Black Kettle

Special thanks to Black Kettle for extending this food review invitation.

Black Kettle is located at the corner of Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai) and Chulia Street Ghaut (Gat Lebuh Chulia). Spanning two shop units, this food establishment combines the roles of a bistro, a café and a pâtisserie under one roof.
Stepping into the restaurant, one is greeted by the spacious dining hall whose design incorporates black, white and wooden elements. According to the proprietor, the name "Black Kettle" is meant to reflect the role of this household item in preparing hot beverages during social gatherings.
The front-half of Black Kettle resembles a European-style bistro where people can mingle around in a relaxed setting. There is a light well to help illuminate the interior section of this massive dining hall. Against the wall below the light well is a hanging garden, providing some degree of greenery to the overall appearance of the bistro.
Further back, the restaurant is more family-oriented. Seating arrangements are inspired by modernist style with minimalist leanings. In conjunction with the upcoming Halloween (more information below), Black Kettle is decorated with spine-tingling trinkets like bats and spider webs.
At the helm of Black Kettle's kitchen are Chef Hung and Chef Willy. Between them are decades of culinary experience across the globe. Taking advantage of their international exposure, Black Kettle's latest menu places emphasis on modernist European cuisine, in many cases integrating ingredients from other cultures. Food ingredients such as sauces and stocks are prepared from scratch, therefore eliminating the use of artificial preservatives and flavoring (MSG).
The first dish is Moroccan Lamb Stew (RM38.00), inspired by lamb tajine (ⵜⴰⵊⵉⵏ) in Berber cuisine. Although lamb is traditionally cooked in an earth pot (also known as a tajine), Black Kettle takes the sous-vide approach. Not only does sous-vide cooking produce consistent results, it also allows the lamb to maintain its form without disintegrating after prolonged heating.
The lamb shoulder is flavored with spicy-savory gravy made from lamb stock and a myriad of Mediterranean spices. The gravy also contains baby potatoes, carrots and dried apricots. Also included is Moroccan flat bread called khubz (خبز‎‎). Khubz is usually round in shape, but Black Kettle prepares it in rectangular form.

Finnish Salmon (RM38.00) is my favorite dish today. This dish is inspired Lohikeitto, a popular breakfast dish which Chef Hung learned during his visit to Finland. The original recipe calls for flaked salmon, but Black Kettle keeps the salmon in fillet form using sous-vide technique.
The salmon is scrumptious in its own right, but I think the true appeal of this dish lies in the savory broth. Stewed for days and infused with milk towards the end, the broth is extremely gratifying to the very last drop. Baby potatoes, carrots, cauliflowers and leek provide additional facets to this dish, while edible flowers and microgreens are used as garnish. I cannot recommend this dish highly enough.

Black Kettle's pasta menu is also quite developed. Black Sea Scrolls (RM36.00) is one of the more prominent ones. Unlike the one that I tried at Royal Winter Warmers, this dishes uses regular egg spaghetti which is then coated with freshly-cooked squid ink sauce. The distinctive taste of squid ink is unmistakable; the real question is whether it strikes a chord with one's palate.
Black Sea Scrolls is served with mussels, shrimps and squid. Seafood is very fresh, as evidenced by their delectable juiciness. Like the prior dish, garnishing is accomplished by using edible flowers and microgreens. In addition to that, beetroot cream is used to provide aesthetic appeal to this otherwise dull-looking dish.

Black Kettle's food menu also caters the dietary needs of vegetarians. Among the handful of meatless dishes in the latest menu, Mushroom Cheeseburger (RM28.00) stands out most prominently. The "patty" is actually made from wild mushrooms which have been minced and seasoned accordingly. Thanks to the use of genuine mushrooms, the aroma of the burger teases my nostrils in a delightful manner.
The burger contains cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickled gherkin - all working closely as counterbalance to the mushroom patty. Sandwiching all ingredients are two halves of a soft bun, which is also baked in-house. French fries are served on the side.

