Platform 39 Cafe

Special thanks to Platform 39 Cafe for extending this food review invitation.

Platform 39 Cafe is a new restaurant near Sunway Carnival Mall. This eatery just opened its doors 2 weeks ago without a grand ceremony. The lack of fanfare is deliberate so that the management team can immediately hit the ground running.
The concept of Platform 39 Cafe is in the form of a train station platform, although its theme is not as obvious as Victoria Station. The number "39" is not arbitrary; it refers to the address of this one-unit shop.
While the premise was inherited from a previous café business, the interior design has been significantly renovated. For example, the wall motif and lighting color reflect the warm mood of an English tea room. Many fixtures, ornaments and tabletop utensils are specially ordered to provide a welcoming atmosphere.

The proprietor of this restaurant is John, whose childhood ambition is to open his own café one day. As a food enthusiast himself, most dishes at Platform 39 Cafe are based on John's home recipes. He has also hired a couple of experienced chefs and fine-tuned their cooking styles to meet his quality expectations.
The food menu of Platform 39 Cafe is extensive. There is good variety of chicken, fish, pasta, all-day breakfast, soup and salad choices. Most food is Western-style, but there are also a handful of local delicacies based on rice or noodle. I find it amazing to have so many items on the menu for a restaurant which just opened, especially by a proprietor who has no prior restaurant experience.

To start off, the Egg Benedict (RM13.90) is one of the restaurant's bestseller for the past fortnight. A piece of white bun is topped with scrumptious goodies such as ham, chicken bacon, poached eggs and most importantly, Hollandaise sauce.
The sides of the plate are garnished with kiwi, grapes and cherry tomatoes. For future orders, this dish includes a choice of green salad or fruits.

The Hollandaise sauce is certainly well-prepared. The thick yellowish emulsion is richly flavored with egg yolks, giving a different kind of taste to the plainer white bread buns below. As for the poached eggs, I find them quite watery; I personally prefer them to be more cooked. But the eggs still need to be yolky, not to the extent that the eggs solidify like boiled eggs.
As unassuming as it looks, the Golden Buns (RM4.90) are not something to be toyed with. Three pieces of pumpkin buns are fried to produce a layer of golden crisp. These pumpkin buns are specially sourced from a home-based bakery for its unique pastry texture. No sugar is added, yet the buns are delectable due to natural sweetness from pumpkins.
Although being deep-fried, the buns do not appear saturated with oil. In fact, there is no oily sensation whatsoever. I believe the secret is to use very hot oil and keep the frying brief enough so that the buns do not absorb much oil.

According to John, the Salmon Mango (RM18.90) is another crowd favorite since the restaurant's opening. A respectfully large piece of salmon fillet is pan-fried with olive oil to seal the natural salmon goodness, then covered with signature sauce made from diced mango. The savory salmon flesh integrates harmoniously with tangy-sweet feeling of ripe mango.
Hidden at the bottom of the salmon steak is a serving of mashed potato. The mashed potato is made in-house from boiled potatoes, not from dehydrated form which Colonel Sanders is so fond of.

On the side are four pieces of fried potato wedges. These are quite crispy indeed.
For the quality and quantity of food, this Salmon Mango is surprisingly affordable. Where else can you find such a large slab of salmon fillet with abundant toppings and sides at a comparable price?

The Aglio Olio Spaghetti (RM14.90) is served with fresh ingredients such as shrimp, fish fillet and mushroom. Truthful with authentic Italian tradition, the pasta is prepared with olive oil for an aromatic opening. The flavor of this dish is further enhanced by garlic and dried chili peppers. The overall taste is mildly spicy, which is quite appetizing to my palate.
Moving on to something locally inspired, the P39 Signature Fried Bee Hoon (RM8.90) is based on seafood ingredients such as shrimp and squid. As the restaurant's signature dish, the rice noodle repulses every angle of nitpicking. The portion is also substantially more than an average plate elsewhere.
Chopped cabbage and carrots serve to provide certain degree of crunchiness within each bite. This dish also enjoys liberal amount of onion and garlic. As John points out, he does not want his chefs to compromise of quality ingredients. Onion and garlic are good for flavor and good for health, he has no qualms to go heavy on these ingredients so that his customers get nothing but the very finest.

