Special thanks to Iconic Hotel for extending this food review invitation.

Mezza9 is the main eatery in Iconic Hotel. Located on the mezzanine level of this 4-star hotel, Mezza9 offers buffet dinner every Friday and Saturday evenings. To keep things new and exciting, the buffet theme is revised every 2 months.
Following the Taste of Nyonya Buffet Dinner, Mezza9 is switching to the Seafood & Wine Buffet Dinner to take advantage of Malaysians' infatuation with seafood. There are dozens of seafood dishes that cover cooking styles from Malay, Chinese, Western, Japanese and Thai cuisines.
Seafood on ice is the most popular section of the buffet line. Large cooked lobsters are chilled over a bed of ice. The lobsters resemble shrimps in texture but have substantially more flesh than their distant relatives.
Alaskan snow crabs, Australian spanner crabs and New Zealand green-lipped mussels are several more marine delicacies this evening. Such seafoods do not come cheap, so diners can easily justify the buffet's value for money.
Flower crabs are a local catch but they do not have as much flesh as their foreign cousins. Also served over ice are large shrimps, smoked salmon and smoked tenggiri (Spanish mackerel). Although condiments like Tabasco sauce and lemon wedges are provided, I think these chilled seafoods can also benefit from homemade dressings like cocktail sauce and lemon aioli.
Moving on to sashimi (刺身), raw fish are sliced upon request in order to maintain freshness. Choices available are salmon (サケ), butterfish (イボダイ), tuna (マグロ) and octopus (タコ). Wasabi (山葵) and soy sauce (醤油) are condiments to go with sashimi. In addition, there are also Japanese pickles (漬物) like takuanzuke (沢庵漬), shibazuke (柴漬) and fukujinzuke (福神漬).
The action counter prepares griddle-fried seafoods such as Portuguese Baked Fish. Butterfish is used here, but I think its texture is not the best choice. Nevertheless, the pleasant Portuguese-style seasoning is the saving grace. The fish is cooked in banana leaf and aluminium foil to retain its natural flavor. In addition, diners should also try some Fried Oyster Omelette (蚝煎).
Seafood Paella (Paella De Marisco) is a popular dish in Spain especially in the Valencian region. The rice is quite tasty on its own thanks to the presence of seafood broth. Served with this dish are New Zealand green-lipped mussels and shrimps.
Oysters Au Gratin are served with their shells - at least half of them - intact. This French recipe covers the oysters' flesh with a layer of golden crust. The crust consists of bread crumbs and cheese. Coriander and tomato serve as garnish.
The next dish, Braised Mussels In 3 Flavors (Kupang Tiga Rasa), is a local fare. Bay mussels are cooked in a special sauce known as "Tiga Rasa", which is a combination of sweet, sour and spicy flavors. Native to the North Pacific Ocean, bay mussels are smaller than their southern counterparts.
One of the most popular cooked dishes this evening is Deep Fried Soft Shell Crabs With Garlic Aioli. Japanese blue crabs are used. The crabs have recently discarded their old shells and their new ones have yet to harden. Therefore, the crabs are soft enough to be eaten entirely. Such crabs are often served in Japanese restaurants to make sushi (寿司) and temaki (手巻き).
Braised Flower Crabs In Spicy Coconut Milk are blessed with appetizing tanginess of pineapples. The flower crabs are only mildly spicy as coconut milk tones down the sharp taste of spices.
Baked Salmon With Pink Peppercorn Sauce is cut into bite-size pieces for the convenience of guests. The salmon is served in creamy sauce and is garnished with rosemary twigs.
