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AFORDABLE JAPANESE CUISINE AT JAPIN RESTAURANT 1ST AVENUE PENANG

Posted by crizlai On January - 16 - 2013

For the last few years, more and more Japanese restaurants are popping up in Penang. Some of these restaurants are charging quite an exorbitant pricing for their cuisine and did not quite suit the budget of many locals. However, one restaurant with quite a few branches has always been receiving endless streams of loyal diners. The name is Japin Restaurant.

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We managed to pay a visit to one of the branches at 1st Avenue recently. This outlet’s kitchen is managed by Chef Wong Wai Ming.

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For ramen lovers, you would not regret ordering their signature Kakuni Japin Ramen (Stewed Pork in Rich Soup Noodles/滷肉絕品拉面 – RM16.80+). You can practically taste the thick flavors in the broth which had been carefully simmered for more than 72 hours. The noodles were served together with some succulent and tender pieces of pork belly meat, wood ear fungus, a runny Ajitama soft boiled egg plus some chopped spring onions and toasted sesame seeds as garnishes.

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Instead of the thick broth type of ramen, you can also try out their Kara Ramen (Spicy Soup with Noodle/香辣拉面 – RM13.80+) with has a light strength of soup with some kicks of spiciness. The noodles were served with some slices of specially prepared pork, some vegetables plus some chopped spring onions and toasted sesame seeds as garnishes. You can request for the spiciness to be adjusted based on your preference.

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There would also be some udon dishes available such as their recommended Kaisen Kimuchi Udon (Seafood & Kimchi Soup with Udon Noodle/海鮮泡菜烏冬面- RM20.30+). The soup base was almost similar to the Korean’s Haemultang (해물탕), a spicy hot seafood stew. It was like having a chili boasted rich bowl of seafood stock with a nice al dente bite from the udon noodles. The dish had some scallops, prawns and squids, wood ear fungus, kimchi with some chopped spring onions and toasted sesame seeds as garnishes.

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Somehow, I always like to order rice dishes such as the Tori Katsudon (Fried Chicken Chop & Egg with Rice/炸雞扒盖飯 – RM12.80+) as it’s more filling for me. Each bowl of sweet sauce boosted Japanese rice would be topped with a piece of chicken chop carefully folded in with some egg and onions. The dish here was not overly drenched in sweet sauce as those I had tasted before. This version had some nori (seaweed) as garnish.

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A set meal would never go wrong in any visit to a Japanese restaurant. I was impressed with the pricing for their Tori Teriyaki Tei (Teriyaki Chicken Set/蜜汁雞套餐 – RM17.80+). On top of the nicely prepared succulent piece of chicken, there was also the hot steaming rice, salad with their own special dressing, miso soup and a few fruit cuts. It was a value for money set deal.

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As for side orders, Gyoza (Fried Dumpling/日式餃子 – RM6.80+) was one dish that was simple and yet filled with a punch of goodness. There was a bit of crisp on the surface form a thin layer of batter used and the filling had that moisture just like when you have your Siu Long Bao. These dumplings would be best consumed when hot with a bit of the accompanied black vinegar. I won’t mind having some julienned young ginger added in the condiment as well.

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I was surprised that their Mikkusu Yakiniku (BBQ Sauce Fried Mixed Meat/日式醬燒 – RM13.80+) was categorized as part of their “Side Dishes”. It was a portion that might be even too much for a small diner. However, ever since my visit to Kannichikan (KNK) Yakiniku Restaurant not long ago, I’ve been longing for some nice meat. The mixed meat palate here was awesome with choices of beef, chicken and pork, in whatever combination suit you best.

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As for dessert, we had the Azuki-An-Nin (Almond Soup with Red Bean/甜豆杏仁 – RM6.80+). The named “soup” can be rather deceiving as what we had were some almond jelly cubes in mildly sweetened syrup topped with some sweetened red beans. No doubt it was simply refreshing for me, it might not be the type of dessert for those who detested the flavors of Chinese almonds. If you love it, this could be one of the nice desserts after a hefty meaty meal.

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Overall, Japin Restaurant does provide a substantial amount of good quality dishes that would please the appetite of major diners. On and off, they do also come out with impressive promotions that would be value for money.

Japin Restaurant is located at the basement of 1st Avenue, Penang. This outlet has been in operation since May 2012. To find the restaurant, just walk towards Kim Gary and you will see the restaurant just on the right side of the restaurant with quite a number of standing banners displayed outside the outlet.

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Name: JAPIN RESTAURANT @ 1ST AVENUE PENANG
Address: LG-10, 1st Avenue, 182 Jalan Magazine, 10300 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-261 5098
Business Hours: 11.00am-10.00pm
GPS: 5.413188, 100.331342

Branches:
Japin Queensbay
2F-147, Queensbay Mall, 100 Persiaran Bayan Indah, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-641 5098

Japin Desa Sri Hartamas
34, Ground Floor, Jalan 27/70A, Desa Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Contact: 603-2857 0212

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: 7.5/10 (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)

 

While visiting Penang, most tourists would look for some gifts to take home to share with their family members and friends. What gifts could those be since Penang has a vast variety of traditional and local products that would impress just anyone? Could they be some handicrafts, herbs & spices, pickled fruits, fermented seafood by products or confectioneries of many kinds? Why not Pineapple Cakes? Huh? Isn’t that the local product of Taiwan? Yup! You’re right but as in concept. However, the pineapple filling itself is 100% home grown in Nibong Tebal, Penang, carefully handpicked and processed under strict quality control right in the heart of George Town, Penang. Where else can you get these delicious pineapple cakes except from Gartien (小田佳園), located within a heritage house along Lorong Macalister, Penang.

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You may ask me why I chose Gartien’s Pineapple Cakes (RM38nett/box of 10 pcs) over other almost similar product on the market. Firstly, I support local products as the ingredients used were extremely fresh from the farm. Secondly, it was the texture of the pineapple filling that caught me by surprise. Instead of the normal blending the pineapple into puree form prior to cooking, brunoised pineapples (pineapple cubes) were used. The brunoised pineapples were then simmered with minimal amount of raw sugar and honey for 12 hours to produce a tasty, tangy and yet juicy pineapple jam that was perfect as filling. On the other hand, the slightly golden brown baked pastries had just the right amount of flour, pure butter, egg and milk powder to give them the perfect buttery and milky flavors, not forgetting its fluffiness. With a good combination of 3:2 on filling versus pastry, each bite was heavenly~ 🙂

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The handmade pineapple cakes, which do not contain any preservatives and artificial coloring, would be sealed in little internal laminated packages to maintain its freshness up to a month. I’m sure such delicious temptations would not even last more than 2 days in any household~ LOL!

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I also did some personal tests on the best beverages to complement these heavenly sweet treats by preparing a series of hot and cold beverages such as coffee, chocolate, water and various Chinese & English teas. Hot beverages were unanimously voted as the best, especially unsweetened teas with unique fragrance such as Oolong (烏龍茶), Jasmine (茉莉花茶), Ginseng Tie Guan Yin (人參鐵觀音) and sugarless Earl Grey with a slice of lemon. Pu Er (普洱茶) and Lok Pou (六寳茶) with chrysanthemum (菊花) were nice but the thick black tea somehow overpowered the natural sweetness from the pineapple cakes.

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Other than having the pineapple cakes as your breakfast, tea, supper or anytime in between when you need your boost of sweet temptations, when else can you purchase them? Of course, you can also purchase them during any festive season. Since the pineapple cakes would come in a nicely printed box in a beautifully designed paper bag, it would be ideal as gifts to your family members, relatives and friends. You can even serve them during auspicious occasions such as Chinese New Year or house warming parties as pineapples carry a deep meaning in the Penang Hokkien dialect – “Ong Lai”, meaning “Prosperity Comes”.

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Since pineapples also bring about a good gesture of great beginning (Hou Yi Tao) in the Cantonese community, the pineapple cakes would also be ideal to be served during weddings or as token of appreciation door gifts during wedding receptions. Who knows? A little package might even brighten up the face of a beneficiary with a sweet smile during any charitable event? The option is vast as per your imagination. You can practically serve these delightful sweet treats at anytime and anywhere throughout the year.

