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AUTHENTIC HOKKIEN DISHES IN PENANG?

Posted by crizlai On June - 20 - 2009

Before I elaborate more on the following dishes I had for lunch few days back, let’s have a look at the dishes and you tell me what would be the first thing that would come into your mind? Here was the meal which consisted of a meat dish, a seafood dish, a vegetable dish and a soup served with two bowls of rice. These dishes would be the ideal balance meal right? To any typical Chinese staying in Malaysia, you would also realize that during certain period of the year you would get dishes like this quite abundantly in most households, especially after some “praying”.

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To be frank, I was not so impressed at all with the dishes served and they were not even cooked by anyone in my household but from a new restaurant right in the heart of Georgetown. Those dishes were exactly like those served in tour trips to China where most of the dishes contained fatty meat and floated in pool of oil. This was the Chef’s Special Set Meal (RM10 per pax – minimum order two pax) that was recommended for my lunch. For those who know how to read in Chinese, please tell me what do you understand with “粗糧細做套餐” compared to the English name? It literally meant rough dishes made fine set meal. The English name was rather deceiving.

Although the set meal was served quite promptly, the dishes got both our eyes staring at each other for minutes with mouth widely opened. “Huh? Everything’s so plain? Not even any added ingredients?” was our silent exclamation! There was just a piece of fried fish fillet to be shared between the two of us. No doubt it was fresh, thick and non-fishy taste but it was served just like that minus any presentation.

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The next was just a few pieces of chopped roasted pork and two pieces of chicken meat served with chili sauce. This dish was barely enough for our consumptions.

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Fried baby cabbage with some irregular sized prawns was also in the set menu. It had nothing more than some oyster sauce and sliced chilies. The amount of oil used was unhealthy and it did look as though the oil had been used for frying something yellow.

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The soup which was Chop Suey (Kiam Cai Boey) was a complete laugh. It was just some leftover meat boiled with some mustard plants and salt. There were no signs of dried chilies, tamarind and lemon grass to pep up the fragrance and taste of this reputable dish. It was a disastrous bowl of soup. I could barely find pieces of meat in there as all of them had been cooked until floss like. Moreover, I was also trying to avoid the thick layer of oil floating on the soup. Something ought to be done by the kitchen to improve on this dish.

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Since the staff also claimed to have one of the best vegetarian dishes around, I tried out two of their vegetarian “pork rolls” which were so small and cost me RM2 each. Each roll had some yam paste and some vague bites of jicama and carrot. The fillings were not so generous after all. Moreover, the serving was cold.

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As for dessert, there were none. We only had a glass of herbal tea (RM1.50) and a glass of passion fruit cordial drink (RM2.50) to wash down our food.

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Overall, I found the restaurant barely has any dishes in the menu, except for different types of tea, hot and cold beverages, fizzy soda, beers, some over priced hawker food (RM7.50 –RM12) and some normal rice sets and vegetarian dishes. I did order a bowl of the pork ribs prawn noodles which was not served (although I did tick in their order chit) but I overheard from the next table that it was just average. Let’s hope this would be just their temporary menu until they have their official launch sometime next week. I sincerely hope that they would seriously look into their food section as it would be a huge disaster on top of the large amount of money spent on the refurbishment of such a beautiful building.

Can you guess the name of the restaurant? It’s the subsidiary company of the joss stick manufacturer, Bee Chin Heong – Old House Cafe.

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If you are driving from Jalan Penang into Jalan Dr. Lim Chwee Leong, turn left into Jalan Sungai Ujong upon seeing Komtar Walk on your right. The restaurant is located at the junction of Lebuh Kimberley and Jalan Sungai Ujong. Parking can be quite a headache here during peak hours as Lebuh Kimberley and the surrounding Lebuh Cintra areas are popular with their hawker food.

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Name: OLD HOUSE CAFE
Branch Address: 145-153 Lebuh Kimberley, 10100 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-262 2113
Business Hours: 10.00am-10.00pm
GPS: 5.416478, 100.332298

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

Most people will have the preset thinking that dining in a Japanese restaurant could be real expensive, especially when the restaurant is within a hotel. I was one of them too until I stepped foot in Miraku Japanese Restaurant located within the premises of G Hotel which was located along the promenade of our Gurney Drive beach front in Penang. Miraku is actually part of the Texchem Group with another sister company by the name of Sushi King. The restaurant is totally a different entity to management of the hotel.

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Thanks to the company of the 3 angels (Eunice, Siew Ying & Iris), their “Charlie” aka Jimmy and my god brother on different visits that I was able to come out with a more detailed coverage on the restaurant. To set the mood and get pampered to the max, a warm towel would be given to each diner to freshen up prior to indulging in the wonderful spread of the Japanese cuisine.

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Instead of the normal peanuts or crackers as provided by most Chinese restaurants, a small plate of stewed soy beans would be given to each diner while waiting for their meals to be served. Why soy beans? It’s because soy beans remained the vital source of protein to the Japanese for generations. The soy beans were stewed in a slightly sweet salty soy sauce and had nice bites.

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Biting into the soy beans reminded us of how much fun Crayon Shin-chan (蠟筆小新) had while playing with the fermented version of the soy beans. We did try out the so called Natto (納豆 – RM12) and Eunice had a fun time mixing them into the rice to create as many spider web strings as she could. It sounded like the making of the next comic character? Hmm… maybe so – the Malaysian version. LOL! The Natto had a very ammoniacal smell and had that cheesy but bean-like taste and might not be so acceptable by most locals but they do taste a bit like vegemite with its acquired taste.

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The actual meal started with the Miraku Salad (RM18 – small) which would normally be served with all the set and bento meals. The freshness of the greens such as romaine lettuce, cucumber and tomato slices, combined with freshly sliced salmon, octopus and crab meat and served with tomato dressing was simply remarkable. The secret was in the sauce which had a simple combination of blended tomatoes and mayonnaise. I could not stop myself from salvaging the whole bowl of salad until the last drop.

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Next was the Sashimi Moriawase (Take) which was a medium sized assorted sashimi for 3 persons (RM130 per set). What you get on each visit might not be the same as the restaurant would provide only the freshest they have at that time. There would normally be an assortment of at least 6 types depending on availability. What we had consisted of salmon, tuna, amber jack, white fish, octopus and crayfish.

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Cold noodles or Zaru Udon has always remained one of my must order dishes in any Japanese restaurants on top of the usual hot Kake Udon in soup. At Miraku, there was no exception. I tried out their Sanuki Udon (RM35 per set) which was supposed to be the most recommended and sought after udon made with flour from Kagawa. The plain udon came with the usual cold soup, radish, spring onions and wasabi. There was not much to brag about as the taste was almost just like any other cold noodles I had tasted before. In fact, I was expecting more springy bites. Maybe I should have ordered the buckwheat noodles instead for my next visit.

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Trying out the restaurant’s sushi spread is also a must during any visits and we did try out the Mamakari Sushi (RM6/pc). Most people would mistakenly call this fish as silver fish due to it’s shininess on the body. The name has been reserved for an insect instead. This fish is actually sardines, marinated deeply in vinegar before being used in sushi making. You won’t get the texture to be as soft as in those canned tomato based sardines. The texture for this fish would be firmer with a hint of fishy and strong vinegar after taste. It would go well with wasabi and soy sauce.

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The next sushi presentation which was the Dragon Roll (RM28) caught most of our attention as it was very attractive and it really looked like a dragon. The dish a deep fried prawn, wrapped with layers of sushi rice, avocado paste and garnished with some mayonnaise and prawn roes. It was colorful and tasty as well.

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Instead of having the usual Unagi Kabayaki which has been sweet soy sauce grilled, we tried out the freshly grilled Unagi Shirayaki (RM38). No doubt I could taste out the distinguished freshness of the grilled eel, I still prefer the sweet soy sauce grilled version.

