Restoran Aik Yuen

Hidden behind a wing of KPJ Tawakkal Specialist Hospital is Restoran Aik Yuen (亿园茶餐室). Some people claim that it is the best chu char (煮炒) restaurant in Setapak, or even the entire Kuala Lumpur. This no-frills eatery takes advantage of the curb and road in front to place additional dining tables.
The kitchen is not inside the restaurant, but is instead located across the road. There are three chefs that man separate cooking stations. Like many such stalls throughout Klang Valley, this restaurant offers stir-fried cooking such as meats, vegetables and noodles.
The signature dish here is Hokkien Char (福建炒, RM18.00). The main appeal of this style of stir-fried noodles is its thick, black soy-based sauce that carries sweet-savory goodness.
This plate of noodles has generous amount of shrimps, pork slices and pork lard (猪油渣). Unfortunately, it is somewhat lacking in terms of "wok hei" (镬气).
Another noodle dish is Moonlight Hor Fun (月光河, RM20.00). Raw eggs are dropped on top of stir-fried flat noodles (河粉) such that the yolks resemble full moons. Not to worry about raw eggs because they become partially cooked when they come in contact with warm noodles.
Overall, the noodle dishes at Restoran Aik Yuen are not as impressive as I would have expected for one from Ulu Yam. Considering its inconvenient location and run-down state, the food here is rather expensive. It is possible to get much better food elsewhere in Kuala Lumpur.

Address: 41, Jalan Sarikei Off Jalan Pahang, 53000 Setapak, Kuala Lumpur
Contact: N/A
Business hours: 6:00pm-1:00am, closed on Wednesdays