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Overall, I find the pineapple cake to be awesome, not only through its freshness and real pineapple texture but also due to its versatility to be served during any occasion. After all, pineapples are low in fat and cholesterol and contain calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, Vitamin B1, B6 & C and dietary fiber, which are rich in nutrients for the body.

Finding the bakery won’t be hard as it is situated right in the heart of George Town, Penang. If you are coming from KOMTAR along Jalan Penang into Jalan Burma, just keep to your left. Immediately when you see Hong Leong Bank, turn left into Lorong Macalister. Drive on for about another 200m and you would see the shop on your left right before Lorong Bertam. For those staying in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, you are in luck as Gartien has a few retailers located there. Just check out the address below. For those who yearn for the delicious pineapple cakes but not in Penang, there’s always the postal order link. Shipping fee is RM8/box within Malaysia. The shipping fee may vary depending on the quantity ordered as stated in the checkout form.

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HEADQUARTER & FACTORY:
Name: GARTIEN @ 小田佳園
Address: 68, Lorong Macalister, 10400 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-229 0068
Website: www.gartien.com
Email: info@gartien.com
FaceBook: www.fb.gartien.com/
Business Hours: 10.00am-5.00pm (weekdays), 9.00am-6.00pm (weekends)
GPS: 5.416195, 100.328433

ALSO AVAILABLE IN MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA:
• DRAGON BOAT PALACE (龍坊酒家)
149 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC 3175, Australia.
• STRAITS KITCHEN
Pinewood Shopping Centre (Centreway), Mount Waverley VIC 3149, Australia.
• LAGUNA QV
QV Retail 221 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC 30000, Australia.
• WING CHEONG CHINATOWN (WING CHEONG TRADING & CO)
14-22 Heffernan Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia.

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

 

It looked like Penang has its personal halal street burger challenges amongst the burger stalls surrounding the island as more and more stalls are coming out with more innovative ways to promote their burgers. Initially, it was the “Ramly Burger” style where the owners tried to outdo each other by increasing the factory made patties until double burger special with added eggs, cheese, etc, such as the one at Old Trafford, Lebuh Chulia, Penang. Then, it was a matter of adding in more extras such as potatoes as at Post Burger, Jalan Gelugor, Penang. As it got harder to tower up the burgers, the diameter of the bun has increased tremendously until 8”-10” such as at Zul’s Burger, Sungai Nibong, Penang. As more and more people got to watch Asian Food Channel through the Astro channel, the burger cooking methods has changed to grilling over cooking grids. One such method of cooking was the sloppy burger style with homemade beef patties and grilled chicken at Hero Burger Bakar, Astaka Stadium Bandaraya, Jalan Perak, Penang. The latest opening of yet another stall with grilling style is the Street Grill – Burger Bakar Penang, Lebuh Sungai Pinang 1 (beside Ocean View Apartment), Sungai Pinang, Penang.

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The differences between Street Grill and Hero Burger Bakar, lies in an additional supply of mutton patties. Street Grill would serve you with boneless chicken thighs, homemade beef and mutton patties, all marinated with their secret recipes. All the meat would be grilled on their custom-made cooking grids. The other difference was that each meat piece would have a special BBQ sauce brushed on to maintain the moist and served with your choice of dressing such as their homemade black pepper sauce, thousand island sauce or mushroom sauce, on top of the normal dressing of chili sauce, tomato sauce and mayonnaise. Only chopped up iceberg lettuce and slices tomatoes were provided as some of the sauces had some chopped onions added in. The buns were also grilled with a little crisp.

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We were first served with the Grilled Chicken with Cheese (RM5.50nett), topped with Black Pepper Sauce. The grilled boneless chicken was indeed flavorful with the nicely sealed in marinates. However, the evenly balanced bite was not there. Somehow, the meat shrunk quite a lot after grilling. Thus, it looked as though the bun was bigger than the grilled meat. Alternatively, they can seek smaller buns or spread cut the meat to ensure a balance bite size in ratio to the bun. On the other hand, the black pepper sauce was rather spicy and the onions were a bit too chunky to stay within the bun. They should have finely chopped the onions further and evenly break them apart to ensure they stay in the bun with each mouthful. The chopped iceberg lettuces were also falling apart due to the lack of sauce to hold them together. Maybe they could just serve each burger with one whole leaf? They would have to look into the stacking steps to ensure the perfect bite.

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The next was the Grilled Beef Patty Burger (RM4.50nett). The grilled beef patty had chunky bite and obviously with less veins in it. It had the necessary marinates to subtle up the beefy flavors. This burger came with their homemade thousand island sauce. Personally, I felt that it would go better with black pepper sauce. I also find the patty to be rather fibrous and lack of moist. I wonder if it would be wise to ask for a medium rare version during my next visit? 😛

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The Grilled Mutton Patty Burger (RM6.00nett) was actually our target as you would hardly find this burger in the menu of most stalls. Indeed it was the best pick of the night as the meat was more tender and flavorful with the right amount of marinates. It was undeniable the best choice of meat for the burgers served here.

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There also do serve half kilograms homemade meat patties (beef: RM15.00nett, mutton: RM25.00nett). One day advance booking would be required. Obviously, we opted for the 1/2kg Grilled Mutton Patty Burger (RM25.00nett) since it was rather rare. The burger would come with an 8” custom-made bun. Taste wise, the mutton patty was perfect except for a little hiccup in the utilized bun. The 8” diameter 500gms mutton patty eventually shrunk to almost 5.5” in diameter after grilling. Thus, the ratio of the patty versus the bun was 1:2, resulting in a double amount of bread compared to the provided patty. The management was aware of this issue and would rectify it with their vendor for a custom-made 6” bun after the Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. It would be a good move too as I also found the bun texture to be drier compared to the rest of the buns.

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Just look at the juiciness of the mutton patty below. Isn’t it delicious? However, let’s hope that they rectify the size and texture of the bun soon.

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It has been said that interesting food would always get the attention first rather than the hungry tummies~ LOL! Regardless of gender, there would always be the camwhoring session amongst the guys and ladies~ 😛

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Overall, the taste for the burgers here can be quite good, especially the mutton burger. However, there were no proper sitting places for savoring the burgers straight from the grill. Even if there were stools provided, there were no sales of any beverages to quench the thirst. It would be advisable to bring along some personal drinks if you planned to dine there. The other suggestion I have would be on the availability of egg usages. With the current setup of only cooking grids, there was no way they could have cooked any egg to go with the burgers. I kind of like the one served at Hero Burger Bakar as the given runny egg was a great complement to moist up the overall bite.

If you know where the new Sungai Pinang coastal area is or where the Sungai Pinang “Si Ki Tiang aka 4 tall blue pillars” is, you won’t get lost. LOL! If you are coming from the Penang Bridge coastal highway via Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu Expressway, you would drive pass eGate/Tesco. Drive on ahead. Go over the first flyover. As you are about to reach the second flyover when you see Shell petrol kiosk on the opposite direction, keep to your left and follow the sign towards Sungai Pinang. At the traffic lights (Sg. Pinang Food Court at the left corner), turn right into Lebuh Sungai Pinang 1. Move on until the next traffic lights and turn left. You would see the roadside van stall with a standing banner stating Street Grill just 100m away on your left before the Ocean View Apartment entrance.

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Name: STREET GRILL – BURGER BAKAR PENANG
Address: Lebuh Sungai Pinang 1 (in front of Ocean View Apartment), 10500 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 012-571 1050 (En. Abu Hasan Abdul Rahman)/012-465 9066 (En. Zain)
Business Hours: 7.00pm-1.00am (Closed Sunday)
GPS: 5.398042, 100.327887

FB: https://www.facebook.com/streetgrillburger

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

 

George Town, Penang is truly a food paradise when it comes to having multiple choices of cuisine to suit the palate of locals as well as tourists. The wide exposure to channels such as the Asian Food Channel has brought about a huge change in the cooking methods of street food vendors. More and more of them are investing hugely on proper kitchen equipments by the thousands to serve diners with the best ever cooking solutions for the best taste. One such person is Encik Mohd Hilmey Ibrahim, an entrepreneur with a long history of burger making. He’s the brainchild behind the barely few weeks old Hero Burger Bakar, located within the Astaka Stadium Bandaraya premises along Jalan Perak, Penang.