Grilled Calamari With Lemon Garlic Rosemary is cooked just right so that it becomes reasonably tender without becoming too leathery. Tender pieces of squid are presented with broccoli and grilled lemons. The latter imparts some tangy citrus taste. At the meantime, rosemary leaves lend their distinctive aroma.
Inspired by a similar poultry dish, Kong Po Squid (宫保鱿鱼) is stir-fried with onions, bell peppers and dried chili peppers. Meanwhile, Stir Fried Nestum Prawns (麦片虾) are coated with a crispy layer of multi-grain cereals.
Hailing from the north, Tom Yam Gong Soup (ต้มยำกุ้ง) is a wildly popular Thai dish. Its main appeal lies in the soup's sour taste, which is primarily contributed by kaffir lime. The tantalizing soup is also loaded with flower crabs and large shrimps. If this Thai soup is too spicy for you, go for the Seafood Chowder instead.
Lok-Lok (乐乐) is a local street food for which diners do their own cooking. There are several types of skewered items such as shrimps, octopus, cuttlefish, fish balls, shiitake mushrooms, bak choy (小白菜) and more. The skewers are dipped into boiling water until the food becomes cooked.
The noodle station provides several seafood-based soups for local favorites like prawn mee (福建面), scallop soup (干贝汤) and asam laksa (亚参叻沙). Diners can also pick their own ingredients such as shrimps, fish balls, fishcakes, hard-boiled eggs and fried onion. Noodle choices are yellow noodle (黄面), koay teow (粿条) and thick rice noodle (粗米粉).
This evening's buffet features three types of cheese: cheddar, brie and blue cheese. A basket of fresh bread is meant to go with cheese. In addition, there are also apricots, blueberries, cranberries, raisins and crackers.
Moving on to confectionery, there are over a dozen types of French pastries to choose from. The cakes are presented in small portions for guests' convenience. Apart from cakes, there are also a number of tartlets and fruit jellies to satisfy everyone's sweet tooth.
The chocolate fountain is particularly well-received among children. Ladyfingers (savoiardi), marshmallows, apricots and grapes are provided to take advantage of the rich chocolate sauce.
The desserts section offers a colorful variety of cut fruits like pitaya (dragon fruit), honeydew, papaya, watermelon, orange, starfruit and strawberry. As for drinks, there are coffee, hot tea, teh tarik (pulled tea), iced lemon tea and lychee cordial.
Iconic Hotel's Seafood & Wine Buffet Dinner is offered for the months of October and November 2017. Dinner is served between 7:00pm and 10:00pm on Friday and Saturday evenings. The adult price is RM108.00 net. Children and senior citizens are entitled 50% discount. Citibank, Maybank and CIMB credit card holders enjoy 25% discount off the adult rate.
For an additional RM50.00, each diner enjoys an endless flow of beer or wine (either one). It is truly gratifying to sip cool beer between rounds of seafood. The waiting staff ensures that the mug stays bottomless.
If beer is not your cup of tea, wine is a good alternative too. White wine pairs well with seafood, but red wine is also available upon request.
Name: Mezza9
Address: Iconic Hotel, 71, Jalan Icon City, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-505-9988
Business hours: 6:00am-1:00am
Coordinates: 5.34206 N, 100.43289 E
Directions: From the North-South Expressway, take the Bukit Mertajam exit and head east. Turn left just before Petron gas station, then turn right to the front entrance of the 15-floor Iconic Hotel. Mezza9 is located on the Mezzanine Level of the hotel. The hotel provides multistorey parking.