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The Japanese loved Nabemono (hot clay pot) so were we when we were served the Miraku Kami Nabe (Petite Paper Hot Pot – RM36). Kami Nabe are pots made of strong washi (Japanese Paper) with an extremely dense texture. It’s normally durable to water and heat and is used mostly for stewing purposes. We had ours stewed in rich broth with lovely vegetables, mushrooms, tofu, chicken, salmon and clams. As the heat got more intense, the broth which has a thicker miso soup based taste got more flavorful with the sweetness of the salmon and chicken submerging distinctively. It was a perfect dish for a colder weather. I wonder if they would produce Hoshoyaki during my next visit since they are into using washi in their cooking method. I’m sure their paper-wrapped roasted fish would taste great as well.

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As most of us were not so keen in having fugu (pufferfish or blowfish) which was also available at Miraku, we had something even more exotic – Gyutan Touban Yaki (RM28). These were thinly sliced ham-like beef tongues, well marinated in their special sauce with a squeeze of lemon juice and grilled to our own preference on a provided hot pot. Well, it was not bad as the dish was tasty enough for us to savor more of the rubbery-like pieces.

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If you feel that ordering the ala carte dishes would be too heavy for you, you could always try out the bento and set meals. One of the most ordered ones would be the Miraku Lunch Box (RM36). The bento set would surely fill you up well with bits of everything you would get from the menu such as pickled radish, salad, mixed vegetables (sato imo – Japanese yam, konnyaku – yam jelly cake, carrot, mushroom and snow peas in special soy sauce), sashimi (tuna & amber jack), grilled fish (gindara – grilled cod fish), tempura moriawase (assorted seafood and vegetables tempura), rice, chawan mushi (steamed egg with chicken, mushroom, ginkgo nut and kamaboko fish cake), miso soup and dessert of the day (red bean jelly and ice cream). This was indeed a great bargain meal and I find the combination well balanced.

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Another set meal you might be interested in might sound like a simple meal but it was a real filling one. The Katsu Ju Set (RM24) had the same standard side dishes such as pickled radish, salad, chawan mushi, miso soup and dessert of the day (black sesame jelly and ice cream). This set came in a bento box filled to the brim with layers of steamed Japanese rice, panko (Japanese bread crumbed) chicken and finally topped with some scrambled eggs cooked with onions gravy and garnished with nori (seaweed) strips. The whole dish combination was simple but yet perfecto as in taste. Each mouthful was filled with the awesome creaminess and cheesiness of the egg and crispy chicken slices together with the perfect grains of the Japanese steamed rice. I could take this for every meal too.

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For those beef lovers, you could go for the Yakiniku Zen (RM28) which would also come with the standard side dishes as above. The dish was basically simple with thinly sliced Australian beef (similar to the shabu-shabu thickness) fried with some sliced onions, scallion (spring onion) and bean sprouts in yakiniku sauce. It was a waste that by the time I had finished with my shots, the bean sprouts had gone translucent. If not, I could have imagine the crunchiness of the slightly cook sprouts with the juicy beef slices churning amazingly in my mouth. The gravy was tasty with a hint of some fruity sweetness and quality soy sauce. This was served with hot steaming Japanese rice.

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As for dessert, the Tempura Ice Cream (RM12) caught me yearning for more. The preparation for the dessert was totally different compared to the one I had at Haven Delights at Penang Times Square. It was truly yummilicious! A large scoop of Vanilla flavored ice cream was rolled into crushed digestive biscuits (just like those cheese cake base) and coated with tempura flour and deep fried to a golden ball like. This would then cut into four quarters and topped with sweetened azuki bean paste (red bean paste). The creaminess of the ice cream, the crunchiness of the biscuits, the crispiness of the tempura and the just nice sweetness of the azuki bean paste made this dessert something to crave for during my next visit.

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For those who would want to entertain your guests in large groups or in privacy, there are many dining areas and rooms available in this restaurant. In fact they have two large rooms with tall tables and six smaller ones with lower Japanese style dining experience on first come first serve basis.

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I’m sure no one would want to dine in this small room. From the layout itself, it could well be solely for smokers who needed a quick puff. The restaurant even has such a facility. Think of the extent of how a Japanese restaurant would sacrifice such a place just for its customers. That’s what I would call great service.

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When you have the guests, the quiet and cozy ambience and the food, something else is missing here. Where’s the alcohol? Miraku has them all from beer, wine, whisky, cocktail to sake (日本酒) and shouchu (燒酎). You do not have to worry about not finishing them as the restaurant has the facility to temporary “house” the leftovers up to 3 months. Here’s some of the alcohol you might expect to get here.

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We had the privilege to try out one of the limited edition of sake in Miraku – the Manzai Raku Hakusan (萬歳楽・白山 – RM475 per 720ml bottle), a specially brewed sake from the flowing water of the Hakusan Mountain in Japan. The sake was smooth flowing and was rather mild for everyone. Although the sake was 20% in alcohol content, no one was drunk and dancing on the table ok? LOL!

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There are still many other ala carte and set meals available for everyone’s budget from the restaurant. Presently, in conjunction with their 3rd Anniversary celebration, they have Eat-All-You-Can Sushi at RM50++ per pax on Tuesday and Sunday until end of June 2009. On top of that, you can try out their set lunch meals (lunch only) and assorted sushi-sashimi (dinner only) at 30% off the normal price. These two promotions will also be valid until this month end.

If you are familiar with the roads in Penang, it would be easy to find the restaurant as it is located within the premises of G Hotel, right between the Regency and Gurney Plaza, and facing the beach front of Gurney Drive. Moving into the long lobby of G Hotel, you might have problem locating the restaurant as it’s hidden on the first floor to the building. There are a few stairways and ample signages to lead you there but the simplest would be by using the guests’ elevator to first floor. Parking in G Hotel can be quite expensive for many. I would suggest that you drive further up and park your car at the basement car park of Gurney Plaza or find some along the beach front of Gurney Drive.

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MIRAKUMAP

Name: MIRAKU JAPANESE RESTAURANT
Branch Address: 1st Floor, G Hotel, 168A Persiaran Gurney, 10250 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-229 8702
Business Hours: 12.00-2.30pm, 6.00pm-10.30pm
GPS: 5.438233, 100.310631

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: 9/10 (1-4 tasteless, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)
Pricing: 8.5/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 8.5/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)

THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF AROI THAI RESTAURANT

Posted by crizlai On June - 2 - 2009

Note: The restaurant has shifted to a bigger and more comfortable corner shoplot a few shops away.

For the past two weeks or so, we had quite many restaurants/cafes opening in Penang starting with OldTown White Coffee at Penang Times Square in mid May to Palm Village Café on Sunday. The latest would be Aroi Thai Restaurant yesterday in Pulau Tikus, Penang. The restaurant had a simple layout without much fuss over having too many authentic Thai displays within the premises. It’s simple and yet comfortable for your dining experience with their cooks all the way from Thailand.

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Basically, the food choices here were not as spicy and hot as the ones you would get from Thailand. Since it was just their first day of operation, I would think that they were still adjusting their ingredients usage to cater to the general taste buds of the locals. Let me share with you my experiences in this restaurant so that you could judge them with your own verdict.

As usual, I would start with the most basic dish in any restaurants just to know them better. The first dish that came was the Thod Man Pla (Thai Fish Cake – RM3.50 each). These were quite nice combined with the Thai chili sauce and plum sauce that were served except that I felt they should have added in some chopped long beans for that extra bite.

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The next dish was the Gai Hor Bai Tuey (Spicy Chicken Wrapped in Screwpine Leaves). The chicken meat maintained the moisture within and was almost perfect with the fragrance coming out from the screwpine leaves (pandan). The spices used were just nice but why the almost perfect judgment? Well, it was delicious but it lacked something that would boost up the fragrance – bird’s eye chili (cili padi). A piece of that tiny and yet fury chili per wrap would surely make the dish taste better.

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The Geang Keaw Wan Gai (Green Curry Chicken – RM10.90) would always be my favorite in any Thai restaurant and the dish here indeed tasted great. Although I did ask for a milder version without too much of hotness and lesser Thai basil, the dish came out as my favorite. It was obvious that the ingredients used were freshly blended and the chicken slices added were real tender. Moreover, the chef did a good job in getting the long beans and makhuea pra (Thai aubergine) simmered to the right texture. They were soft enough compared to those harder ones I normally get from other Thai restaurants. This is surely a great dish to be taken with steaming hot rice.