At Black Kettle, coffee beans are sourced from Dimattina Coffee, a reputable Australian roaster with a reasonably wide range of coffee blends. In particular, medium-dark roast is used. Known as "Gusto Oro", the blend is a combination of 4 single-origin beans from Latin American and India. As demonstrated in the cup of Caffè Mocha (RM11.00), Dimattina Coffee's espresso is bold in flavor and has subtle nutty overtones.
The pâtisserie section of Black Kettle revolves around European pastry and bread, particularly German and Nordic ones. There are approximately 70 types of pastry, bread and cakes at any given point in time.
Confectionery is prepared in-house and is baked twice each day to maintain absolute freshness. In fact, customers who prefer lighter meals in the morning are encouraged to "shop" for bread in the pâtisserie section.
My meal concludes with a dessert: Chocolate Truffle Cake (RM15.00). This mousse-like chocolate cake is infused with a small amount of rum, accentuating the bitter-sweetness of rich cocoa. The top surface of the cake is covered by fine cocoa powder in a similar manner as tiramisu.
Black Kettle is running a seasonal dinner menu in the spirit of Halloween. The Gravekeeper's Set (RM59.00), as it is called, is available from 11 October 2016 to 31 October 2016. Comprising of gazpacho, main dish and panna cotta dessert, this 3-course meal comes with a complimentary glass of wine.

The opening gazpacho dish is called "River Styx" in reference to the underworld river in Greek mythology. When served, hot water is poured over dry ice on the saucer. This causes dry ice to sublimate immediately. Since carbon dioxide (CO2) is denser than air, the mist lingers near the surface of the table and produces "spooky" appearance.
This chilled vegetable soup is popular in the Iberian Peninsula especially during the warm summer months. Black Kettle's recipe involves ingredients like crab meat, tomato and watermelon. Fresh vegetables are strained and blended together to produce an emulsion of pulpy consistency. Sharp spiciness at the finale of each sip is attributed to chipotle (dried jalapeño). Green apple slices provide some degree of fruity crunchiness.
The upper floor of Black Kettle is not used for dining, but is available for hosting seminars and workshops. With 4,000 square feet floor space, this spacious section can accommodate up to 300 people at a time. I am amazed that the flooring and woodwork are original. This is in spite of the fact that the building is nearly a century old!

Name: Black Kettle
Address: 105, Lebuh Pantai, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-251-9270
Business hours: 8:30am-12:00am
Coordinates: 5.41539 N, 100.33977 E
Directions: Black Kettle is located at the intersection between Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai) and Chulia Street Ghaut (Gat Lebuh Chulia). Street parking is available along both streets.

Pizza Station

Special thanks to Pizza Station for extending this food review invitation.