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So what’s the difference between Encik Hilmey’s burger compared to the rest? Obviously, it’s his homemade beef patties and specially marinated boneless chicken drumsticks, all with his secret recipes. Secondly, it’s his method of cooking. The beef patties are BBQ grilled on cooking grids over high heated lava stones while his meaty chicken fillets are skillet grilled. Thirdly, it’s a sloppy burger where you would have dressings such as black pepper sauce, cheesy sauce, chili sauce and mayonnaise splattered all over the juicy grilled meats for all orders. Lastly, it’s the egg… runny egg with the semi cooked yellow yolk oozing out to provide that extra creamy richness on your burger.

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Most of the diners here would opt for a combination of beef and chicken. Do try out their Double Trouble (RM14.50nett). The set would come with the usual burger bun laced with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, capsicum and onions topped with one BBQ grilled beef patty, one grilled chicken, 2 pieces of cheese and 2 semi cooked eggs. Of course, the black pepper sauce, cheesy sauce, chili sauce and mayonnaise would be on each burger ordered. Alternatively, you can also custom make this set with less one egg and one cheese for RM12.50nett.

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For non beef eater, there’s always the Duo Boneless Chicken Special (RM14.00nett). This set would have two pieces of grilled chicken, topped with a piece of cheese and a semi cooked egg. This order would also have the standard 4 dressings.

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For a lighter meal, you can have the Solo Boneless Chicken Burger (RM7.00nett) with the standard 4 dressings.

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Alternatively, you can have the Solo Boneless Chicken Burger Special with Cheese & Egg (RM9.00nett) with the standard 4 dressings.

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For those who love to have only the lighter version of their delicious herb packed beef patty, you can opt for their Solo Beef Patty Burger with Cheese (RM7.50nett) with the standard 4 dressings.

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You can also try out their Solo Beef Patty Burger Special with Cheese & Egg (RM8.50nett) with the standard 4 dressings.

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Here’s a quick reference with what they have in their menu and the pricing you would be expecting. Please click to view a larger size.

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The taste for the burgers here was quite good to my liking, although I usually do not quite like my dish to be overdressed and sloppy. The balance of the dressings was quite good, having the nice combination of black pepper sauce, cheesy sauce, chili sauce and mayonnaise. The only few things lacking are the choice of serving dish and food presentation. Styrofoam plates are not the in-trend for a “Going Green” Penang’s choice even though it would cut down on washing time. If other choices of firmer serving dishes were to be utilized, then a better food presentation would surely boost up the interest of diners. It could just some fresh green salad or even some fries as side dishes. The beef patty (~170gms each) was superb as it has all the beefy flavors and chunky bites with the necessary herbs and seasonings. The meaty and juicy boneless chicken (~200gms each) was also flavorful but only on the surface. If only they could pierce some holes onto the meat with a multi-spike ice picker, the meat would be able to seep in more flavors from their secret marinates. Overall, their “Burger Bakar” would be quite ideal for those who love to have their burgers in a sloppy wet way.

If you know where the City Stadium is, it won’t be hard to locate the food court as it’s just next to the Shell petrol kiosk along Jalan Perak. If you are not sure, let me lead you there. If you are coming from Jalan Dato Keramat via KOMTAR, when you see Padang Brown, keep to your left. At the traffic lights (Jalan Dato Keramat/Jalan Perak), turn left into Jalan Perak and keep to your right. Drive on about 100m and you would see a Shell petrol kiosk on your right. Turn right into the lane (Lilitan Stadium) after the kiosk. Find your parking space within the vicinity of the food court located just next to the petrol kiosk.

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Name: HERO BURGER BAKAR
Address: Astaka Stadium Bandaraya, Jalan Perak, 10150 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 011-2642 0334 (En. Mohd Hilmey Ibrahim)
Business Hours: 6.00pm-12.00am (Closed Tuesday)
GPS: 5.411073, 100.315807

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

 

APPETIZING SPREADS AT SAKAE SUSHI @ 1ST AVENUE PENANG

Posted by crizlai On June - 13 - 2012

The name Sakae Sushi is already well known throughout the Asian region since its establishment in Singapore in 1997. Today it had expanded to more than 70 branches in Malaysia (Penang, Perak, Selangor & Kuala Lumpur), Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam to as far as China. The menu is ever changing with special theme promotion monthly such as the Anago Promotion for the month of June 2012. Economically priced compared to most of the Japanese restaurants around, it catered to the demands and budgets of locals and tourists alike real well. On top of being the first Japanese restaurant to enrich its sushi rice with Vitamin E, it also flew in fresh supplies of Omega-3 rich Norwegian salmons to ensure the satisfactions of every Japanese food enthusiasts. There are many choices of items available just for anyone, ranging from their Sakae’s Signature Sushi & Sashimi, Appetizers, Tempura, Rice, Udon and Soba to simple yet impressive kids’ meals.

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We started off with a large bowl of Kaisen Salad (海鮮沙拉 – RM16.90++). The tantalizing salad was large enough for the consumptions of 2 persons. It came with refreshing selections of coral green and red lettuces, seaweed, cabbages, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, topped with fresh prawns, tuna flakes, snow crab leg meat, ebiko and dressed with their specially concocted goma dressing. What excelled here was the goma dressing. It had that earthly yet peanut nutty flavor with sesame oil, salad oil, soy sauce, sugar and rice vinegar and mayonnaise being added. It was so appetizing that we had to ask for more dressing to coat every part of the vegetables. Thumbs up!

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Well, one of my favorite at most Japanese restaurants would be the Chuka Idako (凉拌小八爪魚 – RM7.99++), a marinated boiled baby octopus flavored with mirin, teriyaki, miso, brown sugar, sesame oil, red food coloring with a mix of toasted sesame seeds. The portion served here came with 4 flavorful baby octopuses with a high hint of sesame oil just to my liking.

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Their Sakae Chawanmushi (榮茶碗蒸 – RM3.99++) was also nice as it had that thick high stock flavors. The dish had chicken, crabstick, ginkgo nut and shitake mushroom slices in the steamed egg and garnished with some vegetarian shark’s fin and fresh shimeji mushrooms.

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We were introduced to some of the innovative sushi creations and one of them was the Inari Avocado Ebi (稻禾酪梨蝦 – RM7.99++). It basically came with a sweet bean curd skin filled with some sushi rice and topped with some cuts from a whole prawn mixed with avocado and salad dressing plus a battered coated prawn head. The crispy prawn head can be eaten but do watch out for the spike on the head. The creaminess of the avocado blended in well for this combination.

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The next sushi which was the Sakae Blossom (榮之花 – RM9.99++) not only impressed us with its intricate design but also on its taste. The maki had cucumber and finely cubed crabstick in mayonnaise wrapped in nori (dry seaweed sheet) and sushi rice, rolled with some ebiko (shrimp roe) and topped with a flower shaped mildly grilled salmon, some mayonnaise and a petal of parsley. The whole combination was so smooth flowing in the mouth. 🙂

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Next on the list was the Soft Shell Crab Maki (辣味軟殼蟹卷 – RM5.99++). The maki had cucumber and battered deep fried soft shell crab wrapped in nori (dry seaweed sheet) and sushi rice, capped with sweet bean curd skin and dressed with some spicy mayonnaise. It was not bad but I wished the soft shell crab was a bit crispier.

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Another new introduction was the Ebi Crepe (黃金蝦卷 – RM5.99++). This was a totally out of the norm way of making sushi without nori and/or sushi rice. It had some lettuce, egg mayonnaise with slight butter peppery taste and prawn wrapped in a thin layered crepe. It was nice but too Westernized for a sushi.