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The Goong Si-Da (Steamed Prawns with Spicy Salad – RM17.90) had so many freshly steamed prawns that I could barely remember how many I took. LOL! Actually, the dish had 11 medium sized prawns (I wondered why they did not make it to a dozen. :P). Each prawn had a mixture of some chopped fresh garlic and chilies, accompanied with some fresh greens slices such as carrots and cabbages, glazed above a bed of fresh lettuce. The sauce itself had some hint of fish sauce and lime juice. Although the prawns were fresh and the whole dish were pungent (due to the hidden hotness from chopped garlic and chilies), the sauce was rather sour. Maybe a pinch of brown Castrol sugar with some added sliced kaffir lime leaves would give the dish a better boost. To me, the salad did not look or taste much like anything from Thai at all. Moreover, I think the cook forgot to garnish some mint leaves on the salad as in their menu. That would have brought out some extra flavor for the dish.

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Instead of ordering the normal Thai fried rice, I did try out their Phad Thai Kia Hor Goong (Fried Thai Rice Noodles with Prawns – RM9.90). The noodles were fried with some bean spouts, bean curd cubes, onions and prawns. It came with some side dishes such as fresh bean sprouts, Chinese chives (ku chai), crushed peanuts, chili powder and a slice of lime with a beaten egg served above the noodles. Somehow I found the dish lacked the wok hei (high heat cooking) and the cook made a mistake of adding too much sugar in the noodles. Normally, I would get some sugar served beside the noodles in most restaurants. I hope the restaurant would look into this minor hiccup for those who do not like to have over sweet stuff.

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A Thai meal would not be complete without trying out their Tub Tim Krob (Jellied Water Chestnut with Coconut Milk – RM4.50) as dessert. To my disappointment, it came with almond jelly cubes instead of the normal jackfruit slices I had expected. The water chestnuts were harshly cut and the coconut milk was rather diluted. The whole combination of ingredients was rather inappropriate as I felt that it was rather bland without the unique fragrance from the supposed-to-be-given jackfruits.

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Other than the ala carte dishes, you can even try out their set lunch meals from as low as RM9.90 which would come with fresh fruit and free drinks. Click to enlarge the menu below.

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If you are coming from Jalan Burma into Pulau Tikus district, you would see a police station on your right. Drive on until you have reached the Jalan Cantonment/Jalan Burma traffic light. After the traffic light, you would see a row of shop houses on your left. The restaurant is just along this row of shop houses, between Soon Huat fruit and praying material shop and a nasi kandar shop. Parking can be quite limited during office hours and weekends. You can either try finding some behind the restaurant or opposite along Belissa Row. If not you can try finding some parking opposite the restaurant at Lintang Burma (between Bee Chin Hiang and Kassim Mustafa). The worst alternative would be within the Bandar Baru Supermarket car park along Jalan Cantonment and walk back to the restaurant.

AROIMAP

Name: AROI THAI RESTAURANT
Branch Address: 387, Jalan Burma, 10350 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604- 227 6771
Business Hours: 11.00am-3.00pm, 6.00pm – 10.00pm
GPS: 5.431860, 100.311928

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: 7/10 (1-4 tasteless, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)
Pricing: 7.5/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 7.5/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)

 

Note: Palm Village Cafe has relocated to Ivory Plaza, Jalan Bukit Gambier, Penang, under another name – AB Cafe. This relocated restaurant has also ceased its operation in 2010.

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A few of us were invited to the official opening of one of Penang’s newest restaurants named Palm Village Cafe located in the upcoming Lembah Permai business area of Tanjung Bungah this morning. The whole concept behind the restaurant would be that of a homely cooked food with a casual dining experience surrounded with paintings of the various lifestyles through time.

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Who do you think would qualify to show beautiful paintings to get the right feel of those nostalgic moments? It’s none other than that of our own local artist, Choh Kiat Siong? Mr. Choh, voted as the top 15 most outstanding youth in Kedah, is a seasoned watercolor artist who had spent all his life time painting the past and present of our local scenes. He had received many awards and recognition locally and was much loved in the republic of China for his uniqueness to bring out the lifestyles of the Malaysians in paintings. I would think the restaurant had the greatest privilege to get his signature signed live on the scene.

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Are you curious to find out the type of food you would get from this restaurant? It is basically a place to hang out for families, friends, workers and students from the surrounding area. They have food ranging from simple and light breakfast meals such as toasts and soup, ala carte poultry, seafood and vegetable dishes to go with rice for groups, rice and noodles, finger food, ice cream and cakes to pamper your craving for some delicious homemade tea time snacks. On top of these wonderful meals at an economical price for everyone, there are also some combo meals available. There are also family combo meals from as low as RM10. The best part would be by adding an extra RM2.80, you could get an additional drink and a dessert per each combo meal ordered.

Some of the unique and recommended food here would be their Palm Village Curry Chicken, Fried Fermented Bean Curd Chicken, Asam Pedas Rice/Noodles, Curry Chicken Wan Than Mee, Chinese Cruller Salad, Tiramisu Cake and many more. I would try them out another day in full review and elaborate more on the food details as well as to provide photographs at a later date.

If you know where the Penang TAR College is, if would be easier to find the restaurant. If not, try finding your way from Jalan Burma and drive all the way up using Jalan Mount Erskine until you see a Hindu temple on your left. It’s almost near to the Jalan Fettes traffic light. Drive straight on and you would see a Y junction. The right lane would lead you to Pepper Estate. Keep to your left and use the winding road up towards Vale of Tempe. Towards the end of the winding road, you would see houses on both sides of the road. Drive on until you see the first junction on your left (Lebuh Lembah Permai 1). Turn left and drive all the way up until your see some shop houses on your right. Turn right into the service road (Lebuh Lembah Permai 4) and drive to the other side of the shop houses and you would see the restaurant located prominently on your right. Blue Reef Restaurant and Annabelle’s Place are just a few shop houses away from the restaurant.

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Name: PALM VILLAGE CAFE
Branch Address: 28, Lebuh Lembah Permai 4, 11200 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-890 0320
Opening Hours: 11.00am-10.00pm
GPS: 5.454192, 100.290298

EAT UNTIL YOU DROP BUFFET AT JL STEAMBOAT RESTAURANT

Posted by crizlai On May - 26 - 2009

Note: This restaurant had ceased its operation and in its place is a new bak kut teh outlet.

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The management of JL Steamboat Restaurant had individually invited some of us recently to try out their food. Instead, we ended up having a group review. It was actually a fun gathering with the wacky companies of some of our Penang floggers which consist of Steven, Buzzing Bee, Jian, Allen Ooi and Mary Teo. The place was rather cozy with soft music and yet dimly light cubicles. It would be a bonus for those people who love to dine in privacy. Each table would come with an electronically temperature control hot plate which you do not see much at many steamboat restaurants.

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When reaching the entrance of the restaurant, you would see a worker cooking up varieties of delicious meaty and seafood grills. The aroma flowing through the air got me hungry while waiting for the rest to arrive. I guessed this was one way to stop everyone from coming out of the restaurant smelling like a barbequed item. What else would you expect from an air conditioned restaurant right? LOL! Moreover, it was the management’s special treatment to ease its customers from getting splattered with greasy substance. You can see quite a variety of meats and seafood on the spread, including teppanyaki seafood skewers.

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Upon entering you can see rows of other items meant for steamboat consisting basically a lot of meat and fish “balls”, some meat and intestines, mushrooms and seafood.

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One top of these, there would be some choices of noodles such as glass noodles, rice noodles, emperor’s noodles (王帝麵) and instant noodles. Other than fresh chicken eggs, there were also some vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, Cameron lettuce, cabbage and water morning glory (water spinach, kangkung, 蕹菜). I found one major vegetable ideal for steamboat missing here – the vitamin A rich crown-daisy chrysanthemum leaves (tang oh, 茼蒿). Maybe the vegetables were not in season then. Were they not or was it due to not many people liking the pungent smell? I won’t know for sure. The restaurant could also consider adding in some bundled spring onion stalks to widen the spread.

