March 5, 2012

Invited Review : Edgecumbe Retreat

I'm not a big fan of organic food probably due to lack of understanding and how it can be 'fusionized' to be food which are not only appetizing but also tasty.

Because of this curiosity, an invitation by GourmetGarden and Edgecumbe Retreat came at the right timing, and it was well worth the trip as an eye-opener to the delicious organic delicacies as well as the informative elaboration on organic food.

The cafe which is hosted on the ground floor of the retreat was quiet, clean and serene. There's even a little outdoor corner with an air well where hanging plants can be seen. I suppose one can dine here if they wish?

We had continuous flow of Momo Oolong (RM 12.50 by pot) as our beverage to accompany our meal. Momo Oolong is a blend of Japanese white peach with Taiwanese Pouchong accented with pink rose petals. A sip of it proved that the tea was very fragrant and smooth indeed.

First up - we had an appetizer named Mushroom Salad (RM 18.90) which is a salad consisting of organically grown vegetables like cherry tomatoes and zucchini topped with warm yuzu seasoned mushrooms. Do note, however, that the portion illustrated here is just 1/3 of the original portion that you will be getting when you order this dish. I really liked the warm yuzu sauce as it not only was not salty, it also had a good naturally sweetened aftertaste.

Another appetizer which was the infamous local delicacy - Rojak (RM 8) was served. At the first glance, we could almost be fooled that this is just another local rojak affair, but we were pleasantly surprised at how juicy and crunchy the fruits were, and the intriguing home made organic rojak paste that is made from seaweed paste and organic groundnuts. There are up to 3 types of seaweed used to make the paste and Cayenne pepper was incorporated as well to give the paste a little 'fire'. I thoroughly enjoyed this simple yet flavorful and fresh rojak.
From the entrée menu, we had one of their homemade organic bun - Pandan bun (RM 10.50 for choices of 3) that was stuffed with natural Burdock floss. The bun was airy light in texture and aptly matched with the super crunchy Burdock floss which tastes almost like the texture of pork floss, minus the pork taste. Apart from pandan bun, Edgecumbe Cafe offers Matcha and Red Bean bun as well as Blue Flower bun as well, so do check with them for the availability.

Next up, we had another simple dish Popiah (RM 8.90) from the entrée menu, which may look ordinary but tastes fabulous. The Popiah is made of stir-fried turnip and wrapped with rice crepe, then served with organic sweet chilli sauce. Although the components of the popiah looks really basic, but the sweetness of the turnip really stands out amongst the crunchy vegetable; not forgetting the thin yet soft rice crepe holds them well. This popiah can be easily enjoyed with the organic chilli sauce to give it some 'oomph', or can be enjoyed as-is, which is equally tasty.
After all the appetizers and entree, we were served a main of Fish Claypot Noodle (RM 23.90), which was a pot full of goodness in its own right when we found out the ingredients used! First up, brown rice vermicilli was used, and deep sea Grouper fish was chosen for its size and texture. The fish soup was double boiled so we could imagine how nutritious this dish would be. For soup dish lovers, this is a must try indeed, I totally enjoyed the sweetness of the soup, the freshness of the fish and all the accompanying organic vegetables.

And that's not all, they even serve a totally ass-kicking 'concoction' for us to fully enjoy this fish noodle with - spring onions, shredded ginger and chilli in soy sauce. I kid you not, this baby is hot but is a match made in heaven with this fish noodle. Once again, you can enjoy the noodles on its own or have them with this concoction.

After such a hearty noodle main dish, we were toned down with a pleasant Pumpkin Kuih which is specially made for us to sample. It was a flavorful kuih that is light in texture and it was topped with the familiar Burdock floss once again, which, by the way, we could not get enough of :) This is like an alternative pumpkin version of Yam kuih but I reckon this is better.

Just when we thought we'd seen (or rather tasted) it all, we were served with a dessert I do not mind having seconds of - Berries Yogurt Sorbet! I was really excited and the taste did not disappoint me at all. This home made sorbet is made with berries (obviously) and soy-based yogurt, which is lactose-free and is suitable for those who are lactose-intolerant. This was definitely one good non-milk sorbet. I truly enjoyed every little spoonfuls of it, right up to the last drop.

We had a tour of Edgecumbe Retreat afterwhich and learnt that they not only have a nice cafe, the retreat houses a spa on the upper floor, which provides hair, manicure, pedicure, body massage, foot reflexology services all under one roof as well. The hair salon is the only salon that is authorized to use Simply Organic products.

Apart from cafe and spa, Edgecumbe Retreat retails Organic products as well since they are the true ambassadors of organic food and living. Many types of organic products can be found under this roof:-

What's more to say about this place? I'm already planning my next trip there with my friends to sample even more of their organic food varieties :D Now who wants to tag along?

Edgecumbe Retreat
Spa . Beauty . Cafe
64 Edgecumbe Lane
10250 Penang
Operating Hours : 11am - 8pm
Closed on Sundays

****** Please call for reservation and enquiry for daily specials ******

February 19, 2012

Invited Review : Cheers Restaurant & Bierhaus

Cheers is one of the newer establishments bearing the concept of not only a restaurant, it is also a hang out place for people to have a drink, or even play some pool and darts.