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The next sushi which was the Hana Maki (鮭魚花卷 – RM9.99++) was also one of our favorites. It had a little sushi rice ball wrapped with a slice of fresh and appetizing salmon fillet, topped with some mayonnaise, garnished with some ebiko and a petal of parsley. It was heavenly smooth to the bite.

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For scallop lovers, there would be the Hotate Mentaiyaki (香烤明太子扇貝 – RM20.90) to savor. It had 4 half shell scallops topped with a combination of cod fish roes (mentaiko/明太子) extracts, mayonnaise and mozzarella cheese and grilled to perfection. With a mild squeeze of lemon juice, it was rather appetizing.

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On top of those sushi choices, we were served with Kaisen Pirikara Nabe (海鮮泡菜湯 – RM24.90++), an appetizing hot pot with prawns, scallops, squids, salmon, shitake & enoki mushrooms, tofu, onions, cabbages, leeks, carrots, spinach, kimchi (fermented vegetables of specific kind) and glass noodles. Although the soup had a rather red color, it was rather mild on the spiciness unlike those kimchi soup you would get from a Korean restaurant. It would be great if the restaurant have options for the level of spiciness. Moreover, it lacked some shoyu to pep up the salty flavor for the right balance. Overall, it was still an acceptable bowl of soup, considering that the seafood added were extremely fresh.

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We also tasted out their Curry Udon (日式咖哩雞烏冬麵 – RM12.90++). This bowl had quite a large portion of wheat noodles (udon) topped with a mild curry flavored potato stew like gravy. It has a generous amount of chicken meat, some fish cake slices, cubed potatoes and carrots. Personally, I would prefer to have chunks of chicken drumstick meat for the curry rather than chicken breast meat slices as they were rather bland to my liking.

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For those who yearn for some rice, there would always be the bento meals such as the Ebi Ten Jyu (海老天婦羅飯 – RM15.90++). The dish would be served with an onion omelette with sauce on steamed Japanese rice and topped with 3 tempura prawns. I personally found the tempura batter on the prawns to be a bit too thick to my liking, unlike those nice ones I had eaten at Miraku Japanese Restaurant, G Hotel, Penang. Moreover, I had to request for some tempura sauce since it was not provided for this set. At least, the sauce did pep up more flavors for my rice.

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Alternatively, there was also the Haru (春 – RM24.90++) which had salmon and chicken teriyaki served with plain steamed Japanese rice, chawanmushi and miso soup. The finely grilled salmon fillet with a salty sweet taste and the flavorful tender chicken pieces with a slightly sweeter teriyaki flavor went well with the rice. Even the chawanmushi and miso soup were up to their standards.

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Another new introduction was the Kids’ Sushi Meal – Little Sushi Home (RM3.99++). It was a very creative sushi. The triangular sushi which had cucumber and crabstick stuffed nori and sushi rice, rolled in finely chopped parsley, came with a halved breadcrumbs battered scallop topped with some mayonnaise and a petal of parsley. From the side, it really looked like a house. Flavor wise, it was normal.

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We ended up the meal with a selection of 4 flavors of ice cream, namely Dragon Fruit Ice Cream (RM5.90++/scoop), Passion Fruit Ice Cream (RM6.90++/scoop), Goma Ice Cream (RM6.90++/scoop) and Matcha Ice Cream (RM5.90++/scoop). The Goma Ice Cream had the highest vote for being the best amongst the 4 flavors but I personally preferred the more sourness Passion Fruit Ice Cream as it was a great digestion remedy after such a heavy meal.

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Those who would love ice cream more than just a scoop would surely like the Matcha Parfait (RM13.90++). The parfait would also be available in other flavors such as strawberry and chocolate. The 6-layered parfait had corn flakes as the base, followed with sweet red bean, matcha ice cream, corn flakes, whipped cream and matcha ice cream, garnished with some sweetened red bean, whipped cream, strawberry and a wafer. Price wise, it was more economical than having just one scoop of matcha ice cream at RM5.90++ per scoop.

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Overall, those new dishes introduced were better than those common ones I have tasted during many visits. The pricing were also quite economical for diners. Some dishes as mentioned above truly needed that little touch to pep up the flavors further. I hope that more creations would be available soon for those Japanese food enthusiasts. Lastly, I would like to thank Foodsion for giving us the opportunity to try out these new dishes.

There are many branches of Sakae Sushi in Penang but the one we went to was located at 1st Avenue, Penang. Just find your way to the mall, go to Level 4 and you can find the outlet just opposite Carrefour. Alternatively, you can visit the surrounding Penang outlets as stated below or based on the other outstation outlets as shown in their website.

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Name: SAKAE SUSHI @ 1ST AVENUE
Address:
Lot 4-16, Level 4, 1st Avenue Mall Penang,
182 Jalan Magazine, 10300 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-261 2218
Website: http://www.sakaesushi.com.my/
Business Hours: 11.30am-10.00pm (Mon-Fri), 11.00am-10.00pm (Sat & Sun)
GPS: 5.413391, 100.331202

Surrounding Penang Outlets:

Sunway Carnival Mall
UG-28, Upper Ground Floor, Sunway Carnival Mall,
3068 Jalan Todak Pusat Bandar Seberang Jaya,
13700 Seberang Jaya, Penang.
Tel : 604-380 3368
Gurney Plaza
170-03-87/88/89, Plaza Gurney,
Persiaran Gurney, 10250 Penang.
Tel: 04-229 5930
Queensbay Mall
2F-49 Queensbay Mall, 100 Persiaran Bayan Indah,
11900 Bayan Lepas, Penang.
Tel: 604-643 0015
Tesco Tanjung Pinang
Lot G4, Tesco Tanjung Pinang, No.1, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang,
Tanjung Tokong, 10470 Penang.
Tel : 04-899 0063
1st Avenue Mall
4-16, Level4, 1st Avenue Mall
No.182, Jalan Magazine
10300 Penang
Tel : 604-261 2218
Auto City
1815-B Jalan Perusahaan, Auto-City,
North-South Highway Juru Interchange,
13600 Prai, Penang.
Tel : 604-508 0268

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

 

Within the heritage area of George Town, along Lorong Stewart, Penang, lies 55 Café & Restaurant @ Coffee Atelier, a brand name that had been established amongst the locals and expatriates for its delicious Mediterranean dishes and aromatic coffee brews. The café has now extended its operation hours to 10.00pm on Thursday to Saturday, serving basically all tapas (40+ types) which would include items ranging from scallops, prawns, squids, salmons, vongole, other seafood, chicken, beef, pork, cheese, Spanish omelette, potatoes, vegetables, pickles and bread.

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We started the meal with some Cocktail Pickles (RM8+) or commonly known in Spain as Banderillas. These easy tapas basically consisted of ready pickles in a jar or homemade pickles, all skewed on a toothpick. The trick is to make them as colorful as possible with flavors that complement each other to excite your pallet. The ones served here had cocktail onions, pickled Jalapeno red pepper, stuffed Manzanilla olives, homemade sundried tomato and pickled gherkins.

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The Garlic Bread (RM6+ for 2 slices) served here was perfect. The kitchen managed to get the slices to maintain the crispiness on the outer layer while maintaining the softness inside. These were served with some fresh rocket lettuce, cherry tomatoes and roasted garlic.

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One of my favorite tapas here has always been the Gambas el Pene (RM18+). It has a marinated large prawn, sprinkled with some paprika and chives, folded in between a thin slice of baguette and baked until perfection. The dish was beautifully prepared but not as moist and fragrant as my homemade ones. Well, I was using virgin coconut oil instead of olive oil for the extra fragrance with lots of chopped garlic.

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The Grilled Stuffed Squid Tube (RM16+) was awesome. It had a combination of diced prawns, tomatoes, chopped black olives, onions, chives, bread with a light sprinkles of spices as stuffing. It went well with some baguettes.