VEGETABLES

Prior to starting the meal or waiting for your other guests to arrive, you can have the option to start off with some basic side dishes. They may include dishes like fried rice, fried noodles, fried chicken wings, nuggets or fish cakes.

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We started off the meal with two of the four available steamboat stock, clear chicken soup and fish soup. The chicken soup was thick and nice except towards the end it became a bit too salty. So was the fish soup which was served to us with a few slices of ginger to cut down on the fishy taste. The restaurant should have had someone around to ask us if we would like to dilute the saltiness with some boiling water but no one did that. If they were to look into providing better service, at least they should look into this aspect of getting feedback from us. Of the two, I loved the fish stock more.

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The next batches of stocks were the herbal soup and tom yam soup. The herbal soup was nicely brewed with the right amount of herbs. There were some hints of wolfberries and ginseng roots and the taste was beautiful until the end of our meal. The fragrance and slight bitterness from the soup base would be ideal for those herbal soup lovers. Unfortunately, the tom yam soup was not up to my preference. It was too mild for my taste bud. It lacked the pungent taste and fragrance from some lemongrass stalks. I guessed I’m so use to the tom yam soup I had at Village Café.

If you were to ask me to rate my preferences, it would be the fish soup, herbal soup, chicken soup and tom yam soup. My note to the management on the aspect of healthy dining would be to maintain the soup as natural as they can as most of the pre-processed items on the buffet spread already had the saltiness, preservative and sweetness in them. Even the sugar levels in the free flow chilled green tea and lemon tea were a bit too much for most of us there. A non sugar and hot beverage item such as Chinese tea would be a great addition.

When it comes to sauces for steamboat and grills, I would say they have a great selection of pre-packed and homemade sauces. We had many choices such as tomato sauce, chili sauce, Thai chili sauce, soy sauce with bird’s eye chili, garlic oil, fresh chopped garlic, sate sauce, sambal udang tumis, Thai spicy green sauce and even Sukiyaki sauce specially meant for the teppanyaki skewers and grills. The sambal udang tumis which was somewhat like the curry mee chili paste, with added pounded dried shrimps remained my favorite.

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Can you guess how much we ate that night? Frankly, we did not really eat that much as there were more ladies than men (even included my paying god-bro). We only had these for the 4 different soups.

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On top of that, these grilled items were served to us almost continuously.

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Although most of us are stuffed that night, we still did not forgo the dessert section. With the beautifully twisted marshmallow on a skew and finger biscuits waving at us, welcoming us to dip them into the chocolate fountain, who could resist the temptation? There were also jellies, fresh fruits and black glutinous rice dessert.

DESSERTS

That was not the end to our enjoyment on top of our endless jokes and hilarious moments. All of us went back to our childhood years playing “masak-masak”. LOL! You can see some of us dripping saliva while trying to make something out from our “play dough”. Everyone wanted to have a hand in making their best decorated ice cream with the few different flavors of ice creams, chopped pickled cherries and rice candies. The results – everyone came up top… in their own category. LOL! Here are some of the masterpieces.

CREATION

Their over 100 variety of picks buffet is at RM17.90nett (adult), RM14.90nett (senior citizen) for only lunch time from Monday to Friday. As for dinner and weekends, it would be at RM21.90nett (adult), RM16.90nett (senior citizen). Children would get to enjoy the buffet at RM8.90nett at all time and it’s free for children below 3 years old. Presently, they are still having their set lunch promotion (since April 2009) priced at RM6.90 which is inclusive of free flow of drinks and a dessert. You can click on the flyer below for a clearer view or check out www.jlsteamboat.com

SETLUNCHMENU

Finding JL Steamboat Restaurant won’t be hard as it’s located within Nagore Place (nearby New World Park). Find your way down Jalan Burma and keep a look out for the red paint splattered designed Tune Hotel building on your right. Immediately after that would be the New World Park food court. Watch out for the 2nd junction on your right after that. Turn right into Jalan Nagore and drive until a cross junction (Jalan Bawasah/Jalan Nagore). You can see the restaurant on your right (next to Sugar Dynasty Food Delight corner lot) after the cross junction. Parking could be quite limited here during lunch time and you should have lots of loose change too as the parking meter would go on until midnight. If you do not want to have the hassle of driving around finding a free space, I would recommend that you park your car within the New World Park parking lot and walk up to the restaurant.

JLSTEAMBOATMAP

Name: JL STEAMBOAT RESTAURANT
Address: 27, Jalan Nagore, 10050 Penang, Malaysia.
Business Hours: 11.30am-3.00pm, 5.00pm-11.00pm
Contact: 604-210 1122
GPS: 5.421251, 100.326202

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

MUMMY’S NIGHT OUT TO NIPPON YATAIMURA

Posted by crizlai On May - 11 - 2009

Although I do get my Mum the best food around town frequently, it was a special day yesterday to bring her out for some live-on-the-spot dinner. After all, it was Mothers’ Day and she ought to be treated like a queen. We ended up having Japanese food at Nippon Yataimura which is located in Pulau Tikus, Penang. From the exterior, it looked like a normal restaurant. As we stepped inside, it was totally another world by itself with lanterns hanging everywhere on little roofs just like in a village. Now I got it why they had named the shop as “日本屋合村”, meaning Japanese House in a Village.

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There were just too many choices available in this restaurant with even a specially created 9-course set meal priced at RM48+ just for Mothers’ Day but we ended up ordering some other set meals with a few dishes from the Ala Carte menu. Let me share with you the set meals that we had ordered. One of the set was Saba Syioyaki (RM25). This is one of the most ordered fish dish in Japan where a small mackerel was grilled to perfection while maintaining the moisture within the fat. The fish had a nice grill and with a squeeze of lemon juice and grated daikon (mild flavored white radish), it was good.

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Next were two sets of teppanyaki (鉄板焼) style dishes. One of them was the Teppan Chicken (RM20). The dish came with some iron griddled mixed vegetables with some toasted garlic slices. The chicken slices were good with their special sauce and they tasted a bit like the spicy version of sate.

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Teppan Salmon (RM24) was the other wonderful dish as the sauce was somewhat unique. It was slightly sweet and mildly spiced up. Even with the crisped sensation I had, the fish managed to retain its juice. It was beautiful.

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Something caught my eyes in the set menu and I ended up ordering Pork Mayonnaise (RM20). The dish was real creamy with the flavors coming from the mayo and a hint of Lea & Perrin sauce. This dish was cooked with lots of sliced big onions. This would be good if taken with rice.

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The above four sets came with side dishes such as a bowl of beautifully steam Japanese rice, Salad, Miso Soup, Chawan Mushi and fruit cuts. The Salad had a mildly gingered chili paste. The Miso Soup was thickly flavored with some tofu cubes and chopped spring onions in it. The Chawan Mushi (Steam Egg) came beautifully decorated and was silky smooth with a few chopped chicken meat pieces within.

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Other than the above set meals, we also tried the Seafood Fried Rice (RM22). The dish came with freshly cooked squids, prawns and fish fillet. Although the taste of the rice was nice, I found it to be wet for my preference. It could be due to my liking for “wok hei” (high heat cooking) style of plain white rice rather than the usage of Japanese rice.

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The next dish which was the Fish Ball Ramen (RM13) may look plain but one sip into the soup and you would yearn for more. The soup was richly flavored with a hint of fresh prawn juice. It was just like the Dobin Mushi I had at Penang Times Square. Even the portion of ramen served was rather filling. The dish came with fish balls, sliced wood ear fungus and some spring onions.

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We also ordered some of the dishes from the Ala Carte menu and one of them was the Ocha Soba (RM13). We had a small serving of cold noodles served with cold soup, raw quail’s egg, spring onions and chopped fried garlic. We indeed left the quail’s egg untouched. One reason was that it was raw and the next was the 3640 calories it will bring into our bodies. The noodle was springy and blended nicely with the soup but somehow I still prefer the Tenzaru Soba I had at Penang Times Square as the soup was more flavorful.