As for drinks, Platform 39 Cafe offers a variety of beverages such as coffee, milk tea, flower tea and fruit juice. The idea is to allow customers to treat this eatery as a hangout spot where they feel comfortable to socialize at a leisurely pace.
Starting with Hong Kong Milk Tea (RM7.90), this is not your regular milk tea from OldTown White Coffee. Within the ice-cold drink are substantial cubes of vanilla-based pudding. These lovely jelly-soft pudding gives a different level of enjoyment alongside the milky beverage. The actual serving of this drink is much larger than this; this glass is just for sampling purpose.
The White Coffee (RM4.50) is prepared from 3-in-1 sachet, albeit specially sourced one. The aroma is decent but the coffee flavor is quite rich. The drink is slightly excessive in sugar, but otherwise I find it reasonable. There are currently no artisan coffee such Latte or Cappuccino here at Platform 39 Cafe, but a barista may be hired in the figure if there is such demand.
For something non-caffeinated, the hot version of Pumpkin Barley (RM6.90) is a good choice. This barley drink is boiled together with chunks of pumpkin. However during the boiling process, the pumpkin chunks inevitably become mashed up. Nevertheless, pumpkin lends its sweetness to the drink, so no sugar needs to be added. The actual serving size is actually slightly larger than this sample.
Pure Orange Juice (RM7.90) is literally what it is supposed to be made of: 100% pure freshly squeezed oranges. Neither sugar nor water is added; otherwise it defeats the spirit of the word "pure". Other available flavors are honeydew and watermelon. If you are up for the challenge, fruit juice is also available in jumbo size for only RM10.90. The jumbo glass is sufficient for 2 or 3 persons.
Last but not least, P39 Boomboom (RM7.90) is Platform 39 Cafe's unique creation. The base of this drink is fizzy soda, but it is the frozen sphere of watermelon juice which is truly special. Similar to Shunka's Magic Matcha, the P39 Boomboom becomes fruitier as the ice melts, giving a delightful one-of-a-kind enjoyment. Besides watermelon, other fruit choices are pineapple, orange and honeydew.
All food at Platform 39 Cafe is pork free. Healthy cooking is emphasized, so sugar, oil and MSG contents are kept minimal. Despite the wide variety of menu choices, John revealed that there are more upcoming dishes on the kitchen's roadmap.
Customer satisfaction is obviously the mantra at Platform 39 Cafe. Although the café is barely 2 weeks old, the staff is well-organized and appear professional.

Putting himself in customers' shoes, John strives to satisfy customers' needs ahead of time. For example, Wi-Fi availability, power banks and power supplies are available to tech-savvy customers. Customers who prefer more social interaction can take advantage of free board games here.
Customers of Platform 39 Cafe enjoy 1 hour of free parking. As for others cannot travel for any reason, the café provides free delivery service to the immediate vicinity of Sunway Carnival Mall.

Until the end of October 2014, there is 10% discount off the tab. After that, returning customers still enjoy 10% discount if the subsequent visit is within a certain number of days. To this end, a "train ticket" is issued, where a ticket punch is used to indicate the date for the "return trip".
Name: Platform 39 Cafe
Address: 39, Jalan Todak 2, Pusat Bandar Seberang Jaya, 13700 Prai, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-383-8506
Business hours: 9:00am-11:00pm
Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Platform-39-Cafe/1517414781807953
Coordinates: 5.39649 N, 100.39885 E
Directions: From Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (North-South Expressway), take the Seberang Jaya exit and head west. After the Petronas gas station on the left, turn left where you will see Sunway Carnival Mall and Billion Supermarket on your left. Turn left immediately after Billion Supermarket and drive till the end of this road. Platform 39 Cafe is located at the row of shops ahead, but you need to make a left turn and find the next right turn. Street parking is available in front of this row of shops, but vacant spaces may be scarce on weekdays.

Happy Lok Lok

Concealed from public view, Happy Lok Lok Specialty Shop (快快乐乐Lok Lok专卖店) has been flying under the radar since it started business several months ago. It has just caught my attention recently, so I made it my destination for dinner tonight.
As the name implies, this shop at Batu Uban specializes in lok lok (乐乐), a type of street food where raw food is cooked by dipping them in hot water. This local cooking style is similar to Chinese steamboat (火锅) or the Japanese oden (おでん), except that lok lok uses plain boiling water instead of broth.
Most lok lok items are processed meat such as meatballs, fish balls and crabsticks. However, there are also a handful of raw seafood (shrimps, squids, cockles, crabs etc) and green vegetables.
Also available are deep-fried foodstuff such as dumplings, bean curd and hot dogs.
Upon ordering, these items are handed to the staff to be deep-fried in a pot of hot oil. This allows the items to have the crispy appeal when served hot.
The price of each item ranges from RM0.60 to RM2.50. The price of each item is denoted by a different color at the tip of its bamboo skewer.
An important aspect of lok lok is the dipping sauce. This shop generously provides 7 types.
Green chili sauce is too spicy even for my standard, so use caution if you are not used to spicy stuff.
Coriander chili sauce has nice refreshing scent, and has mint-cool effect besides spiciness.
One of my favorite is the satay sauce. This sauce is made from crushed peanuts and is mild in terms of spiciness.
A slight variation to the previous dipping sauce is chili ketchup with crushed peanuts.
The onion chili sauce is good too. Do check it out.
Garlic chili sauce is acceptable but not exactly my favorite.
Finally, sweet sauce is suitable for deep-fried foodstuff such as dumplings.
One house specialty is Curry Fishball (咖喱鱼蛋, RM1.20) which is cooked in curry instead. While being boiled, the springy fish balls absorb some curry flavor for a delightful spicy sensation.
Another item worth mentioning is Condensed Milk Mantou (炼乳馒头, RM0.80). Each skewer has two pieces of mantou buns.
The buns are deep-fried to form a layer of crust with golden perfection, then drenched with condensed milk for sweet sensation. The taste is heavenly indeed.
Other noteworthy deep-fried items are Yam (藕, RM2.00), Minced Pork Wantan (肉碎云吞, RM2.00) and Bean Curd Skin (腐竹, RM2.00). In particular, the yam is delicious due to its intrinsic sweetness.
The shop proprietor is very friendly and accommodating. This is evident by the continuous flow of regular customers. This lok lok shop is open for dinner from 6:00pm to 11:00pm, and is closed on Mondays. If you are arriving late night, it is highly advisable to give a call beforehand in case the shop closes early.
Address: 789-M, Lorong Sungai Dua, 11700 Gelugor, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 016-440-8859
Business hours: 6:00pm-12:00am, closed on Mondays

