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THE ALL NEW LA FRANCE CAFÉ & RESTAURANT IN PENANG

Posted by crizlai On September - 11 - 2011

If you are a frequent diner at the Northern Beach Café situated along Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah in Penang, you would notice that there was this little stall selling great French food by the name of La France. Well, that was history! Today, that former little stall by the beach cafe, manned by the loving couple, Frenchman Nathan (who lives near to the border of Germany) and his lovely wife, Ginny, has moved into a cozy mansion of their own, right in the heart of the beautiful George Town, Penang. The all new La France Café & Restaurant now promises a more unique and fresh home cooked French cuisine with a little touch of German. Merveilleux! Wonderful!

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There are two type of menus available here, namely the Menu Dejeuner (lunch from 12.00 noon onwards) and Menu Diner (dinner from 6.00pm onwards). The latter has a few additional items added in for a more fulfilling dinner. Let’s start with the entrees (starter). One of the dishes which I tried out was the Potage du Jour (Soup of the Day – RM5.90) which happened to be Mushroom Soup. It would be served fresh from the kitchen with some sprinkles of black pepper. The soup had a distinctive earthly taste from the finely chopped Shitake mushroom within (most restaurant would just blend all in). It had this sweet but not too creamy taste which was quite different from elsewhere. Instead of the normal usage of flour to create that broth like soup version, the chef applied a healthier method by substituting flour with some freshly mashed potatoes and a mild touch of chopped parsley. Simply healthy and delicious! The soup would not come with any bread or bun, so you might want to order some Pain d’ail (garlic bread – RM3 for 5pcs ciabatta slices).

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There was also the Croques Monsieur (Oven baked Ciabatta) – Croc’ Ham & Cheese (Pork Ham – RM9.80) served with some sautéed potatoes and fresh greens. The whole dish was heaven! The half-sliced ciabatta had just the right crisp on the surface while maintaining the softness within. The bread has some light spread of butter, chopped parsley, pork ham and cheese, prior to being oven baked to perfection. The taste of the cheese was rather different as Mozarella cheese alone would not have that sharp salty cheesy taste. Some crumbles of bleu cheese were used too. The other two side dishes needed some compliments as well. The sautéed potatoes were awesome with a nice aromatic taste from some added herbs. The fresh greens may look normal but when you mix them together with the special dressing created by the chef, it was totally another response. The slightly mustard spiced dressing with some butter-flour roux béchamel sauce and herbs was superb for any salad.

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Another dish that you should not miss out for any meal would be the savory croissants. The Croissant Poulet (Yoghurt Chicken – RM10.90) which was crispy, flavorful yet healthy was another dish to remember. The stuffed chicken meat mixed with some yoghurt and fresh herbs, topped with some cheese and baked to perfection was a perfect lunch for me. It also came with two delicious side dishes as above. You can also try out their Croissant Jambon (Pork Ham – RM10.90), Croissant au Thon (Tuna – RM10.90) or Croissant Saumon Fume (Smoked Salmon & Egg – RM14.90)

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As for pasta, they would use the twirl like fusilli pasta. I tried out the Aglio Olio with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (RM9.00). This version was totally different compared to others. I guessed different restaurant prepared this dish differently. Basically, Aglio e Olio means garlic and oil. The pasta came with some cut dried chili pepper, cut black olives, chopped parsley, sliced garlic, some sprinkles of black pepper, mixed with some extra virgin olive oil and garnished with some parmesan cheese. Overall, it may look rather dry for some but each mouthful gave a totally different cheesy experience. Finally, the whole dish was cleared. Personally, I felt that it may need just a bit more dashes of olive oil, a more fragrant sautéed garlic slices and some available chili flakes for those who love the dish to be a bit more spicy.

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There was also the Crepes de Bleu (Savory French pancakes) section to try out in the menu but I opted for other dishes as it basically consisted of fillings such as eggs, chicken, tuna and smoked salmon but there was this dish that caught my attention. It was the Oven Baked Crepes Beef Bolognese (RM13.90) with cheesy toppings. Well, I had too much of meat and cheese for a day, so I leave it for another day. Instead, I headed for the Dessert Maison section. I had the Crepes Suzette (RM5.90). It was a hot and cold dessert with two folded hot crepes, topped with slightly sweetened fresh orange juice and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The tangy taste of the juice on the crepes combined with the creaminess from the ice cream was simply refreshing.