One can opt to hang out at the al fresco area external to the establishment; or enjoy a drink at the bar or at the high tables on the ground floor; or have a quieter ambiance upstairs to enjoy a nice meal.

First up, we were served with a piping hot Homemade Mushroom Soup (RM 9.80) which comes with complimentary Garlic Bread. I love a good bowl of mushroom goodness with some twists of drizzled cream as well as surprising bits of what seemed to me like sautéed mushroom slices. The garlic bread was crunchy and is a perfect match to the homemade mushroom soup.

We were then served with a Cheers Fisherman Sensation (RM 29.80) which consists of 2 types of fish - dory and seabass; prawns, mussel as well as chuka idako (seasoned baby octopus).

According to the chef, 2 types of fish were included in this dish to provide a variety in terms of texture and taste and I thought this was pretty neat. The cheese baked mussels were good sized; and the prawns fresh. I didn't sample the infamous chuka idako but it did not look too bad to me. A fragrant garlic butter sauce was used in this dish and it blended all the seafood well. We can find a good portion of mash potatoes to finish this dish off too.

The next main course was Cheers Seafood Chicken (RM 31.80).

This was a pretty evident fusion dish indeed, as it comprised of baked chicken chop that was then topped with seafood and cheese, then finally finished with mandarin orange sauce. I'm always a skeptic when it comes to orange sauce in any of my food; but the version served here did not come across weird at all. This is the perfect dish for those who can't really make up their mind whether to have a pure chicken or seafood dish and do not mind some good ol' baked cheese. We were also pretty surprised to find some purple mash which is made up of Japanese sweet potatoes. Nice touch, considering the contrast in colour and lightness in texture compared with normal potatoes.

Next up - we had Cheers Burger Special (RM 21.80) which may appear to be a normal double decker burger served with french fries and coleslaw; but one of the patty is made of pork; and the other seafood. The seafood patty is made up of salmon, scallop, mussel and prawn which gave it a really good, chewy texture; whereas the pork patty was equally flavorful. It's seriously a good burger if you were to ask me, as everything else like the bread, melted cheese and salad complemented the patties well. The only thing we need to get over was how to eat it :)

The last 2 main courses were hard core pork dishes, the first one being Cheers BBQ Ribs (RM 29.80).

We learnt from the chef that the ribs were marinated with their homemade BBQ sauce overnight then slow-baked using conventional oven for 6-7 hours; which results in a flavorful, well-infused rib racks. The meat fell off the bone easily and was a pleasure to enjoy. Though the BBQ sauce was normal to me; the texture and juiciness of the ribs made up for it just fine. In this dish, we could also observe the use of Japanese sweet potato mash once again which gave it a good colour combination alongside the ribs and vegetable sides.

Last but not least, the German-influenced dish of Cheers Knuckles for 1 (RM 29.80) was served. Compared to the version I tried here before, I was glad to see some improvement of the knuckles served properly in whole pieces; the skin super crispy and crunchy yet the meat within tender; and most importantly, the beer-reduced sauce was served separately. Another fusion element we found in this dish was the side of Thai salsa which gave it a different twist to this otherwise pure German dish.

In all, I felt the signature dishes were good and worth trying; of course provided if they were prepared with the same amount of passion and sincerity in delivering a consistent taste.

Cheers Restaurant and Bierhaus
3X, Jalan Pantai Molek,
Tanjung Tokong 10470 Penang
Telephone : +604 8999 757

January 9, 2012

Paradise Restaurant @ Madras Lane

Mun and Uee intro-ed this new place for our New Year's day gathering and boy did we all face a tough time figuring out where this place was! Google didn't work be it using their Chinese name 市外桃园 or English name Paradise Restaurant.

It's hard to miss this bright purple-adorned establishment and stepping into the restaurant indeed brought a sense of serenity as the name itself indicates that this is the ideal escapade away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The main entrance

The restaurant is made up of lower and upper floor comprising of the same theme:-

Table setting and the huge menu

The menu offers a variety of Taiwanese and Fusion Japanese dishes. We sampled some main dishes and side orders for adult and children alike.

Chicken in sesame oil and ginger with

This was my dish and it was served hot. I love how the vermicelli is separated from the chicken stew so we are free to blend the amount we desire. The Chicken pieces were well infused with the sesame oil and ginger; with the vermicelli texture was just rightly soft. Hubby and I agreed this was not bad.

Hubby ordered this uniquely named Taiwanese dish called 蚂蚁上树, which is a spicy stir-fried glass noodle dish with minced pork. After sampling it, he complimented how tasty it was hence Denise and Uee followed suit so this easily became the most popular dish of the night :) The glass noodles were soft yet springy, and was well stir-fried with spices and minced pork. It was not overly spicy which can suit most palates.

Mun had Stewed Minced Pork Rice (鲁肉饭) which we were specifically informed that this was going to be in a tiny portion (we kinda figured this one out looking at its price compared to the other dishes)

This was not bad though I reckon we could not really tell since it was in such a 'generous' portion.