Hard Rock Cafe

Special thanks to Hard Rock Hotel for extending this food review invitation.

Hard Rock Hotel is a resort in Batu Ferringhi. Located near the western end of this popular beach, the 4-star hotel features a water park with kid-friendly swimming pools, water slides and splash pads. The hotel has three major restaurants: Hard Rock Cafe, Starz Diner and Pizzeria.
Hard Rock Cafe is where the brand all started (in the United Kingdom, despite being an American brand). The restaurant's ambience revolves around rock and roll theme. Numerous pieces of musical memorabilia are prominently displayed throughout the 2 floors. Under the fancy chandelier is a small stage where live music is performed every evening.
From 2 October 2017 to 12 November 2017, Hard Rock Cafe is launching a corporate-wide initiative called Vegetarian Awareness Month. A menu of 5 vegetarian dishes is prepared to raise awareness on the health benefits of a meat-free diet.

The most popular choice is the Spinach, Potato & Chickpea Burger (RM35.00). As the name implies, the 6-ounce patty is made from spinach, red skin potato, chickpeas and spices. Also sandwiched between two halves of a burger bun are arugula (rocket salad) and cucumber slices that resemble cheese. Steak fries and spicy yogurt sauce are served on the side.
My personal favorite dish this evening is the Grilled Ratatouille Wrap (RM33.00). Ratatouille is a traditional French dish of vegetables like eggplant, squash, tomato, onions and arugula. Sautéed with olive oil, the vegetables retain their natural sweetness and crunchiness. The vegetables are wrapped in flour tortilla and then dressed in spicy mayonnaise.
The ratatouille also comes with a bowl of garden salad, comprising of fresh vegetables like onions, carrots, arugula and red leaf lettuce. Croutons are also thrown into the mix. Diners can also request for homemade salad dressings like balsamic vinaigrette, honey mustard and Thousand Island dressing.
Camp Hispanic fields another finger food called Sweet Potato And Black Bean Tacos (RM33.00). This dish features three pieces of corn tortillas, which are reasonably firm but not quite as crispy as hard-shell tacos. Inside each taco are sweet potatoes, black turtle beans, cabbage, guacamole, feta cheese and chili sauce. There is also a bowl of salad on the side.
Using flour tortilla, the Grilled Hummus Quesadillas (RM35.00) is filled with spinach, sun-dried tomato and black olives. The vegetarian quesadilla also contains garlic and herb hummus; the latter is easily mistaken as guacamole. Spicy sauce gives a sharp twist to this snack. Again, a bowl of vegetable salad is provided.
Moving on, Quinoa And Arugula Salad (RM35.00) is one of the healthiest choices this evening. Quinoa is an edible, cereal-like crop from South America that is rich in protein and dietary fiber. The salad also contains arugula, candied pecans, sun-dried tomato, chopped coriander and shredded Brussels sprouts. Grated feta cheese and tangy citrus vinaigrette assimilate all ingredients together.
The bar at Hard Rock Cafe is stocked with numerous labels of wines and spirits. Draft beers like Carlsberg, Asahi and Hoegaarden come in handy as Oktoberfest is just around the corner. The bar has also shortlisted a handful of cocktails to go with this month's vegetarian menu.
The first drink, Mule Over My Rosemary (RM44.00), is a concoction of gin, ginger beer, Monin watermelon fruit purée and fresh lime juice. The drink is presented in a Mason jar and is garnished with fresh rosemary herb. Like many Hard Rock Cafe collectibles, the Mason jar on sale for RM35.00 with purchase of any cocktail.
The Heat Is On (RM44.00) is the next drink on the cocktail lineup. While its appearance and taste are similar to mojito, the ingredients are starkly different. Using vodka as the base, the cocktail is sweetened with Monin almond orgeat, and then infused with jalapeño peppers for the spicy aftertaste. Meanwhile, lemon and mint leaves lend their refreshing aromas.
A shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey mixed with Red Bull energy drink results in Yellowson (RM44.00). This cocktail owes its yellowish hue to the latter, whose distinctive scent incites polarizing responses among different people. Cherry and orange wedge are part of the drink's finishing touch.
Cool As A Cucumber (RM44.00) is a tequila-based drink blessed with cooling freshness of Monin cucumber syrup. In addition, a cucumber spear literally sticks out of the Mason jar. Grapefruit juice gives an alluring reddish color, while mint leaves provide the refreshing breath. Salt is applied on the rim to give this cocktail a sharper taste.
Also prepared in a salt-rimmed glass, Citrus Mary (RM48.00) comprises of Absolut Citron vodka, Cointreau triple sec and Bloody Mary mix. Wedges of lemon and orange give this drink a piquant appeal. Meanwhile, green olives and celery serve primarily aesthetic roles.
Many of these vegetarian dishes contain cheese, but vegan versions are also available upon request. Hard Rock Cafe's kitchen closes at 10:30pm but the bar remains open till closing time. Diners can also participate in an ongoing raffle with a chance to win a brand-new Triumph Bonneville Bobber. To qualify, customers just need to spend RM250.00 or more on a single receipt. This contest runs till 14 December 2017.
Name: Hard Rock Cafe
Address: Hard Rock Hotel Penang, 11000 Batu Ferringhi, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-886-8050
Business hours: 11:30am-2:00am (Sunday-Thursday), 11:30am-2:30am (Friday-Saturday)
Coordinates: 5.46745 N, 100.24176 E
Directions: From Tanjung Bungah, travel west towards Batu Ferringhi. Hard Rock Hotel is approximately 6 kilometers from Tanjung Bungah's floating mosque, located on the right of the road. Hard Rock Cafe is located on the Ground Floor, with a separate entrance to the right of the hotel lobby. There are parking spaces in front of the hotel.