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The next dessert which was the Crepe Compote (Apple & Banana – RM6.80) was another great dessert. The crepes were rolled up with some fruit compote, sprinkled with some icing sugar and garnished with some hot chocolate sauce. This was another superb dessert for all. The natural sweetened compote had a bit of wine after taste due to the cooking reaction by the combination of the two fruits. It had some raisins and a bit of grounded cinnamon added in for that flavorful taste.

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As I had mentioned earlier, the menu had some additional dishes added in. Let me share with you what you would expect from here. There’s the Omelettes Soufflees (Fluffy) with choices such as the Omelette Champignon (Fresh Mushroom – RM9.90) Omelette Fromage (Cheese – RM9.50), Omelette Jambon Fromage (Ham & Cheese – RM10.50) and Omelette Forestiere (Mushroom, Ham & Cheese – RM12.90). I had decided to go for the Omelette Jambon Fromage (Ham & Cheese – RM10.50) which had chopped hams, onions, chopped parsley, black pepper and cheese. It was cheesy and flavorful. The dish also came with some Pomme Frite (French Fries) and greens. This was another marvelous dish by the restaurant.

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There are two additional dishes for dinner in the Les Regionales (French Local Specialties) section. Other than the Quiche Alsacienne with Bacon & Cheese (RM9.50) and Bratwurst with Sauteed Potatoes (RM11.80) available for both meals, I tried out the Kartoffelpuffer (Alsacien Potato Pancakes – RM10.90). It was a thin fried savory pancake originated from Europe which consisted of grated potatoes, flour, eggs, onions, chopped parsley, topped with sautéed mushrooms in bechamel sauce and served with greens. It tasted quite normal to me as it was but when combined with the sauce, the creaminess and buttery taste of the evenly coated pancake was awesome. The slightly burned edges of the potato pancake gave it that extra flavor. The dish also came with some fresh greens.

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Another of the dinner dish would be the Schnitzel (Grilled Chicken Cutlet – RM14.90). The grilled chicken with a flavorful layer of pork ham and served with white sauce was very tasty. It had some nice crisps at the edges while keeping the moist with the tender meat. This came with some sauteed potatoes and greens.

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La France Café & Restaurant is not just a place for your meals but also a great place for meet ups. You can have some nice desserts during tea time or supper over some hot and cold beverages. On top of that, they do serve imported lager such as the Kronenbourg 1664 (RM16.90), which was reported symbolized the French art of pleasure, exquisite in every details and universally desirable.

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Overall, the dishes served here are delicious, provided you are a lover of cheese and healthy food, as all the food served here are made fresh from selected quality ingredient and does not contain any monosodium glutamate (MSG). The portion may look rather fine and small in some dishes but it’s the standard size as served in France. It would be more than enough to fill up your appetite… unless you are an extremely big eater. Some of the cheese based dishes may contain some crumbles of blue (bleu) cheese which would give the dish a unique, sharp and a bit salty flavor. All dishes are fairly charged with a nett price tag.

La France Cafe & Restaurant would not be visible by the main road. If you are from town towards Pulau Tikus along Jalan Burma, keep to your right after passing the Giant Supermarket (Penang Plaza) at the junction of Jalan Burma/Jalan Larut. Keep driving until you have passed Him Heang, a church, Jemputee (junction of Jalan Burma/Jalan Chow Thye), a vegetarian food court and Malaysian Chin Woo Association on your right. Turn right into Jalan Servis (between Chin Woo Association and Malaysian Buddhists’ Association) and drive all the way in until your see a right junction (Jalan Irrawadi). At the corner lot, you would see the El Case Wine & Dine Restaurant. La France Café & Restaurant is just opposite the café in a state-of-the art mansion. You won’t miss it at all.

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Name: LA FRANCE CAFÉ & RESTAURANT
Address: 3B, Jalan Irrawaddi, 10050 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 012-412 7355 (Ginny), 012-491 3360 (Nathan)
Business Hours: 12.00pm-10.00pm (Closed Tuesday – Dinner 6.00pm onwards)
GPS: 5.42628, 100.320936

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

 

WESTERN CUISINE AT EL CASA WINE & DINE RESTAURANT

Posted by crizlai On June - 30 - 2011

Many outsiders might not notice that within the suburbs of the Georgetown is a little cozy restaurant by the name of El Casa Wine & Dine Restaurant, which serves freshly home cooked pork-free dishes without the usage of monosodium glutamate (MSG). The name itself is self explanatory as this is a place to dine with wine or simply to chill out with partner or friends over a few glasses of wine. A corner lot along the colonial days’ row of residential houses, this restaurant promised a dimly blue lighted ambience with some impressive mini chandelier-like ceiling lamps and a romantic outdoor dining area for those who love dining under the glittering of the stars during dinner time (but do mind those pesky night blood suckers, ok?).