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Next side dish was the Agedashi Tofu (RM6). It was nothing special with some pieces of fried tofu garnished with nori (Japanese seaweed strips), spring onions and daikon, served in a pool of soy sauce but the tofu cubes were indeed silky smooth.

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The Ishiyaki Kinoko Nomori (RM18) was my favorite amongst the rest of the side orders. The shiitake (Chinese black mushroom – 香菇) and enoki/enokitake (golden needle mushrooms – 金針菇) mushrooms were stone-cooked so perfectly with their special sauce while maintaining the fragrant mushroom taste. The gravy for this dish tasted great with my rice. Both mushrooms are believed to be great antioxidants.

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The most wonderful dining experience in this restaurant was their free flow of green tea, either cold or hot at no extra cost.

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I felt that the pricing here is reasonable compared to the quality of ingredients and portion served. After all, I was really filled up with each set meal I had ordered. The service here was good considering that almost all the food came within minutes upon ordering. There are more dishes which I would love to try out next from their ramen (noodles), gohan (rice), sushi (vinegar rice finger food), sashimi (raw cold cuts) and dessert sections.

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There is another branch of this franchise restaurant located within Queensbay Mall up in Bayan Baru, Penang. The main restaurant which I had visited in Pulau Tikus, Penang, is located next to a service road along Jalan Burma. If you are coming from Jalan Burma into Pulau Tikus district, you would see a police station on your right. Drive on until you have reached the Jalan Cantonment/Jalan Burma traffic light. After the traffic light, you would see a row of shop houses. Slow down and keep a watch out for a service road on your left. Turn in the service road and you would see the restaurant on your left just next to Teow Chew Meng restaurant. Parking can be quite limited during office hours and weekends. You can either try finding some behind the restaurant or opposite along Bellisa Row. The worst alternative would be within the Bandar Baru Supermarket car park along Jalan Cantonment and walk back to the restaurant.

NIPPONYATAIMUREMAP

Name: NIPPON YATAI MURA (日本屋合村)
Address: 403-A, Jalan Burma, Pulau Tikus, 10350 Penang, Malaysia.
Business Hours:
12.00noon-2.00pm, 6.00pm-10.00pm (Weekdays)
12.00noon-10.00pm (Saturday & Sunday – No reservation on these days & Public Holiday)
Contact: 604-226 6018
GPS: 5.432746, 100.310593

RATING:
Ambience: 8.5/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 classy)
Food Choices: 8/10 (1-4 limited, 5-7 average, 8-10 many choices)
Taste: 8.5/10 (1-4 tasteless, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)
Pricing: 7.5/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 9/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)

ECONOMICAL SET MEALS FOR LUNCH AT IVY’S KITCHEN

Posted by crizlai On May - 8 - 2009

With the current economy downturn where everyone would be rather careful about their spending (even on food), most people would keep a look out for meals that would be economical and yet fulfilling. One great place would be at Ivy’s Kitchen where other than their home cooked food, they do also provide delicious set meals for as low as RM7.50. That would include a glass of fresh fruit juice (any fruit or vegetables as per availability) and a jelly dessert (Soya Jelly with Longan).

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Here are an inside look at all the set meals available in the restaurant:

COMBO A: Chicken Rendang (RM9)

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The set comes with a bowl of plain rice served with delicious chicken rendang (dry curry), half an egg, deep fried peanuts & anchovies (ikan bilis), papadam (Indian salty cracker) and mixed cucumber & pineapple salad. The Chicken Rendang was filled with the richness of blended spices and the fragrance from the coconut milk. Cooked almost similar to the style of Ayam Masak Merah (Red Curry Chicken), the chicken drumstick served was tender and juicy and this set got me yearning for more.

COMBO B: Beef Rendang (RM8.50)

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The set has the same dishes as Combo A except for the main meat choice, i.e. a bowl of plain rice served with delicious beef rendang (dry curry), half an egg, deep fried peanuts & anchovies (ikan bilis), papadam (Indian salty cracker) and mixed cucumber & pineapple salad. The Beef Rendang was almost similar to the texture and taste of Indonesian Daging Masak Minang (Indonesian Minang Dry Beef Curry) with the fragrance coming from the added toasted grated coconut and blended spices. The cubed beef were indeed tender with all the spices deeply marinated into the meat.

COMBO C: Nasi Lemak (RM7.50)

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The Nasi Lemak was slightly different compared to the above two set meals. It had some coconut milk added into the rice, together with some chopped ginger prior to cooking. The steaming hot and aromatic rice combined real well with the dishes such as half a hard boiled egg, deep fried peanuts & anchovies, spicy and sour anchovy curry, crispy fried chicken, fish crackers, fried assam fish (it could be tamarind fried sardine, kembong [chubb/Indian mackerel] or selar [yellow tailed scad/ooi boey] depending on availability) and some slices of cucumber. This is a great bargain meal with so many dishes.

Alternatively, you could also replace the fried fish for this set with your own CUSTOM COMBO: Stuffed Fried Cincaru (hardtailed mackerel) at RM9 or RM3.80 per fish as addon. The fish was fragrantly fried with a strong hint of tamarind, blended chili and finely sliced Kaffir lime leaves.

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COMBO D: Fried Fish Fillet Noodles (RM9)

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This set is catered for those who would want a non spicy and soup based meal. You will have the options to choose either Cintan mee (instant noodles), bee hoon (rice vermicelli), tang hoon (glass noodles) or porridge, cooked with a generous amount of choy sum (Chinese cabbage), minced chicken balls and topped with crispy batter coated dory fish fillet. The stock used in the soup was indeed flavorful with a hint of sesame oil, garnished with some fried garlic and chopped spring onions.

The abovementioned combos would come together with a glass of fresh fruit/vegetable juice and a dessert (soya jelly with longan).

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On top of that, each combo would be entitled for the below addons at a discounted price:

RED BEAN SOUP – RM1 (Normal Price RM1.60)

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ROJAK (Prawn Paste Caramel Mixed Fruits and Vegetables) – RM2 (Normal price RM3)

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There are more side dishes and customized meals available at Ivy’s Kitchen. You would have to visit them to check those out but I’m going to share with you some of their sought after dishes.

FRESH GROUPER FILLET PORRIDGE (RM9)

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PENANG ASSAM LAKSA (RM5)

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POH PIAH CHEE (MINI SPRING ROLLS) – (RM2 each/RM3.80 for two)

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Finding Ivy’s kitchen would not be hard as it is located just 3 shop houses away from Jemputree at Jalan Burma but the only problem would be finding your way to get into Jalan Chow Thye as the road had recently being converted into a one-way street. There are actually a few ways to get to the restaurant but I will show you the easiest way to reach there with the minimum turns. If you are coming from Jalan Penang into Jalan Burma, drive all the way to the Jalan Larut traffic light (Giant Supermarket). Keep to your right after the traffic light and look out for Neww BT Café. Turn right into Jalan Arraton immediately after the food court. Drive on until you see a junction on your left (Jalan Irrawadi). Turn into the road and keep a watch out for the third road on your left (Jalan Phuah Hin Leong, Jalan Tavoy and Jalan Chow Thye) for Restoran Ros Mawar which is located at the end of Jalan Chow Thye. Turn left into the road and you will see Ivy’s Kitchen on the right immediately before Isaribi Tei Japanaese Restaurant. Alternatively, you can drive up to Goodall 2 Café (next to Jemputree) and park your car in the food court’s car park and walk to the restaurant.