Arabica Estate

Special thanks to Arabica Estate for extending this food review invitation.

Arabica Estate is one of the major distributors of roasted coffee beans in Penang. Focusing on specialty coffee, the roastery deals almost exclusively with Arabica beans. To cater the needs of different customers, Arabica Estate offers several grades of mixed blend and single origin beans from around the world.
Arabica Estate has an outlet at Automall which serves as its flagship store. Like most eateries here, the eatery does not have air-conditioning and relies on natural breeze for ventilation. What sets Arabica Estate apart from competition is the fact that it has attained halal certification. This distinction applies to both the roastery and the kitchen.
Cappuccino (RM10.00) contains a two shots of espresso with an equal amount of milk. Brewed from a blend of premium beans, the coffee presents reasonably strong flavor amid soothing creaminess. Iced and ice-blended versions are also available, but I generally prefer hot coffee because this is when the coffee's aroma and taste are most pronounced.
Charcoal Latte (RM13.00) is black in color due to the presence of charcoal powder. A pinch of salt is added for heightened taste, resulting in a cheese-like taste. The hot drink is also given a small dose of sweetness through condensed milk. Tulip-pattern latte art is presented on milk foam.
One of the unique drinks at Arabica Estate is Traditional Baller Koffeez (RM17.00). The centerpiece of this drink is a ball of solid ice, one that is usually used for cocktails. Also included are two shots of espresso and a carafe of sweetened milk. Milk is kept chilled using ice cubes in a separate ice pocket.
To prepare the drink, simply pour espresso and milk over the ice ball, and then shake gently so that the components mix well. Considering the fact that coffee's strength is diminished when served cold, Arabica Estate uses a stronger blend of coffee beans for chilled drinks.
Besides espresso-based drinks, Arabica Estate also offers manual coffee brewing techniques like the siphon. There are several choices of single origin beans. Non-coffee drinks include tea, milkshakes, smoothies and more.
Although Arabica Estate focuses on coffee, the food menu is reasonably developed too. Dishes are geared towards Italian cuisine like pasta and pizza. One such example is Scallop Spaghetti (RM36.00). The pasta is sautéed with scallops, button mushrooms and olive oil. Basil leaf is added to provide aroma.
Besides drawing coffee lovers, Arabica Estate also uses this store to showcase franchising opportunities. Its corporate headquarters is located nearby along Jelutong Expressway (Lebuhraya Jelutong ). With a customer base of several cafés and hotels, Arabica Estate also provides espresso machines and training services.
Name: Arabica Estate
Address: 29D-3-3A & 29D-3-5, Automall Penang, Persiaran Karpal Singh, 11600 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-296-9165
Business hours: 8:00am-12:00am (Sunday-Thursday), 8:00am-1:00am (Friday-Saturday)
Coordinates: 5.39807 N, 100.32970 E
Directions: From Lebuhraya Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu, take the Sungai Pinang exit and head east. Drive to the end of the road, then turn left. Automall is within a short distance on the left, while Arabica Estate is one of the shops on the upper floor. Street parking and indoor mall parking are available.


Special thanks to Morganfield's for extending this food review invitation.