Sunshine Farlim is usually frequented by residents of Air Itam, but few people outside the immediate vicinity come here on a regular basis. In fact, I hardly remember the last time I visited this mall.
Right at the entrance of Sunshine Farlim is Pizza Station, a pizza shop which has been open continuously here since 2009. The pizza menu is organized into 3 categories of pizza toppings: Favourites, Supremes and Surfers Paradise. Pizzas come in 3 sizes: Personal (4 slices), Regular (6 slices) and Large (8 slices). As for pizza crust, there are 3 types: Original, Thin, Extreme Cheese.
At Pizza Station, pizzas are made to order to maintain their freshness. Typically, it takes approximately 13 minutes upon ordering to seeing hot pizzas exit the industrial-grade oven.
Pizza Station differs from many pizza places in the fact that it produces pizza dough and sauces from scratch. The menu is entirely pork-free, but beef is used in several instances. There are also a handful of vegetarian pizzas that do not contain onions in adherence to Buddhist vegetarianism.
One of the popular pizzas among regular customers is the Flaming Chicken (RM25.80), which goes well with Original crust. Dough is evenly spread with a layer of spicy tomato sauce, followed by grated mozzarella. Other toppings include chunks of spicy chicken, pineapples, green peppers, button mushrooms and onions. I like the fact that the crust has a fine balance between chewy and crispy textures. In addition, the homemade sauce and spicy chicken chunks contribute to the pizza's scrumptious appeal.
Customer who prefer pepperoni and ham can opt for the Italiano (RM25.80), which works better with Thin crust. There is a choice of either chicken or beef toppings. Other ingredients used in this pizza are tomato sauce, button mushrooms, green peppers and onions. Molten mozzarella cheese holds all toppings in place. As far as the crust is concerned, this version has sharper crisp which appeals more to some people.
Apart from pizzas, Pizza Station also has ramen burgers such as the Cheesy Chicken Ramen Burger (RM14.80). The key highlight of this burger is the "buns" which are made from ramen "patties", held in shape using beaten eggs. Sandwiched between the delectable ramen "patties" is a piece of deboned chicken thigh. Cooked on an iron griddle, the chicken remains tender and juicy.
Other ingredients contained in the burger are lettuce leaves, tomatoes, onions and the proprietor's very own cheese sauce. There is also a slice of orange cheddar cheese for good measure. For an additional RM3.00, the meal includes fries and iced lemon tea. Ramen "buns" can be exchanged for regular buns at no extra charge, but I recommend against doing that because the former is special indeed.
Texas Barbecue Wings comes in sizes of either 2 sets (RM6.80) or 4 sets (RM12.80) of Buffalo wings; a set includes the wingette and drumette. After being grilled, the wings are glazed with Pizza Station's signature barbecue sauce. The wings are best consumed while hot. Do not hesitate to use your hands because every bit of flesh is worth licking dry!
Wild Mushroom Soup (RM8.80) is the eatery's bestseller apart from pizzas. The soup is made from genuine mushrooms, resulting in a thick, creamy stew suspended with little chunks of mushrooms. The natural savoriness of mushrooms is very satisfying to my palate. I am glad to have the privilege of savoring this soup today.
In addition to the à la carte menu, Pizza Station also offers several set meals for individual, couple or family customers. The choices of pizzas are under the Favourites categories, but customers can opt for Supremes or Surfers Paradise pizzas by paying the price difference. With prices starting from RM14.80, the set meals are more economical than ordering individual items separately.
Homemade Hot Sauce is one of the condiments provided for the convenience of customers. Similar to Tabasco sauce, it is made from chili peppers and vinegar, resulting in fiery pungency which accentuates the enjoyment of pizzas. The Homemade Hot Sauce is also available for purchase for RM16.80 per bottle. The shelf life is 3 months with refrigeration.
Pizza Station provides free delivery service within Air Itam, Farlim, Paya Terubong, Green Lane and Jelutong. Minimum order of RM20.00 is required. Delivery to other areas is possible for large orders and on case-by-case basis.

Name: Pizza Station
Address: Sunshine Farlim, 294, Jalan Thean Teik, 11500 Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 016-486-6168, 012-568-6168
Business hours: 12:00pm-10:00pm (Monday-Thursday), 11:00am-10:00pm (Friday-Sunday)
Coordinates: 5.39605 N, 100.28642 E
Directions: Pizza Station is located near the front entrance of Sunshine Farlim. There are free parking spaces around the mall.

Tamarind Brasserie

Special thanks to Parkroyal for extending this food review invitation.

I have had several prior visits to Parkroyal in my own capacity, but this is the first time I am officially invited to this 5-star resort. Featuring family-friendly swimming pools with water slides, daycare center, spa center and other amenities, this 309-room hotel in Batu Ferringhi is a popular choice for holidaymakers.
There are three major eateries at Parkroyal. Tamarind Brasserie is the primary one, serving buffet breakfast, à la carte meals around the clock and international buffet on selected days. Dining at Uncle Zack By The Beach, dinner guests have the privilege of enjoying scenic views of the sunset over the sea. Last but not least, Cool Bananas provides light snacks and drinks conveniently next to the swimming pools.
My review today is the Seafood & Lobster Buffet Dinner at Tamarind Brasserie. Taking advantage of the soothing oceanic breeze, Tamarind Brasserie affords al fresco dining with an open kitchen concept. Balinese fountains and lush greenery in the adjacent lawn contribute to the lovely ambience of this fine food establishment.
The à la carte menu at Tamarind Brasserie features a combination of local fare and international cuisine. The Seafood & Lobster Buffet Dinner adheres to the same philosophy. To further illustrate this point, the buffet counters are ornamented with traditional tiffin carriers and local foodstuffs like noodles.
Grilled Lobster is the main highlight this evening. Gargantuan-sized lobsters are halved in order to expose their tender flesh. Heated by a gas-fired barbecue stove, the lobsters are flavored with lemon butter and Cajun spices. As the lobsters are extremely fresh, the juicy meat is heavenly indeed.
Other delicacies from the grill and griddle are Angus strip loin beef, shrimp, cuttlefish, mussel, lamb rack and chicken thigh. Several types of condiments are provided to go with barbecued meat. I personally like the mushroom and black pepper sauces; both are made from beef stock.