IVYKITCHENMAP

Name: IVY’S KITCHEN
58 Jalan Chow Thye,10250 Penang, Malaysia.
Business Hours: 9.00am-9.00pm (except Saturday), 6.00pm-9.00pm (Saturday)
Contact: 013-433 7878 (Mr. Tan), 016-433 7130 (Ms. Ivy)
GPS: 5.424715, 100.320686

RATING:
Ambience: 6/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 classy)
Food Choices: 7/10 (1-4 limited, 5-7 average, 8-10 many choices)
Taste: 8.5/10 (1-4 tasteless, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)
Pricing: 6/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 9/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)

HOMELY COOKED MEALS AT IVY’S KITCHEN

Posted by crizlai On May - 8 - 2009

There are hardly many restaurants left in Penang that cater for food as good as your mother’s home cooked food, especially those food with a delicate touch of Nyonya cuisine in them. Of course those dishes would be MSG free and pork free as well. Thanks to Carrie for inviting me to such a restaurant in town.

Ivy’s Kitchen has been in business for the last two years and they have been providing Mummy’s style of home cooked dinners and set meals to the public ever since. Unfortunately, not many people realized about its existence as this colonial build restaurant has the simplest dining layout with just a few tables and chairs. Many people would just forgo this place for the ambience but do not forget that some of the great food around town do come from places you would least expect.

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Some of the dishes that you would expect would be like the Sweet and Sour Flower Crab (RM50 – based on market price and may differ from time to time). One taste on the gravy and I knew that the ingredients used were freshly blended. Most restaurants would just use some ready made sauces that have high vinegar after taste. The flower crabs were indeed fresh and delicious. You can practically peel pieces by pieces of the flesh fully intact. This dish would be great for those non spicy food consumers although I would prefer to have them to be a bit spicier but less sweet.

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The next would be the Nyonya style of Gulai Tumis Chinese Silver Pomfret (RM62 – based on market rate). Although most restaurants would use Black Pomfret (or cheong) in this dish, Ivy’s Kitchen decided to use Chinese Silver Pomfret (Tao Tay – the most expensive fish of the pomfret family which would cost about RM55 per kg) instead for this dish. I guessed you would have to preorder this fish prior to dining there as the local pomfret would not always be so commonly available in the market. The gravy was richly filled with the sour taste of tamarind, the colors and spiciness of blended chilies, turmeric, onions, chopped ginger flower buds, lemongrass and a few more leafy herbs. Although the fish was fresh (but a bit overcooked due to a bit of hiccups at our side), it was slightly sweet to my taste bud. I think the cook should take note that fresh fish should not be cooked prior to the complete arrival of the customers, especially when it was such an expensive fish. Moreover, a lighter hand in the application of sugar (or none due to many health conscious consumers nowadays although I understood that it was a way to replace the sweetness by not using MSG) would have to be taken note seriously.

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The Assam Prawns (Tamarind Prawns – RM20 for 10 prawns) was indeed a favorite amongst some of us as it was fried drier than what you would get elsewhere and with a bit of crispy sensation on the shell. The dish was marvelous except that I would still prefer my food to be a bit less sweet but then you would not get that extra crispy fragrance without sugar right? Well, another thing the restaurant should take note would be on the marinating time for the prawns. The inner taste was a bit bland as the tamarind did not soak into the flesh. My advice would be to have the prawns slightly slit at the back. The restaurant should also reconsider the price for the prawns (RM20-25 per kg in the wet market). I felt that it was a bit pricey considering that I can get five 3 times larger prawns cooked elsewhere at less than RM25.

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I love the next dish which was the Fried Beancurd with Leeks (RM12). The savory dish came with sliced carrots, big onions, leeks and many prawns (same sized as the above dish which I would like the management to reconsider the price compared to the quantity of prawns served in this dish). The dish had all the necessary tastes for a perfect dish. Maybe the cook can consider adding a bit of gravy when all the dishes served would be of a drier based.

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It has been quite some time since I had Tofu with Seaweed Soup (RM15). The soup in fact has lots of ingredients added in on top of the tofu cuts and seaweed. The other ingredients included sliced carrots, fish balls, cabbage, minced chicken balls and prawns, garnished with fragrant garlic oil. The soup was rich in flavor with the seaweed enhancing further the taste. I would personally prefer a bit more of clearer based soup added for this dish.

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No homely meal would be complete without the serving of a vegetable dish. We were served with a simple yet nutritious Fried Snow Pea Shoots with Bean Sprouts (RM10). The fibrous snow pea shoots  (dou miao) combined real well with the smooth bean sprouts and these were just fried with some oil and soy sauce, garnished with some fried garlic. To enhance the color and taste of this dish, a little carrot and ginger strips would make this dish beautiful. Maybe adding a bit of fried salted fish, fried dried sole fillet or even fresh seaweed strips would make the dish more flavorful.

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The dinner ended with a Fruit Platter (RM12) which consisted two freshly cut mangoes, half a papaya and some longan.

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Finding Ivy’s kitchen would not be hard as it is located just 3 shop houses away from Jemputree at Jalan Burma but the only problem would be finding your way to get into Jalan Chow Thye as the road had recently being converted into a one-way street. There are actually a few ways to get to the restaurant but I will show you the easiest way to reach there with the minimum turns. If you are coming from Jalan Penang into Jalan Burma, drive all the way to the Jalan Larut traffic light (Giant Supermarket). Keep to your right after the traffic light and look out for Neww BT Café. Turn right into Jalan Arraton immediately after the food court. Drive on until you see a junction on your left (Jalan Irrawadi). Turn into the road and keep a watch out for the third road on your left (Jalan Phuah Hin Leong, Jalan Tavoy and Jalan Chow Thye) for Restoran Ros Mawar which is located at the end of Jalan Chow Thye. Turn left into the road and you will see Ivy’s Kitchen on the right immediately before Isaribi Tei Japanaese Restaurant. Alternatively, you can drive up to Goodall 2 Café (next to Jemputree) and park your car in the food court’s car park and walk to the restaurant.

IVYKITCHENMAP

Name: IVY’S KITCHEN
58 Jalan Chow Thye,10250 Penang, Malaysia.
Business Hours: 9.00am-9.00pm (except Saturday), 6.00pm-9.00pm (Saturday)
Contact: 013-433 7878 (Mr. Tan), 016-433 7130 (Ms. Ivy)
GPS: 5.424715, 100.320686

RATING:
Ambience: 6/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 classy)
Food Choices: 7/10 (1-4 limited, 5-7 average, 8-10 many choices)
Taste: 7.5/10 (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)

THE OPENING OF BUKOTSU RAMEN HOUSE AT PENANG TIMES SQUARE

Posted by crizlai On May - 2 - 2009

NOTE: This restaurant has ceased its operation at Penang Times Square.

Thursday was the opening day for two new restaurants at Penang Times Square. Needless to say, most people would have known about the delicious ice creams served at Swensen’s. In fact, they have added some new local dishes that did look real impressive in terms of photos and pricing with the same “buy one eat the next one free concept”. The other newly opened restaurant would be Bukotsu Ramen House with a simple dining layout downstairs and a Japanese styled “sit-on-the-floor” concept upstairs.

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Since I’m a spicy food lover, I have decided to check out the Volcano Ramen (RM12.90). The texture and springiness of the ramen was good. The dish came with an almost curry noodles type of soup (except the taste of lemongrass), rich in flavorful stock, with a slice of the pinkish Japanese fish cake, half a hard boiled egg, a few large slices of BBQ pork (char siew), bean sprouts, chopped spinach, corn kernels, chopped spring onions and a spoonful of chili paste. The chili paste was somewhat like the Korean chili paste, chili hotness minus the oil. It was supposed to be a spicy hot dish but I found it to be real mild. Moreover, the portion was too little as a main dish for the price paid. Even with the side order (one discounted side order allowed per bowl of ramen), I did not feel full at all.

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The side order was Pan Pan Chi (RM2 in a smaller portion compared to RM8 for a larger serving from the ala carte menu). This is in fact a cold dish. The smoothness of the chicken slices was great, combined with the tenderness and juiciness of each slices. The dish has sliced cucumber with dressing that tasted quite like concentrated miso paste and garnished with some roasted sesame seeds. This dish would be beautiful as starter.