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As for starter, there would always be the Daily Chef’s Homemade Special Western Cream Soup (RM6.90) or Homemade Puree of Forest Mushroom Soup (RM6.90), respectively served with a slice of garlic bread. The daily chef’s homemade soup can vary from tomato, cauliflower, watercress and carrot soups. The Soup of the Day happened to be Tomato Soup which had fresh tomatoes, celeries, onions and so on, all blended and cooked into a smooth paste, with a drizzle of black pepper. Not too bad for the taste but I would prefer to have some cream added on to give it an extra boost of creaminess and that impressive flowery presentation as you would have on your latte. The Homemade Puree of Forest Mushroom Soup on the other hand had the creaminess from some sautéed potatoes blended in with wild mushrooms with a touch of thymes, mixed herbs and olive oil. It was a great chance from those powdered one which you could easily get from those street western food stalls. There was also the El Casa Salad (RM11.90) which in my opinion was rather a small portion to justify against the price. It came with just a few leaves of red leaf lettuce, green apple slices and topped with their homemade honey mustard dressing and some bread crumbs. Although the taste was acceptable, it lacked those crunchy bites from the croutons which they were to have as in their menu description. Moreover, they omitted the sundried tomatoes, which were not suitable for our consumption on that night without any replacements. They could have used some fresh tomatoes or even substitute with raisins or finely sliced carrots to boost up the bulk and colors. What happened to the creativity of the chef?

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Their first signature dish that filled the room with cheesy aroma was their Homemade Chicken Au Gratin (RM17.90). It had layers of creamy cheese made out of a combination of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, topped on some mushroom slices plus chicken drumstick cuts and baked to golden perfection. It comes together with some sautéed garden vegetables, fries and a bowl of spicy tapioca chips. It’s rich in flavors and would surely fit any ages of diners.

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The next dish was their signature Pan Roasted Fillet of Norwegian Salmon (RM27.90) which came with a mixed herb lemon butter sauce and served with mixed herb mashed potato and sautéed garden vegetables plus a bowl of freshly cooked buttered corn kernels. The fillet was well marinated exteriorly but with a bit too much of salt applied. Luckily, the interior part still maintained that moist to justify the whole combination. It blended in quite well with the butter lemon sauce which had a strong citrus sourness. I personally felt that a more buttery and salty brand of butter (such as Butter Cup) with just a light twist of lemon juice would taste better. At least they can just pan roast the salmon without much marinates to maintain its original taste. Their mashed potatoes side dish was lovely.

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For steak lovers, the next dish which was the Sirloin Steak (180 gm – RM28.90) served with some sautéed garden vegetables, potato wedges, and a bowl of freshly cooked buttered corn kernel, topped with black pepper sauce would be the ideal choice for your visit. The medium-rare slab of well marinated grilled beef with some sprinkles of black peppers was just right in taste even without the accompanied black pepper sauce. The only hiccup was the fatty parts which was a bit too tough to my liking. Overall, it was a great dish.

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In between those meaty dishes, we had the Spaghetti Seafood Carbonara (RM18.90), which had pieces of tilapia fillet, squids and prawns cooked in their special creamy white sauce and garnished some grated parmesan cheese and served with a baguette toast. Taste wise, it was not bad but I would prefer my sauce to be a bit creamier or thicker, not drowned in so much sauce and with more sprinkles of mixed herbs. The spaghetti had the required al dente for each bite.

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Next was the Charcoal Grilled Hawaii Chicken (RM13.90) which was served with their homemade tropical barbeque sauce, accompanied by some fries, sautéed garden vegetable, slightly grilled sweetened pineapple and a bowl of freshly cooked buttered corn kernels. This was just a normal tasting grilled chicken with the basic marinates. It lacked some hammer pounding to tenderize the meat through the grilling process, thus certain parts with veins could be rather hard to consume. The tropical barbeque sauce was quite unique with some citrus sweetness.

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The last of the main courses was the Pan Roasted Seabass Fillet with Arrabbiata Sauce (RM19.90), served with some sautéed garden vegetables, potato wedges, and a bowl of freshly cooked buttered corn kernel, topped with Arrabbiata sauce. The sauce was somewhat spicy with some traces of tomatoes, garlic, chilies, herbs and olive oil. The texture and moist within the fillet was just nice to savor the fresh flavors from the fish. It was a unique concoction but somehow it killed the original taste of the fish with an overpowering sauce. A simple sauce of just chopped garlic and butter with a fresh twist of lemon juice would suit the dish more.