Baked Salmon is another popular dish and a regular item on Tamarind Brasserie's buffet menu. Indeed, there are guests who patronize this restaurant every week just to savor this dish. The salmon is flavored by creamy pesto, which helps to enhance the already-sweet taste of its flesh. Roasted potatoes and puff pastry are also included.
Should you fancy chilled seafood, there are oysters and scallops to satiate your appetite. Served over ice, these delicacies are best enjoyed with a squeeze of lemon juice and light drizzles of Tabasco sauce.
An appetizing platter of smoked salmon is almost impossible to resist. So are Japanese delicacies such as salmon sashimi (サーモン刺身), octopus (タコ) and unagi (鰻, freshwater eel).
Still in the marine kingdom, Pan-Fried Fish Fillet is served with almond pesto sauce. The cod is tender and readily absorbs savory flavor of the creamy sauce.
Baked Lamb Ribs is another satisfying dish this evening. The savory gravy is infused with fungi goodness of morel mushrooms.
Taking a detour to local comfort food, Fried Noodle is popular among Malaysians from all walks of life.
As for dairy products, the buffet includes an assortment of cheese like cheddar, gouda and camembert and emmental. A variety of artisan bread is provided to enjoy with cheese. Should diners prefer, there are also grapes, apricots, pecans, almonds, crackers and similar items to go with cheese.
As for salad, I personally enjoy Tossed Cherry Tomatoes with Buffalo Mozzarella. Niçoise Salad is also delectable. This French-inspired salad is made from tuna, tomato, onion and vinaigrette dressing.
Thai Egg Salad is an intriguing dish indeed. The combination of fried egg and crunchy yardlong beans provides nice mouthfeel. To spice things up, the salad is enhanced by chopped chili peppers, onion and scallion.
Some guests may prefer to mix their own salads. The buffet includes a variety of vegetables, dressings and condiments. In particular, I enjoy hummus (حُمُّص‎) very much. This Middle Eastern dish is made from mashed chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil and sesame seeds.
Moving to the pastry section, the range of confectionery is splendid indeed. Mango crêpes, jellies, fruit cupcakes are just some of the many treats available.
Meanwhile, Red Velvet is presented in the likeness of macarons. Garnished with sesame crisp, this pastry reflects the refined presentation of many items in the desserts section.
At Tamarind Brasserie, there is no shortage of goodies to pacify one's sweet tooth. Also included are dozens of French pastry, mousse and tartlet varieties. My only concern lies with the crème brûlée, where I find the caramelized layer to lack brittleness, and the fact that the custard's taste has been overpowered by egg yolk.
Speaking of eggs, Tamarind Brasserie's menu also includes several types of eggless desserts. It is nice knowing that the restaurant also accommodates the needs of vegans and people having egg allergies.
The waffle section is located near the entrance. Waffle toppings include peanut butter, blueberry jam, sweet cream and several others.
As for fresh fruits, there are honey dew, nangka, orange, papaya, watermelon, pineapple, apple and banana.
Like Spice Market in Rasa Sayang, Tamarind Brasserie also provides a Kids Corner in order to present a family-friendly setting. The spotlight of the Kids Corner is cast on a 6-tier chocolate fountain. There are several types of tidbits to dip into the fountain.
The Seafood & Lobster Buffet Dinner is held every Saturday between 6:30pm and 10:30pm. The price is RM148.00 for adult and RM45.00 for child (10 to 14 years). Senior citizens (65 years or older) enjoy reduced price of RM112.00 while children below the age of 10 dine for free. These are net prices. Prior reservation is recommended in case of overwhelming response. It is important to note that Tamarind Brasserie is a halal-certified restaurant.