Morganfield's, home of Sticky Bones, has a large outlet at Gurney Paragon Mall. Located in front of St. Jo's, the restaurant benefits from its close proximity to the water fountain as well as from unobstructed view of the sea.
Morganfield's dining area places emphasis on wood and brick elements to present a rustic appearance. The indoor section is air-conditioned and is more suitable for family dining. Meanwhile, cooling breeze in the evening makes al fresco dining a viable option too. Customers who come for drinks can also mingle at the bar.
For the month of October 2017, Morganfield's is rolling out the annual "Porktoberfest" menu. Inspired by the popular beer festival in Munich, Morganfield's attempts to create the festive spirit of Oktoberfest here in Malaysia. Popular German delicacies, particularly those from Bavaria, are featured on the promotional menu.
Crispy Pork Knuckle (RM99.90) is one of the most iconic dishes of Bavarian cuisine. Known as "Schweinshaxe" in German, this dish centers at a large ham hock (front limb of the swine) with red skin mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and coleslaw on the side. Serving size is too large for most people to handle alone, so get a partner in order to tackle this dish properly.
Roasted in an oven, the pork attains an outer surface that straddles between crispy and crunchy sensations. Meanwhile, the inner section contains a mixture of lean meat and ligaments. Cured with salt, the pork imparts appetizing saltiness on the tongue. This delicious knuckle goes fairly well with onion gravy.

Pork Meatloaf (RM34.90) is ground pork made in the shape of a loaf. The meatloaf is cut into thick slices and is grilled gently to retain delectable juices. Taste is further enhanced with creamy mushroom gravy and chopped parsley. Also included is spätzle, which means "little sparrows". This egg noodle is commonly served in southern Germany and other countries in Central Europe.
Next, Porktoberfest Sausage Platter (RM39.90) features four variants of cocktail sausages. Longanisa and Spicy Longanisa are Spanish in origin. Meanwhile, Cabanossi traces its origins to Poland while Debrecener hails from Hungary. Freshly seasoned ground pork is stuffed into chewy casings made from intestines, and then grilled to the right doneness. The sausages rest on a bed of mashed potatoes and are topped with onion gravy and chopped parsley.
Porktober-Feast (RM189.90) combines all three dishes on a large metal platter. The humongous portion is nominally meant for 3-4 people, but even 4 diners may find finishing the meal to be a daunting feat. I cannot recommend the Porktober-Feast highly enough.
Porktober-Feast also includes extra side dishes such as corn on the cob, French fries and garden salad. I think the fries go well with onion gravy, but ketchup and chili sauce also make fine condiments. At the meantime, garden salad is best paired with aioli dressing.
"Prost" is what Germans say when chinking beer glasses. In the spirit of Oktoberfest, Morganfield's is offering 1-litre draught beers at discounted prices: Carlsberg (RM69.90), Connor's (RM69.90), Asahi (RM74.90), Kronenbourg Blanc (RM74.90), Magners (RM79.90), Erdinger (RM79.90) and Hoegaarden (RM79.90). Each order includes a collector's edition beer stein with intricate decorations.
Carlsberg Draught is the most popular beer in Malaysia. Founded in Copenhagen, this Danish pilsner has many licensed breweries worldwide.
Connor's Original Stout is inspired by the original British Stout Porter. Black in color, the stout is notable for its creamy head and balanced overall taste.
Asahi Draught, or more specifically Asahi Super Dry, is one of the bestselling beers in Japan. Unlike most of its Japanese competitors, this lager moves away from heavy malt flavors. This makes Asahi Super Dry more palatable to casual drinkers.
Hailing from France, Kronenbourg Blanc carries fruity overtones with a subtle hint of citrus. This wheat beer best serves drinkers with an affinity to sweetness.
Morganfield's Porktoberfest menu is offered for the entire month of October 2017. On the evening of 21 October 2017, the Gurney Paragon outlet is hosting an Oktoberfest party. Customers can expect to see barmaids in dirndl dresses, live band performances, as well as sausage-eating and beer-drinking competitions. Similar events are also held at Malacca and Da Men on 11 October 2017 and 28 October 2017 respectively.

Name: Morganfield's
Address: L1-01, Level L1, Gurney Paragon Mall, Persiaran Gurney, 10250 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-609-5401
Business hours: 11:00am-1:00am
Coordinates: 5.43645 N, 100.31197 E
Directions: Morganfield's is located at Level 1 of Gurney Paragon Mall. The restaurant is in front of St. Jo's and next to the water fountain. Gurney Paragon has a multi-storey parking garage.