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Finally, it was time for some delicious Home Desserts (RM5.90). We had Lemon Mousse with Chocolate Topping for the night. Although this was a nice and light palate-cleansing dessert to end a meal after such heavy main courses, it somehow did not go well with the chocolate topping. It tasted rather weird for many. It would be better if the chef just keep the dessert simple with just a spray of whipped cream with some sprinkles of lemon zest. Alternatively, truffles, mixed fruit yoghurt or just a simple scoop of ice cream with some fresh fruit cubes would end a meal better.

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The best part of dining here other than sipping in wine and other beverages would be having some hot brewing flower teas in their fine China wares. They have a few options here such as the Organic Green (RM6.90) which would help in lowering the cholesterol and blood pressure, strengthening the immune system and fighting against aging, Pink Rose (RM6.90) which would help to regulate blood circulation, purifying, cleansing and detoxifying and to have a glowing and youthful appearances on the skin, Jasmine (RM5.90) which would help to cool the body, refresh mind, help catharsis, and to regulate aging and constipation, Red Tea (RM5.90 – sometimes also known as the Long Life Tea) which is an anti-oxidant-rich, caffeine free tea suitable for people with busy lifestyles and Chrysanthemum (RM5.90) which would help against cough, expectorant, anti-oxidation, enhance immunity, inhibition of blood cholesterol and high blood pressure.

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El Casa Wine & Dine Restaurant would not be visible by the main road. If you are from town towards Pulau Tikus along Jalan Burma, keep to your right after passing the Giant Supermarket (Penang Plaza) at the junction of Jalan Burma/Jalan Larut. Keep driving until you have passed Him Heang, a church, Jemputee (junction of Jalan Burma/Jalan Chow Thye), a vegetarian food court and Malaysian Chin Woo Association on your right. Turn right into Jalan Servis (between Chin Woo Association and Malaysian Buddhists’ Association) and drive all the way in until your see a right junction (Jalan Irrawadi). The restaurant is at the corner lot of Jalan Servis/Jalan Irrawadi. It would be easier to find parking spaces here during dinner time after the working hours of the surrounding offices.

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Name: EL CASA WINE & DINE RESTAURANT
Address: No. 2, Jalan Irrawaddi, 10500 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 04-229 9223, 012-979 3318 (James), 017-572 9988 (Colin)
Business Hours: 11.00am-3.00pm, 6.00pm-10.00pm
GPS: 5.426246, 100.320678

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

SPECIAL MALAY CUISINE AT D’DAPOR EXPRESS

Posted by crizlai On May - 29 - 2011

After a disastrous meal at Bahtera Santai Seafood & Ikan Bakar, finally there’s a nice and cozy Malay restaurant with some heritage feels down in the heart of George Town. At least I can have a proper venue to enjoy authentic Malay flavors in a more comfortable environment without the disturbance from some pesky insects. D’Dapor Express is a sophisticated Malay restaurant, located within one of the shop lots in the newly restored 140 years old pre-war building named Logan Building, along the banking district of Lebuh Pantai. Today, the building has been renamed as Logan Heritage and housed an arcade of food & beverage outlets and other retail outlets.

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Presently, D’Dapor Express is promoting its Set Lunch and Set Dinner with Kari Kepala Ikan D’Dapor (D’Dapor Curry Fish Head), Taugeh Tumis Ikan Masin Salted Fish Bean Sprouts), Telur Bawang (Onion Omelette), Ulam-ulaman (Raw Herbs with Sambal) and steamed rice at RM39.90++ (for 2-3 pax) or Kari Kepala Ikan D’Dapor (D’Dapor Curry Fish Head), Ayam Kelasan Malindo (Indonesian Fried Chicken), Taugeh Tumis Ikan Masin (Salted Fish Bean Sprouts), Telur Bawang (Onion Omelette), Ulam-ulaman (Raw Herbs with Sambal) and steamed rice at RM65.90++ (for 4-6 pax).