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Coffeesmith

Maritime Piazza is a new outdoor mall at Sungai Pinang. Although only a handful of restaurants are open, they attract a disproportionate number of customers on weekends despite the rather hefty price. Coffeesmith is one such restaurant to hit this point even harder.
Coffeesmith is only open for a month, but the place is already packed even on weekdays. As a Taiwanese franchise, this outlet is the first in Malaysia. As the name implies, the main business in this franchise is coffee.
The dining area is arranged in a peculiar manner. Nearer to the entrance, there are several rows of proper dining tables. Further inside, there are pub tables and couches arranged in haphazard fashion.
As far as the menu is concerned, Coffeesmith cannot do things the usual way. The menu is printed on waxy paper like a fold-up pamphlet. In retrospect, I guess it makes sense for the menu to be easily replaceable in case the menu needs to be revised.
The main highlight in Coffeesmith's menu is artisan coffee. The price tag ranges from RM6.00 for normal black coffee to RM19.00 for really exotic ones.
Besides mainstream coffee, there are also several sections for "potted" drinks, smoothies and fruit tea.
As for food, there are several fusion-style pasta and rice dishes on the menu. Each à la carte dish can be upgraded with add-ons. For something lighter, a brunch menu is also available.
Besides that, there are also sections for appetizers, salad, sandwiches and desserts. Unfortunately, many of these menu items are not available as the restaurant is still new.
For appetizer, our choice is the Grilled Cuttlefish With Peppermint Sauce (炙烤墨鱼佐薄荷草酱, RM16.00). This is a large squid grilled with rosemary sauce and garnished with mixed vegetables such as bell peppers and red lettuce.
The squid is not stuffed inside, but the portion is sufficiently large as an appetizer for several people. Surprisingly, this dish is a nice delicacy; we were not expecting so in a coffee-based establishment.
For proper dishes, the first on the table is the Hokkaido Scallops Cream Noodles (北海道明太子干贝奶油宽面, RM22.00). The fettuccine is braised with white sauce (奶油白酱) and served with a couple of scallops. Unfortunately, this dish has a pungent fishy smell; not what is expected even for raw scallops. Although the pasta is cooked well, somehow it is incompatible with the white sauce.
Next is another pasta dish, Garlic White Wine Clams Noodles (香蒜白酒马蹄蛤细扁面, RM19.00). Fettuccine is sautéed with wine sauce and a handful of clams. The taste of pasta is spicy and overwhelmed by garlic. The clams are quite small to really make an impact to our enjoyment. While this dish is marginally better than the previous one, there is still much room for improvement.
Moving to something non-seafood, we ordered the Sautéed Filet With Boletus Mushroom Risotto (嫩煎菲力佐牛肝菌菇炖饭, RM32.00). This is a rice dish flavored with porcini sauce (牛肝菌酱), a type of mushroom popular in Italian cuisine. A piece of beef filet crowns the top of the risotto. While we have no qualms with the beef, the risotto is too soggy and its taste leaves much to be desired. Risotto is supposed to be creamy; there is a clear difference between creamy and soggy.
Each pasta or rice dish can be upgraded with soup and salad, a selected cup of coffee and dessert. The mushroom soup comes with crackers and is garnished with thyme. The salad is a small bowl of green lettuce and cherry tomatoes with Thousand Island dressing. For the price of these upgrades, I wish that the serving portions were increased to a more respectable size.
From the brunch menu, we ordered the Oven Steak Double Sun Egg (炉烤牛排佐太阳双蛋, RM31.00) which turned out to be a reasonably good choice. The breakfast-style meal is served on a wooden chopping board. It comes with a small glass of apple juice as appetizer as well as a cup of coffee.
The main highlight of this brunch set is a small piece of steak (牛排). Flavored with black pepper sauce, the beef is delectable by my standard. However, I find that the steak is tough and slightly dry. The gravy does little alleviate the dryness. I am not sure whether the steak is meant to be eaten directly or with some bread. In any case, I feel that the steak is out of place here.
A couple of sunny-side-up eggs (太阳蛋) are served in a small iron skillet. Thyme leaves are sprinkled on top for extra flavoring, something I really appreciate. On the flip side, I would have preferred if the eggs were less cooked. Ideally, I prefer the yolks to be slightly watery when served.
As for artisan bread (手工面包), the choice today is sourdough. The bread goes well with neither steak nor eggs, but it is still quite delightful to eat plainly. This is probably due to the fresh sensation of sourdough.
Finally, there are small side servings of fries (薯条) and salad (沙拉), both nothing to shout about.
Interestingly, the chopping board used with this brunch dish has a mock water tap at the side. This simply looks weird and out of place.
As for beverages, let's start with the most exotic one, Classic Artisan Coffee (经典工匠咖啡). This drink comprises of three ingredients to represent different emotions in life: espresso (sour), black coffee (bitter) and steamed milk (sweet). The espresso shot is a very powerful dose and its aroma can be picked up across the table. The milk is served warm and sweet on its own. The three ingredients assimilate well for an unparalleled coffee experience. Normally this beverage costs RM19.00, but it is included with Set C (经典工匠套餐, RM16.00), so get Set C if you wish to try this.
Set B (木棍拿铁套餐, RM12.00) is similar to Set C, except that the former replaces the Classic Artisan Coffee with Wooden Sticks Latte (木棍拿铁). This lesser cup of coffee normally costs RM10.00 on the à la carte menu. The brew is quite reasonable with milky consistency throughout the entire cup.
The brunch meal includes a cup of coffee equivalent to the Focus Black Coffee (及黑咖啡, RM6.00) on the à la carte menu. The coffee packs a respectable punch of caffeine, enough to wake someone up from an afternoon slumber. Through perceived richness and smoothness in flavor, it is obvious that the coffee beans used are of high quality.
Venturing into something unorthodox, we tried the Potted Latte (盆栽拿铁咖啡, RM13.00). This beverage is essentially iced latte topped with cookie crumble and mint leaves. The latte is served in a transparent bowl so that the layers are easily visible. Ordering this drink is a guilty pleasure as it is a waste of good coffee beans to be served cold.
Similarly, the Potted Mango Milk Shake (盆栽芒果奶昔, RM12.00) has latte replaced with mango-flavored milk shake. Once again, the drink is topped with cookie crumble and mint leaves. The milk shake is rather surfeiting despite the moderate size. Apart from aesthetic appeal, this drink is not particularly gratifying.
We also ordered the cold version of Caramel Macchiato (焦糖玛奇朵, RM11.00). This beverage is served in a tall glass with one shot of espresso suspended over steamed milk. Once again, the use of nice coffee beans for iced coffee is rather wasteful.
Set B and Set C include a serving of dessert which differs from day to day. Today's dessert is the Mango Cheesecake. Both the cheese layer and crust are both lovely. Too bad that the portion of each slice is rather small.
Our meal for 30 people rang up a bill of RM1,123.10, placing Coffeesmith at the upper end of the pricey spectrum. Coffeesmith's strength lies in its amazing coffee, a claim I do not dispute. I think this is a nice place for a gratifying coffee experience. Unless food quality is improved, I opinionate that the food here do not commensurate the hefty price tag.
Address: 29C-01-11, Maritime Piazza, Lebuh Sungai Pinang 5, 11600 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-684-1818
Business hours: 11:00am-12:00am
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Hana Cafe

Special thanks to Hana Cafe for extending this food review invitation.