Name: Tamarind Brasserie
Address: Parkroyal, 11100 Batu Ferringhi, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-881-1133
Business hours: 7:30am-11:00pm
Website: Click here
Coordinates: 5.47209 N, 100.24582 E
Directions: From Tanjung Bungah, travel west towards Batu Ferringhi. Parkroyal is approximately 5 kilometers from Tanjung Bungah's floating mosque, located on the right of the road. Tamarind Brasserie is located at the west wing of the hotel. There are parking spaces in front of the hotel.

Wembley Cafe

Special thanks to The Wembley for extending this food review invitation.

Wembley Cafe is one of the few hotel restaurants in Penang which offer buffet lunch and dinner on a daily basis. Located on Level 2 of The Wembley, the restaurant introduces a different theme each day of the week. For example, Mediterranean cuisine is served on Tuesdays, while tantalizing Thai delicacies are featured on Wednesdays.

As for Saturday evenings, the theme is revised from month to month. Throughout the month of October 2016, the buffet dinner is called "The Wembley Chef's Signature Dishes Night". This menu features chefs' signature delicacies such as Chef Peng's Canapes. Presented here are smoked salmon with sturgeon caviar, and camembert cheese with tomato and olives.
The "Seafood On Ice" section consists of an assortment of marine harvest such as snow crabs, flower crabs, tiger prawns, oysters, mussels and octopus. Seafood is either raw or boiled without seasoning. This is where condiments such as spicy cocktail sauce, Oriental dressing and Tabasco sauce come in.
As for sashimi (刺身), three of the most popular fishes are used: salmon (サーモン), tuna (マグロ) and butterfish (白マグロ). I would like to suggest that sashimi should be served over ice so that the flesh remains chilled and firm.
Moving on to sushi (寿司), there are over a dozen types of nigiri (握り) and gunkan (軍艦) variants with different toppings. Sushi is customarily enjoyed with wasabi (山葵), pickled ginger (ガリ) and soy sauce (醤油).
Lor Ark (卤鸭), or braised duck, is also on today's menu. Compared to chicken, duck has arguably sweeter flavor when cooked properly. Bean curd and soy eggs are also available. Light sprinkle of fried garlic helps to accentuate the duck's savory flavors. Chili sauce and ginger sauce serve as condiments; the latter is particularly appetizing. Should diners prefer, congee (porridge) is also provided to consume with Lor Ark.
Radish cake (萝卜糕) is a new item on the menu. The "cake" is made from a mixture of rice flour and shredded daikon, which is steamed and then left out for 2 days for it to "set". There are several ways to cook radish cake; Pan-Fried Radish Cake is one. Thick slabs of radish cake are lightly fried on both sides until the surface becomes crispy.
Steamed Radish Cake is also available. I recommend adding Chef Owen's signature crispy XO sauce for enhanced flavor. As for the radish cake itself, I personally prefer proportionately more daikon so that the "cake" feels "denser".
On the other hand, I feel that Deep-Fried Salmon With Pickled Lettuce Dip is masterfully prepared. Salmon fillets are deep-fried to golden perfection. Fortunately, this dish is devoid of unpleasant oiliness that is often associated with fried foodstuff.
Another scrumptious dish is Wok-Fried Clam With Spicy Bean Paste. Clams are usually cooked with seasoning as they lack intrinsic flavors. For this dish, doubanjiang (豆瓣酱) carries sweet-savoriness to delight my palate.
Mantis Shrimp With Salted Egg is another highlight this evening. I love the crispy mouthfeel and appetizing taste of the salted egg coating. As evidence of its popularity, this dish is often depleted and needs to be replenished from time to time.
Wok-Fried Prawns With Bisnori is one of Wembley Cafe's signature dishes. After being fried in hot oil, the large shrimps are tossed with "bisnori" seasoning. "Bisnori" is an invented word that is combined from "biscuit" and "nori" (海苔). Bisnori seasoning comprises of crackers, edible kelp, spices and sugar.