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We had two versions of sauces for the grilled salmon. The first one was the Grilled Salmon with Teriyaki Sauce (RM20+). The flavors from the sauce combined with the freshness of the salmon would make this dish a great tapas dish.

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Compared to the former dish, the Grilled Salmon with Cucumber Dips (RM20+) was real refreshing and it came with some rich flavored sautéed Shitake mushrooms. However, I personally felt that it would be a better main dish than served as tapas.

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If you are a fan of all species of clams, you will surely fall in love with the next dish which was the Vongole in White Wine Sauce (RM18+). Apart from the freshly selected clams, the sauce was heaven! It had the flavors of some virgin olive oil, chives, white wine, black pepper, salt, garlic and more. I was happily dipping in my baguette to clean up the bowl~ LOL! 😛 We had a bonus that day as some seasonal mini crabs were added in for that extra flavor as well as crunch.

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We also had two types of sauces served with our pan-grilled beef tenderloin. The first was the Beef Tenderloin with Roasting Jus (RM28+). The beef was done medium rare, just right for that wonderful bite. The roasting jus was tasty as you can taste the tedious task of reducing the beef stock to a thick consistency almost like the Bovril. The flavorful extract with a slight saltiness went well with the baguettes. This meat was served with some mashed kumara with some sprinkles of olive powder.

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The next dish which was the Beef Tenderloin with Bearnaise Sauce (RM28+) was served exactly the same way but with Bearnaise sauce replacing the roasting jus. The traditionally used light yellow, opaque, smooth and creamy sauce for steak, had a mild herbs and spices eggy after taste, most probably with the added in chervil, terragon, shallots, coarsely crushed peppercorns with egg yolk and butter. No doubt it was nice but my preference would go to the lovely roasting jus.

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The Albondigas (RM16+) or commonly known as pork meatballs in gravy was something nice to go with your baguettes. The marinated minced pork with some herbs and seasoning went well with the tomato puree like gravy. It would be great if more breadcrumbs, onions or even other tenderizer be added in to soften the meat a bit more.

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The next dish was the Spanish Omelette with Mushroom & Thyme (RM12+). It was just a somewhat stuffed omelette with a slight Tabasco sauce flavor topped with some deep fried potatoes.

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For those who love to have vegetable tapas, you can try out their Leek Fondue (RM10+). It was just a creamy spread for your baguette.

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As it was rather filling with all the food, we still managed to try out their Creme Brulee (RM13+). Their version has a thin layer of burnt sugar. It went well with their homemade berries compote.

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Overall, the food served here has its own unique flavors with a slight touch of fusion and can be well accepted by the locals as well as foreigners. Please also note that there would be a 10% service charge applicable for all purchases.

If you are driving along Lebuh Farquhar into Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling, keep a watch out for the Goddess of Mercy Temple on your right. Immediately after the temple, turn right in Lorong Stewart and make a zig zag turn and you will see the café on your left at the junction of Lorong Stewart/Lorong Chulia. Parking can be quite limited during peak hours. I would advise you to find whatever parking space you can and walk to the café.

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Name: 55 CAFÉ & RESTAURANT @ COFFEE ATELIER
Address: 47-55, Lorong Stewart, 10300 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-261 2261, 016-469 8228 (Lorina Gehrig), 016-464 8118 (Stefan Gehrig)
Business Hours: 8.30am-10.00pm daily
GPS: 5.419143, 100.337772

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

 

I’m sure most of you would have heard of Tao Authentic Asian Cuisine (Juru Auto-City, E-Gate & KL Kota Damansara), an upscale restaurant that serves All-You-Can-Eat buffet with specialties ranging from Japanese, Chinese, Thailand and other foreign or ethnic food. You should be happy now to hear that they have a different concept outlet by the name of Yea Japanese BBQ & Shabu Shabu, officially opening for business on 30 November 2011 at Penang Times Square, George Town, Penang. This new All-You-Can-Eat outlet can accommodate up to 300+ pax with many cubicles for private gatherings. Charges would be RM53++ per pax (Adult), RM26.50++ (Child from 90cm to 140cm in height). Currently, they have a promotion where a second person would get a 50% off the bill from 10.00pm onwards. The promotion will be on until further notice.

Important Note: Each table would only be allocated only 2.5 hours of buffet session. There will be certain days that they will fix the buffet session time, especially during weekends and public holidays. It’s advisable to call up to make your reservation as well as to check on the session timing.

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What’s so unique about this outlet compared to others will be the usage of a custom made crystal stone grill on charcoal instead of gas stove on individual table. This is a first indeed in Malaysia! With Korean technology, this crystal stone can withstand and store heat up to a few hundred °C (normally around 450 °C / 842 °F). At least this material is more hygienic and bacteria free compared to lava/black stone which would have cracks after a long period of usage. Cooking with such stone grill can be considered a healthier alternative as it would not have oil or fat added in if compared to other grilling methods such as the metal grills. They have over 70 pieces of such innovative crystal stone grills in the restaurant.

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So what’s so special about dining here? Well, it’s a fun and adventurous way to create your own food with the different sauces available on each table. You would have many ingredients to test out such their special slightly sweetened soy sauce, pepper & salt, cheese powder (with a mixture of milk & icing sugar), lemon juice, black pepper, wasabi powder (great with seafood items) and Japanese 7 taste chili powder (Shichimi Togarashi – chili flakes, white sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, dried orange peels, seaweed (nori), dried ginger and poppy seeds). There was also a bottle of water for you to wash your grilling stone.

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If you are not so familiar on how to cook your BBQ items well with the right marinates, I’ll advise you to take some time to view the documentary on “how to” on the TV. Here’s a short clips on how to cook some of the items as shown on their TV.

All the BBQ and Shabu Shabu items can be obtained from the respective areas. As for Shabu Shabu, there are over 30 types of vegetables and meat/fish ball section for you to choose. Some of the items included different types of meat balls and fish balls, cuttlefish, quail eggs, crab sticks (kanikama), bean curd sticks, artificial abalones (processed calamari slices), Taiwanese sausages, clams, different type of pork innards, romaine lettuce, bean sprouts, cabbages, enoki mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, abalone mushrooms, lotus roots (need a longer cooking time as it was rather hard), crown daisy chrysanthemum leaves (tang oh/ 茼蒿) and many more.

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As for the BBQ items, the meat and seafood are kept in designated refrigerator to maintain their freshness. Some of the items included saba (mackerel/鯖魚), ayu (sweetfish/香魚), snapper (鯛魚), shishamo (willow-leaf fish/柳葉魚), salmon (鮭魚), shrimps (in fact they are big green shelled prawns), oden (fish cake quite similar to onion omelette with basils but with a more al dente texture), baby octopus, pork intestines, garlic scallops, garlic oysters, fried bean curd, beef brisket, sticky pork, lean pork slices, lamb shoulder slices and many more. They will never be shortage of any meat slices as the staff would always be there to slice more.

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As for Shabu Shabu, you have an option to choose ONLY ONE SOUP from 5 types of available soups, namely shabu shabu (昆布柴魚湯), miso soup (味噌湯), malak soup (麻辣湯), tomyam soup (東炎湯) and salted vegetable duck soup (咸菜老鴨湯). Since we had so many people in our group, we managed to try out some of the options. The shabu shabu soup base which actually consisted of kelp or large seaweed boiled with fish bones. It had that clear non-fishy taste with a gelatin-like after taste. It was mild but suitable for more seafood based items. The miso soup base had that mild fermented bean taste but was on a sweeter side. This soup would be quite good with those bean curds and meat items. The salted vegetable duck soup base had more of the salted vegetable flavors minus the overpowering ducky taste. It was great initially with some bean curds and meat items. As you boil the soup longer, it got saltier and thus with slightly bitter after taste (salt reduction reaction, same as for sour based liquids). I won’t recommend this soup base as you would end up becoming thirstier.