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The next order was the Chicken Teriyaki Bento (RM16). At least the price for this dish quite justified with the dishes ranging from miso soup, appetizer (kimchi), salad (finely sliced cabbage/purple cabbage and carrots with sesame oil and fish sauce, served with cucumber slices), chicken in teriyaki sauce, Japanese rice and dessert (fruit cuts). As for the soup, I prefer it to have a stronger miso flavored broth. The kimchi was normal as it contained more vinegar and was not as spicy as it should be. The salad was fine but it was nothing real special on the dressing. The chicken slices, cooked in teriyaki sauce has the quality of a good dish but it was too diluted to my liking, especially when I tried to dip my not so compact Japanese rice pieces. The chef should have made them more compact to avoid the rice to loosen wildly when use chopsticks. The fruits were just watermelon and papaya.

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Dobin Mushi (RM8) would be a must order for soup lovers. The soup has been double boiled for more than 24 hours and it was rich in flavor. It came in a cute ceramic teapot with a nice teacup and a slice of lime. In the teapot was some chicken slices, a prawn, carrot slices, a pinkish Japanese fish cake, mushrooms, ginkgo nut and some chopped spring onions. I prefer this dish to be taken in its original form although adding some squeezes of lime juice did give it a bit of sourness plus reducing the strong aroma of the chicken soup.

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Shochu Cheese Cake (RM7 for two slices) was served as dessert. Shochu or soju as it may also be called in the US export market is actually a distilled beverage made out of barley, rice or sweet potatoes starches. It has a 25% alcohol volume. It has a nutty taste compared to the fruity taste of sake. I found the cheese cake to be far less in the taste of shochu. It was too mild with the overpowering taste of milk with a less cheesy taste. In fact, the dessert had too much of gelatin added, thus it was rather hard. Moreover, too much of butter had been added to the digestive biscuit type of base and it was too salty to my liking. Maybe margarine would be a better choice to firm up the base for this dessert.

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Green Tea Ice Cream (RM3.50) was served free just for the opening day. The ice cream came with some sweetened boiled kidney beans and some pine nuts. The kidney beans were just nice for my sweetness but it would be better if they were to be a bit softer. The pine nuts were nicely roasted but the ice cream to me tasted a bit too artificial. Although it was creamy and smooth, it has a strong taste of commercially produced green tea powder. Let’s hope the restaurant would look into a better alternative or solution to this dessert.

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Iced Green Tea (RM1/glass) was served free flow for the day.

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The best way to reach the shop would be by using Jalan Magazine (Traders Hotel). Drive into Jalan Dato Kramat (2nd junction at the right of Gama Supermarket) until you have reached Penang Times Square on your left. Find a parking space along the road or within the allocated parking bay. Just walk into the mall and go to the open space area with all the fountains. The restaurant is located at the same row with Marrybrown, Tsuruya Sushi Bar and a few shops away from Swensen’s and Roti Bakar Kopitiam.

BUKOTSUSMAP

Name: BUKOTSU RAMEN HOUSE
Address:
Lot BPC-G-7, Ground Floor, Penang Times Square,
73 Jalan Dato Keramat, 10150 Penang, Malaysia.
Business Hours: 11.00am-10.30pm
Contact: 604-227 0053
GPS: 5.412683, 100.326141

RATING:
Ambience: 7.5/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 classy)
Food Choices: 7.5/10 (1-4 limited, 5-7 average, 8-10 many choices)
Taste: 7.5/10 (1-4 tasteless, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)
Pricing: 8.5/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 9/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)

AN INSIGHT VIEW OF HAVEN DELIGHTS @ PENANG TIMES SQUARE

Posted by crizlai On April - 23 - 2009

Note: This restaurant has ceased its operations at Penang Times Square and has moved to Gurney Plaza, Penang, under the name of Xiao Nan Guo Cuisine.

INTERIOR

When I mention about insight, please do bear with me on a long post with a detailed study into Haven Delights. Ever since my first visit to Haven Delights, I must admit that I just could not get enough of their various ranges of cuisine from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Shanghai. It was not the food alone that attracted my attention but the friendliness, smiling faces and wonderful services from every level of the restaurant management. It has also been quite awhile ever since I had encountered innovative chefs and management that were so receptive to feedbacks and their willingness to post mortem mistakes to serve their best to meet the demands and requests of their patrons. This is the true quality of how good a restaurant should be and the success story behind Penang Times Square’s latest restaurant, Haven Delights.

TEAPOTS

It was truly a privilege to be invited by the management of Haven Delights and also a wonderful experience working closely with the Chairman & Managing Director, Mr. Ng Boon Tong, Executive Chef, Mr. Edwin Teo, Sous Chef, Mr. Alex and staff to provide some of the Food Blogging Community members the opportunity to try out their fabulous cuisines last Saturday. The turnout was marvelous with 19 of us from Penang and KL. Without much ado, let’s hit the review items that were served to us.

MDCHEFS

COLD CUTS:

The Hotzzz Abalone (from the Buffet Menu) dish came as a real surprise for many of us as it was topped with the chef’s homemade spicy paste and eel sauce, then garnished with fried garlic and spring onions. This was the first time I had tasted abalone served in this method (the next closest would be the abalone salad I had at Sarkies Corner in E&O Hotel) where the chili paste was not too spicy and yet very appetizing. The Unagi Tofu (from the Buffet Menu) on the other hand was milder with a grilled eel slice being laid above a silky and smooth tofu with chopped fried garlic, spring onions and bonito flakes as garnishes. The accompanied sweet sauce combined well with each of the ingredients.

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MAIN DISHES:

The Chicken Ban Ban (RM10) which had fried chicken pieces, deep fried eggs and topped with the chef’s 3 types of special sauces and shredded nori was another great tasting dish. The only hiccup was that although the chicken pieces were juicy enough, it lacked a bit more of seasoning which would make the whole dish perfect. Moreover, the presentation for the night was kind of flat compared to the few times I had tasted out this dish. The kitchen had now reverted to the earlier style as shown in the comparison photos below. Try combining all the 3 sauces (mayo, wasabi mayo & sweet sauce) on the dish and you will feel the sensation of sweet, creamy and spiciness with each bite. With almost all the items being fried, there were hardly any signs of the dish being oily.

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The Red Dragon Prawn with Jammy Sauce (RM20) which was presented next was a colorful dish. It had giant battered prawns, ball-like white dragon fruit cooked with the chef special fruity sauce. The tangy and slightly spiced flavor from the dish was unique to many. Due to the existence of so many food critics in our group that night, I guessed the chef was a bit nervous and came out with a slightly overcooked dragon fruit ball. Most of us thought it was kiwi fruit instead. I hope the kitchen staff will take note that fruits are not meant to be overcooked or they would lose out on their Vitamin C nutrient. Overall, the dish was still great for many, especially when taken with the shredded radish side dish.

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Next on our review list was the Motoyaki Scallop (RM14 for 5pcs). Since I’m a heavier flavor and spicy rich eater, I have no problem with the scallops served that night, except that I found them to be potentially spicy for many people, especially children. Moreover, the tabasco pepper sauce-like spiciness and thousand island type of creaminess from the toppings had somehow overpowered the freshness taste of the scallops. I would recommend the kitchen to look into the possibility of coming out with a milder dish for those non-spicy food patrons, e.g. plain grilled scallops with some lighter flavored sauces.

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For those Korean food lovers, the next dish which was Korean Beef Kimchi (RM16) would be ideal. The homemade kimchi was good as it was just nice without the overpowering taste of chili and vinegar. The beef slices were tender and juicy. I won’t mind having this dish with a bowl of hot steaming rice.

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The Lamb Teriyaki (RM18 for 2 cuts) had a sweet and slightly grill-burned taste. It tasted nice except that the lamb cuts for that night was not as perfect as the ones I had earlier. It somehow lacked the little fatty portions that would be ideal for any grilled lamb cuts. That might be the reason why certain parts of the meat were not well flavored or tender enough for the consumptions of some of the floggers.

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I loved the uniqueness in taste of the restaurant sous chef, Alex’s creation – Homemade Spicy Chicken (RM15). The fried chicken pieces, chopped fermented black beans, red chilies, garlic, spring onions, curry leaves and sesame seeds were cooked in thick, sweet and spicy gravy and these complimented each ingredients wonderfully. This would be another great item to be taken with hot steaming rice or mantou.

