teas as well as for family dine-in. There would always be surprises for you as you would not know what other delicious food the Sifu would stir up for you. The price for the food is reasonable, so are the selections of quality tea drinks. I will surely drop in to try out their other reputable dishes such as the exotic deer meat and fish head curry. By the way, the Sifu would also like to wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year in the coming Ox year.

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If you are coming from Trader’s Hotel along Jalan Magazine, keep to your left and drive on until you have reach the second traffic light. Turn into the first road on your left (Jalan Gurdwara) and then the first left turning into Lebuh Noordin. The shop is just somewhere in the middle on your right within a row of heritage houses. In fact, this shop is just two houses away from another recommended confectionery manufacturer by the name of Hock Lok Siew Biscuit Trading. Please make sure you call up for reservation as this place could be packed during lunch or dinner hours.

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Name: CHIN BEE TEA CAFE
Address: 124, Lebuh Noordin, 10300 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-261 1761, 012-499 9972 (Mr. Ong)
Opening Hours: 12noon – 3.00pm, 6.00pm-9.00pm (Closed Alternate Wednesday)
GPS: 5.412361, 100.329541

RATING:
Ambience: 8/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 classy)
Food Choices: 9/10 (1-4 limited, 5-7 average, 8-10 many choices)
Taste: 9/10 (1-4 tasteless, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)
Pricing: 7/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 9/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)

 

RELAXING MYSELF AT JJ CAFE

Posted by Criz Lai On January - 9 - 2009

Note: This restaurant has ceased operation. In its place is a seafood restaurant. Will review them soon.

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I had just realized that I have been in quite an adventurous trend for the past few weeks visiting restaurants by the beach or on an island within the Penang areas. This time it was a combination of both. I was by the beach watching the scenic view of the Penang Bridge while being opposite an island – Pulau Jerejak. LOL! Although this cool “more than a year in business” restaurant named JJ Café is within the premise of the Penang island jetty to Pulau Jerejak and near to the Queensbay Shopping Mall, not many people knew about its existence. Most would just assume this Malay restaurant as part of the jetty. The restaurant’s patrons were still guests and visitors to the nearby Pulau Jerejak Resort & Spa and some workers within the surrounding areas. I would just show you some clips of how relaxing this place could be after a hard day’s work.

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Don’t expect to get all the traditional Malay cooking in this restaurant as it merely served some light meals and finger food. Who’s to complain when the most expensive dish in the menu would cost you only RM6 and it is tax-free. I was there to find some inspirations and to relax mentally and physically on a few occasions and managed to collect some shots to share with my readers. The drinks served there were big and cheap. The thick Iced Milo was only RM2.10. Iced Black Tea was at RM1.70, whereas Can Drinks would be at RM2 each (with ice cubes).

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There would light meals such as the Nasi Lemak (steamed coconut milk rice – RM4) served with chicken curry, potato slices, half an egg, peanuts, fried anchovies and some cucumber slices. The rice was cooked in a different way and did not have the strong taste of coconut milk (santan). The chicken curry did not contain any santan as well. Overall, it was cheap but tasted just average.

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The Curry Noodles (RM4) tasted better as the soup base had all the natural ingredients in it but it could be real tongue burning for some. The dish came with some yellow noodles, lots of baby cockles, some cubes of fish cakes & balls, chicken slices, vegetables and half an egg. It had the spiciness that I love. Argh! Bring me more water please! 😛

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As I had mentioned earlier, the most expensive item would be the Chicken Lasagna (RM6). It had some layers of lasagna pasta with some tomato puree based minced chicken meat in between. Somehow the dish lacked the taste of mixed crushed herbs such as oregano, thyme, garlic, etc. On top of that, the serving was small with only a slice of tomato and some lettuce as garnishes.

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As tea time prior to my dinner appointment, I ordered some Roti Bakar Double (toasted bread slices with coconut jam and butter – RM2) as snacks. Although it was nice and cheap to have as tea, I still prefer my kaya (coconut jam) to have more eggy taste in it.

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I also ordered some Chicken Samosa (RM3) to try out. The popiah (spring roll) skin was crunchy but somehow there were more spicy potatoes inside then chicken meat. I guessed they would have over minced their chicken to have that meaty mouthful bite.

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Overall, JJ Café would be a great place to hang out with friends for a drink but the food quality has to be improvised and improved further. I found that not all the dishes had the required herbs and spices as I would have expected from a Malay establishment.

It would be easier to reach the restaurant if use the Jelutong/Bayan Lepas Expressway. Just follow the direction towards Queensbay Mall. Drive on until you see an overhead pass when nearing the mall. Watch out for a signboard (as shown below) to Pulau Jererak Resort & Spa. Turn left into the road and drive until the T-junction. Turn right and drive on a bit more and you will see the jetty on your left. JJ Café is within its premise.