Hana Cafe (하나카페) is a small café in Tanjung Bungah, across the main road from Flamingo Hotel. This café is adjoined with Hana Tea Factory, a small tea processing facility where visitors are welcomed (free admission). During daytime, a healthy number of tourists drop by to witness how tea is processed from leaf to teabag.
The production line is rather straightforward and can be manned by 1-2 operators. First, an oven bakes raw leaves at 60-70 degree Celsius. The dried leaves are sent to a cutter, then sieved to remove residue. Clean leaves are then packed and screened for impurities. Raw ingredients are supplied by the factory's own orchards or through contracted cultivators.
Among the popular herbs used are Misai Kucing (Java herbal tea), Lemon Grass, Candle Bush and Pecah Beling. These herbs are often found in the wild, but extremely prized in Japan due to their healing and rejuvenating properties. For example, Misai Kuching has diuretic properties to treat kidney stones, while Candle Bush have slimming effects and alleviates high blood pressure.
A small gift shop is available for visitors who wish to purchase the tea products. In addition, Hana Cafe provides outdoor seating for visitors who wish to enjoy a fresh brew of tea on the spot.
The yard of Hana Cafe is well-landscaped with an interesting assortment of potted and garden plants.
In addition, the garden showcases several tea plants for visitors to experience how actual tea plants look like. Many will be surprised that these plants are often overlooked as common shrubs.
Although the factory closes in the evening, Hana Cafe remains open till 10:00pm at night. The menu features various coffee and tea beverages, includes those on sale in the gift shop. As for desserts, there is also a respectable selection of cakes.
While Hana Cafe is not meant for proper meals, there are special dishes occasionally meant for light meal. All food is homemade and prepared fresh, so availability varies from time to time.
The proprietor behind Hana Cafe is Joshua, who also manages the tea factory and has experience working as a barista in New Zealand. In a land where cattle outnumber people, New Zealanders are very particular with their daily latte fixes. Only the finest milk can pacify people from this dairy nation, so it is obvious why Joshua sets such a high bar with his coffee work.

The coffee which I am fortunate to sample today is the Flat White (RM7.90), personally crafted by Joshua himself. Made using steam milk of right temperature, this single shot of espresso is creamy throughout the entire cup, yet not foamy or bubbly at all. What this means is that the coffee is delightful without any added sugar, something one cannot expect when the coffee is full of bubbles.

Unlike many coffee places, no emphasis is placed on coffee art because purely aesthetic work is frown upon. As Joshua puts it, the only thing that matters with coffee is good quality. Period.

A soothing cup of coffee is best complemented with a nice slice of cake. Hana Cafe only has a limited number of cakes available because the cakes are hand-picked from the best suppliers in Penang. Only a handful of suppliers make the cut; all are home bakeries.
The cake for sampling today is the Carrot Cake. Like the Flat White, this slice of cake is humble in appearance. Yet, its taste is where the cake really shines. Featuring a lovely crumble, the cake is littered with delectable grated carrots and several creamy layers of icing. Its sweetness is not overpowering but still satisfies my sweet tooth by an appreciable margin.

I recommend Hana Cafe to anyone who wants to experience how good coffee tastes like, or wants to indulge in lovely cakes, or wishes to learn how local tea products are manufactured. Or all of the above.

Name: Hana Cafe
Address: 11, Jalan Tanjung Bungah, 11200 Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 016-446-7560 (Joshua)
Business hours: 11:00am-12:00am (Tuesdays to Saturdays), closed on Mondays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/HanaCafePenang
Coordinates: 5.46585 N, 100.28934 E
Directions: Along Jalan Tanjung Bungah (westbound), look out Copthorne Orchid Hotel Penang on the right. Approximately 100 meters later, there is an overhead pedestrian bridge. Another 100 meters further, Hana Tea Cafe is located on the left. There is ample parking space in front of the building. In the rare event that front parking is full, there is more parking at the back.

Name: Hana Tea Factory
Address: 11, Jalan Tanjung Bungah, 11200 Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 016-414-7560 (Patrick)
Business hours: 11:00am-6:00pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays), closed on Mondays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/hanateafactory
Coordinates: 5.46585 N, 100.28928 E
Directions: Along Jalan Tanjung Bungah (westbound), look out Copthorne Orchid Hotel Penang on the right. Approximately 100 meters later, there is an overhead pedestrian bridge. Another 100 meters further, Hana Tea Factory is located on the left. There is ample parking space in front of the building. In the rare event that front parking is full, there is more parking at the back.