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As for dipping sauces, they do provide more than 10 options such as the sachai sauce (a type of Hypnea seagrass sauce/沙菜醬), chili bean curd sauce (豆乳醬), miso sauce (白味噌醬), chili bean sauce (辣豆瓣醬), spicy soy sauce (魚烧辣醬), cumin sauce (孜然醬), seafood chili spicy sauce (海鮮酸辣醬), spring onions, garlic, chili paddy and more. Although the sachai sauce was highly recommended, I preferred the miso sauce more as it had that slight salty sweet flavor that went well with my food. It would be great if the restaurant would also provide some sweet sauce (甜醬) and spicy dried shrimp sauce (蝦米辣醬) just like those served with the Hong Kong Style Chee Cheong Fun as both sauce would be great condiments to BBQ and steamboat items.

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You do not have to worry not having something to bite on while waiting for either your stone grill to heat up or your shabu shabu pot to boil as the restaurant would also provide some salad, cold and hot dishes to start on. At the salad station, you can always mix and match whatever vegetables you like and top them up with whatever dressings available on that day. They have orange dressing, thousand islands dressing and wafu dressing (commonly known as Japanese vinaigrette which had some twists of apple cider, soy sauce, sesame oil and seeds, lime juice, sugar, vegetable oil and some grated radish). All the dressings were nice for my plate of salad.

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The cold dishes included some Japanese style potato salad with Japanese cucumber and carrot, silky smooth tofu in sweet soy sauce, some pork salads, honey fried shrimps, pickles and so on.

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The hot dishes station was awesome. It had dishes that were flavorful with the evidence of high usage of quality ingredients. The dishes served on that day included Mambo Fish with XO Sauce (XO醬炒龍肉), Black Pepper Beef Fillet (黑胡椒牛柳), Sweet & Sour Pork (糖醋里肌) and many more dishes which I could not savor any more due to too much food available. LOL!

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By the way, you could also try out their Bibimbap, a Korean Stone Bowl Rice. Just get any of the waiters or waitresses to bring you one. The dish would come with steamed Japanese rice in a super hot stone bowl, topped with some cut omelettes, carrots, cucumber, morning glory, mushroom, kimchi and chicken, to be mixed thoroughly with a special sauce. The whole concoction tasted quite similar to our local sotong kangkung (cuttlefish with morning glory). It had that sweet sauce taste with a hint of sesame oil. Unfortunately, the stone bowl was not hot enough and the rice was a bit too wet. Thus, we did not get that fragrant flavors emitted from some burns through the stone bowl.

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As for dessert, they have quite a variety of items ranging from Western cakes, tarts, jelly, Japanese style mocha to fresh fruits and ice creams, not forgetting the Chinese/Nyonya style tong sui such as peanut soup, red bean soup, bu bu cha cha, etc. Do not miss out the Japanese green tea (mocha) mochi with lotus filling. They were awesome! You could check out on their chocolate fountain too.

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Beverage wise, you can order anything from carbonated drinks, cordial, coffee and tea. Most of the beverages are refillable.

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Beers and sake are charged separately. As for sake, it’s only RM10 nett for a 150ml jar or RM130 nett for a 1.8L bottle. Beers are at RM50 nett for a bucket of 5 bottles.

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Here are some of the items we had taken during our visit during the pre-opening day. Don’t you think it’s valued for money at RM48++? The quality is just as good as Sarkies Sunday Buffet Hi-Tea at E&O Hotel, George Town, Penang.

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The café is located at the right wing of Penang Times Square right under Sunshine City Supermarket. It consists of two floors – ground floor and mezzanine floor. The easiest way to reach there would be to park your vehicle at the open car park at the entrance of Penang Times Square, and walk all the way through the automated glass door next to Swensen’s. Walk straight until the end of another automated glass door. As you exit the automated door, you would see a wooden door on your right. It’s actually another automated door to go into the restaurant.

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Name: YEA JAPANESE BBQ & SHABU SHABU @ PENANG TIMES SQUARE
Address: Ground Floor, Penang Times Square, Jalan Dato Keramat, 10150 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-229 7826
Business Hours:
6.00pm – 1.00am (Monday – Thursday)
12.00pm – 1.00am (Friday – Sunday & Public Holidays)
GPS: 5.411728, 100.324879

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

 

Another new heritage building has popped up in Penang within the buffer zone of the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site. The place has been named Nostalgie, a French word for nostalgia. It sure got me nostalgically yearning to be stuck in the days of my ancestors where life has been much simpler and uncomplicated as today. Nostalgie has been refurbished with cool heritage settings while maintaining its colonial days architectural structures. The place has a comfortable ambience with some genuine Nyonya style structures, a mini garden and some state-of-the-art decors, to give you the feel of the good old days with a touch of the modern lifestyle. If you are an antique lover, you would surely chance upon some skillfully crafted structures with embedded ancient iridescent nacre or also known as the “Mother of Pearl”. The nacre consists of blends of minerals that are secreted by oysters and other mollusks and deposited inside their shells, coating and protecting their bodies from parasites and foreign objects. It has the same compounds as in pearls and you would experience the optical phenomenon of hues changes as you view them from different angles, thus giving you the iridescence effect.

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Nostalgie is still quite new in this business with its operation started just a few weeks’ ago. It’s a family run café cum hotel business, managed and operated by siblings, Jean Lee and Jason Lee. Currently, they have started their café while waiting for their rooms to be fully furnished. The rooms would probably be available in December 2011. As for the café, they do serve some delicious and homemade pastas, pizzas, sandwiches and dessert. All the items are freshly made daily without the usage of any preservatives. The menu has a rather limited selection at the moment as they have plans to expand it in due course when the place is officially opened for business. Nevertheless, the chef had the passion to pep up dishes that would woo any diners.

We started the meal with their Spaghetti Marinara with Prawns (RM24). This dish came with two super king sized pan-fried prawns freshly obtained from the nearest fisherman’s wharf. The marinara sauce was thick and flavorful with a light touch of saltiness from the accompanied grated parmesan cheese. The pasta had just the right al dente and each mouthful had all the taste of freshness from the tomatoes, onions and chopped basils used. It was a heavenly dish although it needed a bit more of extra virgin olive oil for that extra moisture. With prawns being used, it would be great too if the chef would have added in some dashes of white wine and chopped parsley or oregano to pep up the herby taste even more. By the way, you could request for additional parmesan cheese to tempt your cheesy taste bud.

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Another of their signature pasta would be their Chicken and Basil Pesto Fettuccine (RM21). This dish would also come served with linguine upon availability. The dish was awesome. The chef did a great job in preparing the sauce that complemented well with the pasta. The sauce had that nutty flavor from what I presumed was blended walnuts as it was much drier and less oily than that of pine nuts, with stronger hints from the sweetness of basil leaves and garlic. It also had a much lighter hint of crushed black peppers in which I would prefer them to be a bit stronger. The pasta came with some slightly sautéed cherry tomatoes, a skillfully pan-fried chicken breast meat and garnished with a mixture of pesto, red chilies and Kalamata black olives. The chicken breast meat was much juicier than I anticipated. A job well done! Alternatively, instead of Parmesan cheese being used in the pesto, Romano cheese would also be great for that extra cheesy and creamy flavor.

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If you are a pizza lover, you would love the next dish. It’s their Prawn & Chilies Pizza (RM30). The pizza came with their homemade thin base, spread with their moist tomato sauce, topped with fresh prawns, onions, mozzarella cheese, chopped basils and red chilies. It may look Italian but had some Asian flavors in it. Simply Irresistible with the cheesiness! Although the pizza tasted great, I have a feeling that the chef loved basils a lot. A bit of chopped parsley/oregano would provide a better justice to any cheese based dishes, regardless of seafood or meat.

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Another of their good pizza would be the Chicken with Feta Cheese Pizza (RM28). The pizza came with their homemade thin base, spread with their homemade basil pesto (the same recipe as above), topped with cubes of chicken meat, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and feta cheese with some sprinkles of dried oregano. I could have this pizza for the whole day. The combination of mozzarella cheese and feta cheese was great as it had that unique and fragrant cheesiness. Each bite was heaven with a little squeeze of juices coming from the baked cherry tomatoes. You should not leave this place without trying this pizza out!