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Name: JJ CAFE
Address: 1 MK13 Daerah Timur Laut, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 012-401 2779 (Azhar), 017-553 2105 (Zamani)
Opening Hours: 3.00pm-11.00pm (Closed Monday)
GPS: 5.342083, 100.311763

RATING:
Ambience: 9/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 classy)
Food Choices: 7/10 (1-4 limited, 5-7 average, 8-10 many choices)
Taste: 6/10 (1-4 tasteless, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)
Pricing: 7/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 9/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)

YOUNG HEART RESTAURANT

Posted by Criz Lai On January - 7 - 2009

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With the inspiration from a plant with heart shaped leaves called Sweetheart Hoya, a restaurant known as Sweet Heart Restaurant was established since 2005. Strategically located nearby the hustle and bustle of the Pulau Tikus market, this restaurant surprisingly gives you the relaxing environment with the peace and tranquil one would hardly expect. It’s a cool place to be in as the whole theme would be based on their motto “The Fragrance of the Refreshment comes from the Heart”. What would be the best way than to present them in edible forms?

The best part of indulging yourself in such a restaurant is that the food served here would be of home cooked styles without any unnecessary flavorings. The dishes would be cooked in the simplest and most healthy way and yet bringing out the best in each dish. Even those fragrant flower tea drinks served there were refreshingly healthy. It’s indeed a healthy place for everyone.

Other than their famous dumplings, noodles and impressive set lunch menus, the restaurant has recently cooked up some promotions to cater for the Chinese New Year crowds. A few of the Penang floggers had the privilege to try out the dinner last night. Prior to starting the food tasting for the Chinese New Year promotion, we were given a few types of sauces. There were fried onions, ginger in black vinegar and chili powder in oil meant for the jiaozi and guotie which we would be having later on. On top of that, we were also given some Chinese, Japanese and Siam sauces too.

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Lotus Root with Sugar & Vinegar (RM3) was also served as an appetizer where slices of lotus root were marinated in sugar and apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is believed to be able to lower cholesterol level. This is indeed something different for us.

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During most Chinese dinners, soup would always be the first to be served. We were treated with Hot & Sour Soup (RM5/bowl). The soup contained 3 types of vinegar, namely black, white vinegar and apple cider vinegar with cube of bean curds, crabsticks, wood ear fungus, pickled shanghai vegetable, chopped chilies, fish maws, beaten egg white and so on. It was indeed appetizing.

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Another few appetizers worth mentioning would be their paper rice rolls. We had the opportunity to try out their Prawn Vegetable Rolls (RM7.60), Egg Vegetable Rolls (RM6.60) and Unagi Vegetable Rolls (RM7.60). They were perfect as each roll was filled with freshly sliced vegetables.

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There were also the restaurant’s in-house specialties such as Fried Bean Curd (RM4.80), Prawn & Leeks Guotie (RM9.60) and Cheese & Chicken Guotie (RM10.80). The Fried Bean Curd was extremely tasty as the inner part has so many ingredients in it. The outer part has the crunchiness of the special batter, making the whole mouthful very delightful. It was great having these with the Siam Chili Sauce provided.

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Next on the list was the 7-course Chinese New Year Promotion, which consists of Stir Fry Mixed Vegetables with Mushroom (RMRM16.80), Golden Scallop Dumpling (RM18.80), Fried Prawns with Garlic (RM18.80), Steamed Cod Fish with Bean Curd (RM29.80), Prosperous Year in Malaysia (RM6.80), Snake Squash with Pork (RM11.80) and Sponge Gourd with Pork (RM13.80).

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The Stir Fry Mixed Vegetables with Mushroom had some nice and sweet gravy with lots of greens and mushroom in it. Simple but yet it contained great vitamin and minerals to the body. The Golden Scallop Dumpling which has some carrot juice made skin contained a juicy fresh scallop each. The Fried Prawns with Garlic was another great dish as the prawns were mixed with some chopped garlic batter and oil fried to perfection, giving each prawn the fragrant bite. The Steamed Cod Fish with Bean Curd did not let anyone down as some even ordered some rice to be taken with the tasty gravy. The Prosperous Year in Malaysia was actually deep fried chicken wings and drumlets. What made this dish stood out was the smell and taste of sliced Kaffir lime leaves and shallots within the marinated pieces. The Snake Squash with Pork was a rather unique dish for many as most of us had not known the existence of such a vegetable. The taste was somewhat like munching cooked celery minus the strong celery herby taste. The Sponge Gourd with Pork was somewhat different compared to the rest as it was cooked with Angelica sinensis (dong guai or female ginseng). This would be an ideal dish for those who like Chinese herbs cooking.