One of the new sets (RM39.90++ per set) we had tried out inclusive the Kari Kepala Ikan D’Dapor (D’Dapor Curry Fish Head – normal price at RM38++), an all-time favorite amongst the locals. A freshly chosen fish head was carefully prepared with curry spices, chilies, onions, tamarind juice with some dashes of coconut milk, served with sliced eggplants, ladies fingers and tomatoes, with some touches of spring onions and fresh mint leaves as garnishes. This dish was quite similar to the Nyonya style fish curry, without the strong traces of sweet basil (daun kesum) but with the usage of coconut milk. This was quite a reasonably good dish, especially when the dish was served piping hot. Well, the Telur Bawang (Onion Omelette – normal price at RM6.50++) and Kailan Masak Cendawan (Stir Fry Kailan with Mushrooms – normal price at RM8.80++/RM19.80++) were two common dishes you would get anywhere.

The next new set inclusive the Udang Buluh Perindu (Spicy Prawns served in bamboo which in this case it came on a plate – normal price at RM18++/RM27++). The dish came with four juicy prawns cooked in sweet and spicy gravy. The gravy tasted like the Oriental style sweet and sour crab minus the presence of vinegar. There was a strong hint of chili sauce being used in the dish. The Ayam Pandan Berbungkus (Screw Pine Leaves Wrapped Chicken – normal price at RM12.80++/RM22.80++) had some Thai influence with the usage of turmeric powder, ginger, onions and garlic as marinates to the chicken meat chunks, prior to being wrapped in pandan leaves and deep fried. Unfortunately, the marinate time was not enough to let the flavors seeped into the meat. Moreover, the size was rather small for reasonable bites. The Kari Ketam (Flower Crab Curry – normal price at RM25++) was a new addon in the menu. The cooking style again was so much like the Nyonya Masak Lemak Nenas, a spicy and pineapple fruity sweetness curry where seafood such as either some prawns, fish or squids were used as the main ingredient. This dish was rather tasty, considering that the sweetness from the crab has gone right into the gravy.

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Instead of going for the set meals, you can also try out some of the items in their ala carte menu. The Kari Ayam Kampung Melayu (Traditional Malay Chicken Curry – RM12.80++/RM22.80++) was quite tasty. The dish has thick gravy somewhat like the Nyonya Curry Kapitan Chicken minus the strong taste of Kaffir lime leaves. Another dish that would be quite a good appetizer would be the Kerabu Mempelam Tiga Serantai (Mango Salad Trio – RM8.80++/16.50++). The dish used finely sliced raw mango, onions, lemon grass and chilies with a light squeeze of lime juice to pep up the taste. It has a generous amount of crispy satay ikan bilis (deep fried spicy anchovies) and bunga kantan (ginger flower bulb) as garnishes.

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On top of this, there would also be a Buffet High Tea available on weekdays (Monday thru Friday from 3.00pm to 6.00pm). All you need to do is to indulge in any beverages more than RM5+ and you would get to enjoy a free flow of local delicacies. There would also be some quick set lunches on weekdays (with drink) as per shown below:

Monday (RM9.90++):
Set Kari Ayam / Set Ikan Berlada (Fillet) / Set Sotong Kapitan
Tuesday (RM11.90++):
Set Udang Berlada / Set Ikan Berkicap (Fillet) / Set Ikan Asam Pedas
Wednesday (RM12.90++):
Set Ikan Masak Lemak / Set Nasi Lemak D’Dapor / Set Seafood Kapitan
Thursday (RM13.90++):
Set Kari Ketam / Set Sapi Rendang / Set Ayam Berkicap
Friday (RM13.90++):
Set Briyani with Ayam Masak Merah / Ayam Rendang

To get there, just drive all the way along Lebuh Light until you see a roundabout where you would see an stainless steel betel nut structure being displayed there (or Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower) and turn 3’o clock into Lebuh Pantai. Just a few meters away, you would see the Standard Chartered Bank on your right. Turn right into Lebuh Union and you would see the restaurant on your left, right before Maybank Union Street Branch. Unfortunately, they do not have a prominent signage on their entrance yet but you won’t miss it. Parking spaces would be quite ample during off-peak period. If not, you can park in the multi-storey car park after Maybank or the Sri Weld Food Court car park (slightly after Hongkong Bank) along Lebuh Pantai during lunch hours.

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Name: D’DAPOR EXPRESS @ LOGAN HERITAGE BUILDING
Address: 7 Lebuh Union, 10200 Penang, Malaysia.
Contact: 604-262 9323
Business Hours:
12.00noon – 3.00pm (Lunch)
3.00pm – 6.00pm (Buffet Hi-Tea on weekdays)
6.00pm -10.00pm (Dinner)
GPS: 5.418615, 100.342871

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: 7/10 (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)

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