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They also serve sandwiches here. One of their hot items is the Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich (RM14). It had a juicily pan-grilled chicken fillet in teriyaki sauce, served with lettuce, onion and mayo between a pair of whole meal bread slices and some French fries. I would say that the teriyaki chicken fillet was nicely done but the usage of this kind of bread might not be suitable as it was rather dry. It would be nice if these were to come with some steamed dinner rolls. Even if the kitchen had decided to use whole meal bread in the future, it would be recommended if they had a thicker spread of mayo with some thinly sliced fresh tomatoes. At least with these solutions, diners would have a much juicier bite, even if those slices of bread were toasted more.

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Currently, they only have their homemade Carrot Cake with Crème Cheese Frosting (RM12/slice) for dessert. More options would be available in due course. This was one great secret recipe by Jean Lee. The carrot cake was moist and flavorful from the sweet grated carrots with a hint from some grounded cinnamon. It had some little bites from the added roasted walnuts and raisins. Combined with the creamy cheese frosting with a touch of lemon zest, the cake would be a target for dessert lovers. Unfortunately, I’m not such a sweet tooth and I found the cake to be a bit sweet to my liking. I prefer mine to be more towards the healthy version with the natural sweetness coming from some sweet Australian carrots and raisins. The cake would go well with a cup of hotly brewed coffee… minus the sugar for me. 😛

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As for beverages, it was more of a kopitiam style with fresh juice, chilled juice, coffee, tea and soft drinks. More options would be available in due course such as cocktails and mocktails. What we had were some iced/hot coffee/white coffee (RM5) and a Chilled Cranberry Juice with Longan (RM9).

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Here’s a little sneak preview of the unfurnished rooms and their surroundings. The rates would definitely be much cheaper than some of the scattered boutique hotels along that heritage zone. The rooms are scheduled to be available somewhere in December 2011.

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Overall, Nostalgie is a great place for some relaxations with the companionships of family members and friends. The charges for the food and accommodation would also be reasonable and affordable for all walks of lives. The only problem would be the scarcity of finding a comfortable parking space. Well, that won’t be a problem if you would park your car a bit further away and take a mild stroll towards the venue while enjoying the heritage of George Town.

The café is located just a stone throw away from 55 Café @ Coffee Atelier. If you are driving along Lebuh Farquhar into Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling, keep a watch out for the Goddess of Mercy Temple on your right. Immediately after the temple, turn right in Lorong Stewart and make a zig zag turn and you will see the café on your right, just right after to the only mansion there with a compound. Parking can be quite limited during peak hours. I would advise you to find whatever parking space you can along some of the lanes there and walk to the venue. Alternatively, you can drive a bit further up after the Goddess of Mercy Temple and park your car at the designated metered car park. Be warned here that the local Municipal Council can be quite strict in unpaid meter. Make sure that you have enough of coins inserted to last your visit to the café. Another warning would be that the place would be quite flood-prone during heavy rains but on VERY RARE occasion. Do pick a nice and sunny day for your visit.

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Name: NOSTALGIE (CAFÉ & BOUTIQUE HOTEL)
Address: 34, Lorong Stewart, 10200 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-261 0977
Business Hours: 10.00am – 9.00pm (Closed Thursday)
GPS: 5.419378, 100.337458

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

 

Penang Times Square has been a mall that has been lacking in retail shops but has many new eateries and bistros opening up there. In no time, it would be more of a food mall than a shopping mall. Do not underestimate those little eateries around there as some of them would surely blow you away with their simple and yet mouth watering cuisine. One such eatery would be the Get’em Smack Café. It’s small but yet the interior had that little touch of coziness that would be great for a casual dining for just any age group of diners. The hospitality there is great with lots of regular expatriates. Don’t feel surprise if their staff suddenly communicated with their diners in Japanese. It’s quite normal for them. 🙂 The café do serve quite a few types of cuisine but their pastas and desserts excel amongst other dishes.

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As for starter, there’s the Soup of the Day which happened to be Mushroom Soup (RM5.90nett). It may look like a normal bowl of soup with a slice of toasted garlic bread displayed but it definitely would give the required punch. The soup has just the right creaminess with hints of fragrance and sweetness coming from the chef’s secret recipe of combining different types of fresh mushrooms and carrot. It was indeed a touch of difference done tactfully compared to the ones I’ve tried before.

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As for main dishes, there were about 9 dishes ranging from pasta, fish and poultry. We started off with the Roast Chicken (RM13.90nett) which in fact was pan-grilled to perfection. The usage of a boneless drumstick combined with the right usage of herbs and spices made this dish remarkably palatable. The outer layer of the chicken maintained a bit of crisp while the inner part was still as tender and juicy. Not a bad choice for a meal. This was served with their unique homemade mash potatoes and some greens, topped with some brown sauce. Their mashed potatoes side dish was unique in the sense that it had kyuri (Japanese cucumber) and carrot slices added in, something that you won’t get from elsewhere. As for size wise, it was just adequate for a normal diner. It would be great if one or two slices of garlic bread being added in for those with bigger appetite.

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Their pastas had that wonderful buttery yet fragrant aroma floating about the surrounding. One such pasta would be their Mascarpone Cheese Walnut Spaghetti (RM13.90) with the cheese being one of the main ingredients for making modern styled Tiramisu. With the milky-white coagulated crème cheese skillfully folded into the sautéed chopped garlic in olive oil, prior to being stir mixed with the spaghetti, it would be a great dish for those carbonara pasta lovers. This pasta came with some chopped walnuts and parsley as garnishes and topped with some slices of nicely herbed roasted chicken. The portion was also just right with approximately 180g of pasta being given.

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Two new pastas were added in recently. One of the new ones not stated in their menu was the Aglio Olio with Prawns (RM13.90nett). This dish would be one of my favorite pastas served here. The mildly spiced pasta with the fragrance coming from some dried chilies, combined with the briny taste of fresh prawns, sautéed with some chopped garlic and parsley, made this dish remarkably appetizing. Do not leave the café without trying out this perfectly concocted dish.

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Another new pasta dish would be their Eryngii Spaghetti (RM13.90nett). For those healthy and meatless diners, this would be my most recommended pasta dish. The usage of eryngii mushrooms (king trumpet mushroom/エリンギ/杏鮑菇) was indeed delicious. The meaty bite from the slightly toasted mushroom slices, combined with the nicely sautéed chopped garlic, parsley and pasta made this dish remarkably tasty. The earthly flavor was one flavor which I would not forget for a long time. Superb dish indeed!

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On a lighter side, they do have some nice finger food available. One of them would be the Smoked Duck (RM18nett for 8 skews). This dish would come with some fresh lettuce all wrapped with a slice of smoked duck, dressed with some homemade dressing and herbs. Another dish would be their Greek Pie (RM6.90nett for 3 pieces). This would be another meatless dish as the pies do not contain any meat such as the Kotopoulokopita (Greek Chicken Pie) or Kreatopita (Greek Meat Pie). In fact, it was not even near to the Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie). The café do serve their version as there are a thousand and one ways for filling up the pita based pies but each would definitely has some cheese on them. The Greek pies served here had some freshly made tomato puree, topped with some yoghurt and herbs prior to baking.

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As for desserts, Get’em Smack do serves some great crepe related desserts on top of their occasionally available Chocolate Brownie, Tiramisu and so on. One of the more notable ones which you won’t get easily from elsewhere in Penang would be their Crepe Cake (RM6.90nett per slice). Since the cake which would not last for too long in the chiller due to the moist from the fresh crème and fruits, the Café is proud to serve them as theirs are made fresh daily. Each slice has multiple layers of freshly buttered pan-made crepes filled with fresh crème and fruits. The taste was simply refreshing. There also have Mango Crepe (RM6.90), Banana Crepe (RM6.90), Kiwi Crepe (RM7.90) and Strawberry Crepe (RM7.90). The more recommended one would be the Banana Crepe as the fruity and creamy flavors of the ripened fruit complement well with the fresh crème and Vanilla ice cream.