The meal ended up with noodles, namely Black Jelly Mushroom Fried Noodles (RM8.80), Shredded Pork Noodles (RM7.50) and Ground Pork with Spicy Bean Sauce Noodles (RM7.50). All the handmade noodles tasted great with their own unique tastes, except that the Ground Pork with Spicy Bean Sauce Noodles could be rather pungent for some.

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On top of the food, we were also served with two unique combinations of beverages. One would be the Honey Lemon with Aloe Vera (RM6/glass) and sweetened Chamomile & Chrysanthemum Tea (RM4.50/glass). The Honey Lemon with Aloe Vera was lovely as it has cubes of jelly-like Aloe Vera cubes in it. The Chamomile & Chrysanthemum Tea on the other hand was refreshing as Chamomile is believed to be good for the digestive system as well as fighting against fatigue and insomnia. Chrysanthemum has the medicinal value of fighting against flu related viruses.

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Attended Floggers:
Criz Lai of Criz Bon Appetite
CK Lam of What2See Online (Organizer – Thanks!)
Tam Chiak & Huat Koay of PenangTuaPui
Steven Goh of Steven Goh dot com
Allen Ooi of Yummy Station
Gill & Jason of Gourmet Garden
Carrie of Cariso Delicacies Corner
Mary of Food Paradise
Allie of Heavenly Allie
Bee of Buzzing Life

Reaching the restaurant would be easy if you are coming from Jalan Burmah into Jalan Cantonment. Just drive along Jalan Cantonment until you reach the first left junction (Pulau Tikus Market – Jalan Pasar). Just go further up after this junction and you will see Wisma Kota Kembar – Pulau Pinang-Medan Information and Promotion Centre on the corner lot. The restaurant is just next to this centre.

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Name: YOUNG HEART RESTAURANT
Address: 44A, Jalan Cantonment, 10350 Penang, Malaysia.
Opening Hours: 12.00noon-10.00pm (Closed Monday)
Contact: 604-228 8084, 016-410 8098 (Ms. Ann Kee)
GPS: 5.430508, 100.311350

RATING:
Ambience: 8/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 classy)
Food Choices: 8/10 (1-4 limited, 5-7 average, 8-10 many choices)
Taste: 8/10 (1-4 tasteless, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)
Pricing: 7/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 8/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)

CHOO CHOO HENG BBQ MEAT

Posted by Criz Lai On January - 5 - 2009

Note: For 2014, please check the price of the meat as stated below.

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Chinese New Year (26-27 January 2009) is just around the corner and many Chinese are already busy preparing some gifts for their family, relatives, friends and clients prior to the celebration. Some would buy hampers filled with canned and dry stuff whereas some would still go for the traditional way of giving away some BBQ meat (Bak Kua/Rougan), a Chinese salty-sweet dried meat product similar to jerky. There are actually two variants, one with minced meat slices and the other with slices of meat straight from the solid meat blocks. It could either be made out of pork or chicken.

Have you ever wonder how these juicy dried meat slices were made? Let me share with you what I have learned through my recent visit to a BBQ meat maker in Georgetown who has been making this delicacy from her home for over a decade. The preparation is actually quite simple but the process of making the dried meat could be real time consuming. Pieces of choice meat (80% lean and 20% fat) would be minced and then mixed with some seasonings such as soy sauce, salt, sugar (some would use honey), 5-spice powder, pepper and rose wine. The mixture would be left to marinate for awhile before proceeding to the next process.

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The mixture would then be spread evenly but thinly onto customized large aluminum trays. Some makers, especially those older ones would still use bamboo trays to spread the mixture.

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These trays would then be placed inside a slightly heated oven to dry the meat. Traditionally, these would be left out in the sun to dry but the modern generations of people had shy away from purchasing food using this method as the food might be contaminated with dust particles and bugs. Thus, through this hygienic process, the food would be safe for consumption.

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After leaving those trays in the oven for some time, this would be the result. You will get huge slices of dried meat but this is not the end of the process. There would be the final preparation.

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These huge meat slices would then be trimmed into smaller slices and BBQ to perfection. The maker has two ways of barbequing the meat slices. She would either use a metal net over some burning charcoals or by using an electrical BBQ machine when the orders get too many.

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The other variant which I had mentioned earlier would be the dried chicken. The preparation would be the same except that they would use a customized mould with holes on it to make them round.