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The newly menu added Shanghai Honey Spare Ribs (RM18) served for the night was the most disappointed dish to be served for the night as most of us considered the dish to be over salty. Somehow the saltiness overpowered the sweetness of the honey. Moreover, the meat on the ribs was rather hardy to be taken in a chopsticks serving dining. I would suggest that spare ribs be braised prior to frying as it would loosen the meat more on the ribs. On top of the awareness on the correct combination of taste, a fattier choice of ribs would be more ideal in this type of dish. As for presentation wise, the rearrangement of the ribs by our own flogger, Jason, would be better as the dish would not look so flat.

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NOODLES:

Although the next dish Japanese Yaki Udon (RM12) was a common dish, the paper thin bonito flakes made it livelier as they were moving along with the heat from the dish. Most of us found the dish to be a bit too wet and the high heat frying (wok hei) was a bit overpowering. The revised version served later was drier and tasted better.

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CHEF’S SPECIAL SURPRISE:

The Tempura Cheese Maki served to us individually was the new creation of Edwin Teo, the executive chef of Haven Delights. The mildly burn tempura unagi roll topped with creamy Mozarella cheese was wonderful. I wished I could have more serving of this dish on that night.

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There were also another two unexpected food testing from the kitchen for the event. One was the beautifully blue fuel gel flamed and aluminum foil wrap baked Chicken Bomb. The presentation was good but the spicy and thyme enhanced flavor of the mashed salmon somehow did not match well with the fiber texture of the chicken meat. The whole combination did not meet our likings much. I personally felt that salmon should be taken in bigger chunks or in thin slices and should not be mashed up to taste like tuna. Maybe a milder herb usage or a non spicy version would be better for the dish. Let’s leave this to the chef to figure out.

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The other unexpected dish was the HK Style Wan Than Mee (RM22). Most of us considered the price to be a bit high even if the wonton were to be big and fully filled with prawns. The dish had four big wontons and a generous amount of young kalian (Chinese broccoli/kale) on top of the springy thick wonton noodles. The soup broth was thick and suited the noodles well but the wontons had some problems. The usage of some blended squid paste resulted in the prawns to be rather soft and powdery taste like as though they were not fresh. I would personally prefer either a bit of minced meat were to be used for the extra bite sensation or some chopped spring onions/Chinese celery to be added to the fresh prawns with a drop or two of sesame oil and light seasoning. Having some chopped jicama, carrots or water chestnuts would surely be an added bonus to the wontons. I also felt that plain fried garlic oil on top of the chopped spring onions served as garnishes would give would give the extra fragrance to the noodles compared to using fried shallots.

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HOMEMADE DESSERTS:

We also had the options to try out two of their special homemade desserts which were Macha Ice Cream and Kuru Goma Ice Cream. The Macha Ice Cream (RM8) had thick green tea extract blended into the ice cream, served with two mochi (glutinous rice balls) and topped with red bean paste. There were many disputes over this dessert as some prefer it not to be so strong in green tea flavor and to be sweeter in taste. Some prefer the red bean paste to be blended finer and even suggested the usage of kidney beans so that it would go smoother with each luxurious mouthful. There were also feedbacks on a less chewy mochi or had the mochi filled with red bean paste instead. To me, it would be each individual’s preferences as not everyone will have the same taste bud. I would think this dessert would be suitable for those who love to indulge in having dessert but are afraid of their blood sugar level. On the other hand, the mochi were indeed chewy hard but it has a great scientific explanation to that. Which item would not turn hard at freezing point? Even the Tempura Ice Cream which I had tried during my earlier visit had harder tempura bits compared to the actual room temperature ones I had tried before. Maybe the kitchen might want to consider having a nutty, chocolate or fruity version by considering the usage of roasted peanuts, pistachio, chocolate rice or even bananas. Simplicity might even be the better solution for this dessert.

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Next of the dessert option was the Kuru Goma Ice Cream (RM8) which had a ratio of 3:7 of grinded black sesame seeds to the ice cream, topped with crushed peanuts. Most of the floggers loved this flavor as this dessert was sweeter compared to the Macha Ice Cream but there were still some who prefer to have more black sesame flavor in the ice cream. Moreover, some had also considered the presentation to be a bit too plain and lack in colors. I would think sprinkling some roasted black sesame seeds and garnish with a leaf or two of mint leaves would be the solution.

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The above items were the food specially arranged for us to review. There are still many hundreds more of new items available in the Ala Carte and Buffet menus. Buffet lunch and dinner would be priced at RM49.90+ per person (Children 50% off). You can order as many items as you like in their over 90 dishes buffet menu list within the allocated two hours duration from as early as 10.30am until 11.00pm daily. Do take note that wastage above 100gms would be charged accordingly. Here are some of the side dishes they may serve on the buffet line on top of those orders you can make from the buffet menu.

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There were also some great dishes that I had tasted from this restaurant during my other visits other than the ones I had reviewed last month and I would like to share with you here. If you like to have a lighter meal, you can try out the Karapachio Salad (RM10). It would come with a variety of greens, some fish cake slices and served with their specially prepared sashimi raw fish mix sauce. It was indeed refreshing and unique.

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If you are keen on trying out cold noodles, you should try the Tenzaru Soba (RM14). It would come with a rack of noodles on ice cubes, served with tempura prawns and vegetables, a thick broth for dipping and some condiments for you to adjust your level of flavor. I loved every items served in this dish.

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Even the Silky Lau Mee (RM12), almost similar to the taste of the tested HK Style Wan Than Mee except for the wonton, tasted great with broiled young kalian, crab stick strips and boiled chicken slices. The taste of the broth blended well with the springy thick wonton noodles.

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Another quite similar to the Tempura Cheese Maki dish was the Aburi Ebi Cheese Maki (RM18). This was a marvelous dish indeed. It has 6 pieces of lovely Mozarella cheese enriched rolls (maki) and 2 pieces of tempura prawn rolls. There were also a lot of tobiko (flying fish roes) sprinkled on them. It was simply yummylicious!!

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Just to prove to you that the restaurant would do anything to accommodate to the request of its customers, I had presented them with a task of coming out with a dish with a packet of mixed flavored beans and seaweed as rice garnishes I had received from Japan. The result was amazing… A well presented plate of triangular shaped Traditional Onigiri (三角形日式飯糰), a cooked Japanese white rice finger food wrapped in nori (edible seaweed). Thanks to Mr. Melvin Loo, the sushi assistant, for coming out with this wonderful out-of-the-menu item. You have indeed proven your worthiness to be amongst the top in sushi making.

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Last but not least, I would like to thank the management and staff of Haven Delights for giving us, the Food Blogging Community, the opportunity to try out the food and in trusting us in our feedbacks for further improvement to the quality of food in Penang.

MANAGEMENT

I would also like to thank the following attendees for making this review gathering an enjoyable one with constructive feedbacks to the management of Haven Delights. Thank you guys and ladies… you were great!

Rebecca Saw
Steven Goh
Nicholas Chan
Jason & Gill
Cariso
CK Lam
Mary
Allie
Bee
Allen Ooi
Lingzie
Ken Chan
Sidney, Sunny & Alex
Albert Yap
Huat Koay

The best way to reach the shop would be by using Jalan Magazine (Traders Hotel). Drive into Jalan Dato Kramat (2nd junction at the right of Gama Supermarket) until you have reached Penang Times Square on your left. Find a parking space along the road or within the allocated parking bay. Just walk into the mall and go to Level 1. The restaurant which is facing the main road of Jalan Dato Keramat is very prominently located either by mode of escalator or elevator.

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Name: HAVEN DELIGHTS
Address: 77-L1-34, Jalan Dato Kramat, 10150 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-210 8855, 210 8856, 016-492 1658 (Ms. Angie Ng)
Opening Hours: 10.30am-11.00pm
Buffet Hours: 10.30pm-11.00pm (2 hours duration per person)
GPS: 5.414701, 100.331871

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: 7.5/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 9/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)

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