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The beverages served here can range from just a soda drink, tea & coffee, fresh fruit juices or just a cup of brewed tea. The Café would serve well-known brands such as the UK based Twinings products such as the English Breakfast Tea, Earl Grey Tea, Camomile Tea and Jasmine Green Tea. Each refillable pot of tea would cost RM8.90nett. You should try more of the Camomile Tea as it has the effect of relaxing the body and calming the mind after a hectic day of work.

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The café is located at the exterior part of the mall. It’s actually at the ground floor below the biggest food court in Penang aka Penang Times Square Food Gallery, behind Soju Café and two shop lots away from the Roti Bakar branch. If you intend to park at the open car park at the entrance of Penang Times Square, just drive all the way towards the end where you would see a big “Entertainment City” signage and park your car there. It won’t be that hard to locate them from there on.

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Name: GET’EM SMACK @ PENANG TIMES SQUARE
Address: 77-G-44, Penang Times Square, Jalan Dato Keramat, 10150 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 012- 401 6888 (Esther Chan) / 017- 478 4901 (Celynn Tan)
Business Hours: 12.00pm – 9.00pm
GPS: 5.411485, 100.32556

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

 

Many of you would be wondering who would be replacing the former Kopi Cine outlet along Lorong Stewart within the heritage area of George Town, Penang. You don’t have to guess any longer as the premises together with the other 4 lots along the row would now house Coffee Atelier, which consists of 55 Café & Restaurant (Mediterranean), Kopi (Coffee Museum), Gehrig Art Gallery, 47&49 Residence (Suites 47A&B, Suites 49A&B). The whole place would be manned by yet another foreign couple, Swiss Stefan Gehrig and his lovely wife from Hong Kong, Lorina Gehrig. While waiting for the renovation works for the rest of the lots to be completed, 55 Café & Restaurant had a soft launching yesterday, serving delicious Mediterranean dishes and aromatic coffee, the best of its kind in Penang. Even the aroma emitted from the fine graded coffees could not stop an American traveler from New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, from stopping by for a sip of the beautifully brewed coffee.

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Since we were quite late for breakfast due to the heavy rain yesterday, we had a try out on the lunch items instead. There were a few selections in menu, starting with choices for breakfast, salads, starters, hot & cold tapas, pasta, desserts and beverages. We started with some tapas of hot and cold, all served with a plate/bowl of your selected item and a basket of baguette slices. The first one was with Chicken Liver Pate (RM14+). The pate was well prepared with traces of fresh herbs, butter, shallots, garlic, salt and pepper to cover up the bitterness from the chicken liver. It would even be better if they could just add in some dashes of brandy for that extra flavor.

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The next batch was with Aubergines (eggplant), Tomato and Garlic (RM9+) in a paste form. It had some traces of black pepper being added in and was quite spicy but it complemented well with the baguette slices.

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We also had with some tapas with Grilled Eggplant (RM9+), garnished with some sweet basil and chili slices for that light touch of spiciness.

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The next set of tapas was the Gambas Aljillo (RM13+) served with some baguette slices. It was a hit amongst us as the fresh and firm prawns were beautifully cooked with chopped garlic, chili and some herbs in extra virgin olive oil. The dish was so lovely that we wiped out the whole plate dry with the baguettes served.

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After the light finger food to boost up our appetite, we went for the Al Chef (RM28+). The dish had pan-fried sea bass fillet, served on spaghetti stir fried with potatoes and carrot casserole and seafood emulsion, garnished with a cherry tomato and some chopped chives. The sauce was awesome as it had some distinctive flavors from some toasted prawn shell, almost similar to the flavors of the lobster bisque I had at QEII. I won’t mind having some dashes of white wine in the sauce to go with the nicely pan-fried sea bass fillet.

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We also had some Spaghetti Carbonara (RM22+). The al dente pasta had a generous amount of back bacon slices, mushroom slices, egg, parmesan cheese, black pepper, hint of extra virgin olive oil and some fresh herbs cooked in white cream sauce, garnished with some chopped chives, tomato cuts and some lettuce slices. Although the whole combination was flavorful, the meaty back bacon with less fat somehow did not provide that nice fragrant bacon taste for the dish. Moreover the bacon tasted more cooked in sauce rather than being sautéed slightly prior to cooking. Ideally, but not totally healthy for those health conscious diners, sautéed slab bacon or streaky bacon would have a better justice to the overall taste of the pasta.

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The Aglio Olio with Smoked Salmon (RM25+) in extra virgin olive oil was somewhat different to the ones I had tried elsewhere. It did not have some deep fried dried chilies added in for that nice pungent flavor. Moreover, it lacked the taste from some sautéed garlic slices which played an important part in this dish. Although some crispy chopped garlic were added in as garnishing, those were not adequate enough to pep up the overall taste. The pasta was presented with two cherry tomatoes, garnished with some chopped chives and grated parmesan cheese. The dish had the required amount of extra virgin oil added in but with overused of grated parmesan cheese. It was slightly on the salty side as the chef might have forgotten that the smoked salmon might have been treated with some salt during the preparation process.

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They do have some different type of desserts served daily. So you might need to enquire about them from the counter. We tried out the Baked Cheese Cake (RM9+). It was not as what we expected as the cake was rather dry without much traces of the cheesy taste. Moreover, the slight sour after taste was rather mild instead of the usual lemon zesty flavor. The Chocolate Coffee Cake (RM6+) tasted better, considering that it was fluffy, moist with some traces of some chopped almond but it lacked a stronger taste of coffee. Moreover, the chocolate coating was rather sauced based. A bar of wrapped cheesecake by Gateau which had not been officially sold was passed around for our comments. This version indeed had our praises as the usage of cheese on the digestive biscuit base was of standard. I guessed the café should take note on the quality of cakes supplied to them in the near future.

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As for beverages, there was a wide selection to choose from ranging from coffee, chocolate, tea, ice cream milkshakes, mocktails to beers. We tried out the Caramel Hot Chocolate (RM10+). It was frosty and nice. The Chamomile Dream (RM9+), a fragrant and flavorful flower tea served in a pot was as fine as it should be. This flower tea has always been my favorite tea due to the fact that it’s a cure all tea for building up the body immune system against cold related infections, relaxing the nerves, strengthen the liver function, relieving back pain, rheumatism, etc. There was also the Vanilla Ice Cream, Banana and Chocolate Chips Milkshake (RM16+). It had just the right flavors but was not as creamy as the one I had at Delicious, Straits Quay, Penang. When it comes to coffee, the café sure can declare they are the best with their state-of-the-art coffee maker. The Hot Latte (RM8+) I had was the best I had taken so far with the right thickness, sweetness and creaminess it should have. Simply awesome!

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Here’s a sneak preview of the almost completed hotel interior. The charges would be between RM300 and RM400, with or without breakfast. The rates would be confirmed very soon by the management upon completion of the heritage hotel.

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Overall, the food served here can be quite unique on its own. All the dishes served here are of fresh ingredients and can be well accepted by the locals as well as foreigners but there are still rooms for improvements for some of the dishes as I had mentioned above. The prices for food can be a bit high for some dishes and beverages. Please also note that there would be a 10% service charge applicable for all purchases.

If you are driving along Lebuh Farquhar into Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling, keep a watch out for the Goddess of Mercy Temple on your right. Immediately after the temple, turn right in Lorong Stewart and make a zig zag turn and you will see the café on your left at the junction of Lorong Stewart/Lorong Chulia. Parking can be quite limited during peak hours. I would advise you to find whatever parking space you can and walk to the café.

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Name: 55 CAFÉ & RESTAURANT @ COFFEE ATELIER
Address: 47-55, Lorong Stewart, 10300 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-261 2261, 016-469 8228 (Lorina Gehrig), 016-464 8118 (Stefan Gehrig)
Business Hours: 8.30am-10.00pm daily
GPS: 5.419143, 100.337772

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

 

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