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They do also produce the Red Dried Pork which is of a lesser quality and flavors compared to the ones mentioned above. These are normally used by our local hawkers to prepare Roti Bak Kua (Dried Meat Buns).

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Over the years, Bak Kua has evolved into something different. They are now being produced in strips form that made eating easier. These yummy and juicy strips are called the Gold Bars (金條). Unlike the step of spreading the seasoned meat thinly, they are rolled into long bars and followed the same drying process as above. These would then be fried instead of being BBQ, leaving the inner layer to be moist with rich flavors. These have been my all time favorite. Sad to say, they only produce them once a year, just a month before the Chinese New Year. Even my friends and relatives had not stopped reminding me to order them yearly. I had tried from many sellers but theirs had been the best so far.

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Another fried version would be the Gold Nuggets (金錢肉乾) which have thinly spread meat as the base and a small amount of minced meat on the middle. These again have been the much sought after dried meat after the Gold Bar. I could not get enough of these either.

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You should also not miss out their Pork Floss too. The floss was always fresh, well flavored and crunchy. I’m still trying to remember how many slices of bread, spread with butter and sandwiched with the yummy pork floss I had last evening. LOL!

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The price of the items (2014):
Dried Pork (Bak Kua) – RM33 per 600gms/kati
Dried Chicken (Kay Bak Kua) – NOT AVAILABLE (2014)
Pork Floss (Bak Hu) – RM33 per 600gms/kati
Gold Bars (Kim Teow) – RM34 per 600gms/kati
Gold Nuggets (Kim Chee) – RM34 per 600gms/kati

Since the festive season is near and stock could be quite limited, MAKE SURE YOU CALL UP to book your order prior to visiting them. They do not have a counter (remember? It’s a house) to sell you the delicious dried meat if you did not make any reservations. The house is strategically located along a small lane off Lebuh Carnarvon. If you are coming from Jalan Dr. Lim Chwee Leong, turn left into Lebuh Carnarvon. Drive on until you see a police station (on your left), turn into the first right turning back into the other side of Lebuh Carnarvon. You will see a mamak store on your left. Drive on until you have reached the second left junction (Lorong Carnarvon). The house is on the left somewhere almost towards the end of the lane with a small red sign with gold wordings stating (處處香肉乾)Choo Choo Heng Dried Pork.

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Name: CHOO CHOO HENG BBQ MEAT
Address: 51 Lorong Carnarvon, 10100 Penang, Malaysia.
Opening Hours: 12.00noon – 7.00pm
Contact: 604-261 4223 (Ms Loh)
GPS: 5.414097, 100.335645

RATING:
Ambience: 7/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 classy)
Food Choices: 7/10 (1-4 limited, 5-7 average, 8-10 many choices)
Taste: 8/10 (1-4 tasteless, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)
Pricing: 7/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 8/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)

 

COFFEE ISLAND IN PENANG

Posted by Criz Lai On January - 3 - 2009

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The latest happening in town other than the New World Park would be the newly open Coffee Island situated along the promenade of Gurney Drive. It has the buzzing crowd ranging from families, YUPpies (Young Urban Professionals), college and school students. Moving into the premises was like being greeted by a mini party of giggles and laughs, setting the mood of the environment to happy and lively modes.

Coffee Island could be a great place for those who love to drop in for late breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner, supper or even early breakfast in a relax environment as they would be open for business as early as 10.00am until 3.00am. I was there for a late dinner. The menu was rather impressive as it has more than 160 types of food and beverages to choose from. There was also a section for those late owls.

It was a surprise that with such a packed crowd that night, service was still up to par. Waiters and waitresses would check on the provided chit upon serving and supervisors would double check on the orders per table. Meals were served within few minutes too.

The first order that came was the Chicken Maryland (RM11.50nett). It was just a normal presentation with side dishes such as salads, mashed potatoes and some greens. As usual, the dish would also have sausage, pineapple and banana fritters on top of the usual breaded chicken. I would think that the sausage could be improved as it tasted “cheap” and the breaded chicken had a hard outer batter while the meat was extremely dry. It tasted as though it was double fried and lost its juiciness. Somehow this dish was not up to my expectation.

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The next one was the Traditional Chicken Curry served with Roti Jala (Net Egg Crepe – RM9.50nett). The dish has only three piece of roti jala, two with pandan (screw pine flavored) and one plain, served with spicy chicken slices curry (8 small slices in fact). The taste was great but the amount could hardly fill my tummy, considering that the dish was served with only 4 thin slices of cucumber. Great taste but too pricey.