A showdown of the side dishes/snacks indicated that they were not too bad afterall.

Fragrant Deep Fried Chicken

Though a normal side dish, it was tasty with crispy yet not overly thick batter.

Taiwan Crispy Chicken Nuggets

Being one of Taiwan's most popular snack, Paradise's version did not disappoint. The salty and crunchy skin of the chicken nuggets were then topped with chilli powder.

Fried mini shrimps

The shrimps were super crunchy and this was undoubtedly a very addictive snack indeed.

One thing to note is, the food was generally on the salty side, maybe owing to the fact that these were Taiwanese dishes so it might not suit people who prefer more neutral flavors.

Food aside, all of us felt that there were definitely rooms for improvement given how new this restaurant was. For a starter, Uee who was the first to order waited way too long for her food to arrive, only to be informed after few follow-ups that they have run out of this dish. This was very poor indeed, given the fact that her daughter was waiting for the food. The staff did not show a sense of apologetic and was not able to handle the situation well. A few of us had green tea which was refillable but we had to keep requesting for refills which we expected to be automatic.

Having said that, not everything was bad. The supervisor brought 2 egg tarts to Uee as an apologetic gesture for not informing her on the unavailability of her ordered dish. And the fact that the staff had insisted to refund our paid bill for a dish which they forgot to remove off the bill indicated that they tried their best to deliver to customer needs. We were also thanked and bid goodbye as we were leaving too.

This is a place worth giving a second chance.

市外桃园 Paradise Restaurant
33, Madras Lane 10400 Penang
Contact : +604-2266777

January 7, 2012

Agua Mediterranean Cuisine @ Straits Quay for NYE

Hubby and I spent the last dinner for 2011 right here at Straits Quay, sampling the special X'mas/New Year Eve dinner menu of what Agua had to offer over. It was my second visit to Agua but the first for hubby. I will blog about my first visit separately as it was worthwhile mentioning.

I made a reservation ahead and was pleasantly welcomed with a fairly private table just for the 2 of us tucked in an inner corner of their establishment.

Having glanced through their menu prior, I have pretty much decided what I wanted to order for the main course but since Agua offered
À la carte, hubby opted to order off the À la carte menu instead; and we'd share the starter and the dessert from my dinner set.

What was offered in their special dinner menu:-

In the end, I settled for Spanish Chestnut, Chili and Bacon Soup

As per the description, this is a Spanish country soup made with chestnuts, chili, potatoes and garlic served hot with bacon bits and garlic bread. I have loved the first soup I tried and I liked this one equally well. I love for a fact that their soups are always piping hot and believe me, not every place emphasizes on this small detail. The taste of the soup was rich and it did not come across too spicy as well. Very appetizing to start any meal with.

Next up I chose a dish which I felt represents Mediterranean cuisine better - Medallions of Pork Roussillon, which comprised of prime medallions of pork in a wine, apple and brandy sauce.

I've always had impressions that it is very tough to master pork dishes, particularly in ensuring that the porky smell will not be present, it is well-marinated and above all, prepared in an appropriate method that will bring out the best in the pork and not leaving it too dry. Having sampled this version, I must say the meat was not only tender and did not smell porky, the sauce was unique and somehow went well with the pork. I suppose if anyone was not told that this was pork, they might have a hard time guessing what meat it was. The main courses all come with Agua's own Gratin Dauphinoise potatoes, which is the French method of baking potatoes in milk, cream and cheese. They were beautiful, and so were t
he side of French Beans with bacon and garlic, which, put together, completed the whole meaty affair perfectly.

Hubby who ordered off the
À la carte menu chose to sample their Sticky Spanish Ribs (RM 36.90)

As the name of the dish suggests, this is a sticky version of pork ribs compared to the usual affair we are used to. Having said that, sticky did not mean the ribs were dry though, as it did not taste dry, but rather a neutral taste - not too sweet neither salty. Hubby commented that this was like having 'char siew' ala Western style - which I find was quite apt :) The portions of the salad was so generous that it took both of us to finish most of them; and the Rosemary potatoes were nicely baked and flavorful too.

Last but not least, I chose the dessert of Spanish Bread and Butter Pudding, simply because it is my favorite dessert of all times! And also the fact that I wanted to see if the Spanish version offered anything different.

My eyes literally lit when this arrived at our table and tasting the first spoonful proved this dessert to be an equally good one compared to its non-Spanish counterparts. The only difference I could tell were the hints of alcohol and non-existence of raisins. Nevertheless, I still felt totally satisfied with this Spanish version of my favorite dessert no less.

While my dessert was being served, the owner of Agua actually served us complimentary Orange Liquors and we were definitely surprised with the festive gesture while we usher into the new year 2012.

One thing I would really want to mention was the customer-orientated service and attentiveness of the staff. When I made my reservation and requested for a soft copy of their dinner menu, the staff not only took down my email, he also called back a few times (missed his call twice) just to inform that he had sent it and if I had received it. During our dinner, we also received attentive and friendly service as well, not to mention the owner and staff thanked us and bid us goodbye, despite having most of the tables filled up.

Definitely a place I'll be coming back for more!