Still on the topic of shellfish, there is Oyster Gratin With Curry Cream. Somehow, I still prefer raw oysters over baked ones.
Also present in the seafood department is Turmeric Linguine With Mussels & Scallop. The pasta is best enjoyed while it is still warm; otherwise linguine becomes too firm when it is cold.
Moving on to poultry, Pumpkin Parmigiana is the first to catch my attention. Parmigiana is made from breaded chicken cutlet, deep-fried until it turns crispy. The cutlet is served with molten cheese and tomato sauce, as well as light sprinkle of herbs to improve aroma.
I find the Duck Ragout With Pappardelle quite intriguing. In this French-Italian dish, duck chunks are slow-cooked with a variety of spices and in thick gravy. Ragout is also served with pappardelle, a type of flat pasta originally from Tuscany. Pappardelle is substantially broader than fettuccine and is nearly an inch wide.
One of my shortlisted favorites this evening is Lavender Chicken Roulade With Camembert Pistachio. Here, deboned chicken breast is rolled around camembert cheese and chopped pistachio. Roulade is braised in lavender-flavored gravy and then sliced into rounds before serving.
Diners who take beef should also try some Smoked Medallions Of Beef With Chestnut & Tarragon Sauce. The beef is lightly smoked so that the center remains pink and juicy. Meanwhile, the creamy sauce complements well with the beef slices.
I highly recommend Chicken, Leek & Mushroom Pot Pies. Each pie is served in a teacup and is covered with flaky puff pastry. Pie fillings consist of chicken chunks, mushrooms and a variety of herbs in a creamy consistency.
The dishes so far tend to be meat-centric. Therefore, it is worthwhile to have some Garden Salad as counterbalance. There are leafy vegetables such as lollo rosso, frisée, oakleaf and butterhead. Croutons, raisins and a handful of salad dressings are also provided.
Meanwhile, the desserts section has seen significant improvement since my previous visit. There is now a wider range of French pastries such as mille-feuille. The large number of goodies should be able to pacify one's sweet tooth.
Speaking of sweet tooth, several types of jellies and puddings are also available. In particular, I like the Osmanthus & Wolfberry Jelly. However, I think it is important to keep the jelly chilled because it tends to "melt" when exposed to ambient temperature.
Tang Yuan (汤圆) is a traditional Chinese delicacy that is often associated with winter solstice (冬至) celebration. There are several flavors of glutinous rice balls cooked in ginger-infused syrup. The rice balls may or may not have fillings of their own.
Chocolate lovers should be thrilled to know that the buffet spread includes chocolate fondue too. Items like marshmallow and apricots are provided to be dipped into the hot chocolate sauce.
Last but not least, there are also a handful of fruit varieties for diners to conclude the feast. Fresh cut fruits today are pitaya (dragon fruit), oranges, honey dew, watermelon and plums.
Wembley Cafe's buffet dinner is served from 7:00pm to 10:00pm daily. On weekends, the buffet is priced at RM108.00 for adult, RM54.00 for child and RM76.00 for senior citizen (net prices). For each week in the month of October 2016, there is a raffle where the lucky diner wins a complementary buffet dinner voucher for two persons.

Name: Wembley Cafe
Address: 183, Jalan Magazine, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-259-8123
Business hours: 24 hours
Coordinates: 5.41302 N, 100.33000 E
Directions: The Wembley is located at Magazine Road (Jalan Magazine), just opposite of Hotel Jen. Wembley Cafe is located at Level 2 of the hotel. There is a multilevel parking garage at the hotel. Patrons to Wembley Cafe can get their parking tickets validated for a flat rate of RM6.00 per entry.