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To fill up my tummy, I had to order the Ham & Cheese Toast (RM4.60nett). I was expecting something fragrant and crunchy but in the end I had 3 thick but springy slices of white breads stuffed with a semi fried ham and a piece of cheese. Moreover, there were no vegetables inside, except for some over lime juice taste mayonnaise. I would rather have non toasted bread with butter spread as the whole combination was too dry to my liking.

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There was nothing special in the drinks too. The Iced Cappuccino (RM5.90nett) was really ‘ice filled” and not to my liking as it tasted so “thin”. The Pink Holiday (RM6.90) was a laugh. It tasted like a sugarless Ais Manis (red syrup iced drink) with some fizzy soda. It was nothing special at all.

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Maybe it was just due to my wrong timing to dine there when the place was so packed or my expectation could be too high. Anyway, I was not quite happy with the RM43 paid (plus tips) to have these types of food served. If I were to visit there again, I would surely choose other dishes to test them out again. Let me share with you what they have in their menu.

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Overall, the place would be ideal for meet-ups if the taste of food is not your main concern. The pricing might be a bit high though for the amount of food served and the drink could be a bit “thin”. I would advise can drinks instead. You can opt to dine indoor rather than the al fresco area. There would be two free 1MB WIFI line available, namely Coffee Island 1 and Coffee Island 2. Downloading could be quite fast but uploading is rather slow. There are other “unsecured lines” such as MyBroadband and Gurney67 available but I’m not sure about the speed.

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The shop is strategically located along the sea front of the famous Gurney Drive (next to Crepe Cottage). If you are coming from town center towards Gurney Drive into Jalan Kelawei, turn right at the first junction (Jalan Lim Chin Guan) where Gurney Tower is. Drive towards the end and turn left. You would pass through Evergreen Laurel Hotel and a stretch of hawker centers on your left. Slow down as Crepe Cottage is immediately after the last hawker center (Song River Café). You can park your car next to the café. The car park is in fact behind Crepe Cottage. If you visit this place during weekends, I would advise you to park your car in the Jalan Birch Car Park (the road after Song River Café) and walk up to the cafe.

COFFEEISLANDMAP

Name: COFFEE ISLAND
Address: 77 Persiaran Gurney, 10250 Penang, Malaysia.
Opening Hours: 10.00am – 3.00am
Contact: 604-2272378
GPS: 5.432556, 100.316592

RATING:
Ambience: 9/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 classy)
Food Choices: 9/10 (1-4 limited, 5-7 average, 8-10 many choices)
Taste: 5.5/10 (1-4 tasteless, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)
Pricing: 8/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 8/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)

PULAU TIKUS MARKET SUSHI CORNER

Posted by Criz Lai On December - 29 - 2008

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Suddenly I had an urge to go for sushi after having tasted the delicious sushi brought by CK Lam during the 3rd Penang Floggers Gathering. I immediately headed out to the Pulau Tikus Market where all the yummy hawker stalls are. Hidden from the sight of the main road (Jalan Pasar) was this dimly but beautifully decorated stall selling sushi. The two owners, Boon and Sandy, had manned this stall for many years. Although hidden from where all the crowds were, business remained quite smooth flowing with consistent flow of patrons. What attracted their customers was the 100 over selections available, taste, presentation as well as the price of each sushi. Prices can range from as low as RM1 per sushi to RM5 per sushi with large fish roes.

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You would not believe that I had a 7-piece sushi takeaway such as the Califutomaki, chopped baby octopus, tuna, prawn, crabstick & egg, fish roes and prawn roes sushi as shown above for a mere RM7. Yup! You heard it right! Each sushi costs only RM1. There were more available but I chose what was available as the sky was beginning to drizzle at that time. Here are some snapshots of their other sushi.

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You do not have to worry about the unavailability of your preferences as shown on the menus on the stall as well as on the special order menus as either Boon or Sandy would be more than happy to make them for you. In fact, you can always ask them for their house specialties.

If you are coming from Jalan Burmah into Jalan Cantonment, turn left into the first junction. That’s where the Pulau Tikus market is and that’s also where the night hawker area is. Move further up until you see a small lane beside a bakery on your left. You will see the stall at the corner with two lighted up red Japanese lanterns.

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Name: PULAU TIKUS MARKET SUSHI CORNER
Address: Lorong Pasar, 10350 Penang, Malaysia.
Opening Hours: 5.30pm-11.00pm (Closed Monday)
Contact: 016-472 2893 (Boon), 016-532 2066 (Sandy)
GPS: 5.430320, 100.312100

RATING:
Ambience: 6/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 classy)
Food Choices: 9/10 (1-4 limited, 5-7 average, 8-10 many choices)
Taste: 8/10 (1-4 tasteless, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)
Pricing: 6/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 8/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)

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