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Value

Sakana

Special thanks to Sakana Sushi Bar & Cuisine for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

My previous visit to Sakana Sushi Bar & Cuisine has unequivocally convinced me that the new management is completely different from before. The dining experience here has improved by leaps and bounds, drastically more rewarding than ever.
Not contented to settle for the status quo, Sakana has been introducing new menu items from time to time. My visit to Sakana today is to sample its "burgers" which were introduced a fortnight ago.
How exactly do burgers fit in a Japanese restaurant, one might ask. Let's talk a look at one of the two available choices: the Ramen Burger (ラーメンバーガー, RM18.90).
Unlike a typical burger, the "bun" layers are made from ramen (ラーメン) noodle made in pancake form. To achieve this, ramen noodle is first boiled until it is cooked, then kept frozen in a cylindrical mold to set the shape in place. Upon ordering, the frozen block of ramen is drenched with beaten eggs and grilled with intense heat until it is golden brown. The eggs serve as a form of adhesion to hold loose noodle strands in place.

The "patty" of this burger is the main highlight of this dish. In my humble opinion, this piece of minced pork is seasoned to scrumptious perfection; I can hardly imagine how something can be better when it is already ideal. I think Sakana can go far with this delicious meat patty; just have to be creative in using it.
The patty is paired with a slice of cheddar cheese, tomato and cucumber slices, lettuce leaves and salad cream.

On the flip side of the coin, the ramen noodle pales in comparison to the patty. Considering the fact that no seasoning is used, the ramen is rather bland in taste. If ramen is eaten with the patty, this is a non-issue. But this question remains inevitable because the entire stack cannot be consumed in a single bite. I believe some flavoring, such as ground pepper, can add some flavor so that the ramen stands on its own right.
In terms of texture, the ramen is slightly moist as it is cooked by boiling in hot water. I prefer the ramen to be drier when it is served as part of the burger, and if possible, with some degree of crisp. This is a case of Catch-22 because boiled ramen requires sufficient moisture to be soft enough and set in shape. It is also difficult to eliminate moisture during the grilling process, since too much heat will cause the shape to disintegrate.

Unfortunately, I do not have an answer to this problem. On a positive note, Sakana's chefs have a real mission to work on.

The other new burger on Sakana's menu is the Soba Burger (蕎麦バーガー, RM20.90), which I feel is the better among the two. Instead of ramen, the "bun" layers are made from soba (蕎麦). Soba is made from buckwheat instead of regular wheat, therefore it has coarser texture and has certain degree of gastronomical appeal. This explains why soba is typically used for cold Japanese noodle dishes, but not the case for ramen.
The "patty" and other sandwiched ingredients in this Soba Burger are identical to that in the Ramen Burger, so I shall spare you the "agony" of listening to my endless plaudits - which I feel is well-deserved anyway.
Nevertheless, the issue regarding lack of taste and excessive moisture in the soba lingers on, just as in the case of ramen. Sakana needs to address this problem to pull this dish through.

Since my previous visit, Sakana has revised its main food menu several times. One of the many dishes which I did not encounter before is the Sakana Kushi Pizza (サカナ串ピザ, RM18.90).
Instead of dough, the crust is made from grilled sushi rice, which is then given a crispy layer of batter coating in hot oil. Each order of Sakana Kushi Pizza comes in two pieces; using diced raw salmon (サーモン) and diced raw tuna (マグロ) respectively as toppings. Cheese is also added on top and briefly molten using a blow torch. The pizza is then topped with scallion and seaweed (海苔) strips for aesthetic appeal.
The taste of this pizza is significantly dominated by the rice crust. Don't get me wrong: The crust itself is light on the mouth and has a distinctively lovely composition. However, the presence of raw fish on top is virtually unnoticeable. This makes the pizza taste more like a rice cake than anything else.
I believe more cheese should do the trick. Or perhaps with a light layer of wasabi (山葵) cream spread. Or anything which makes the toppings more pronounced than the crust below.

Venturing into adventurous territory, the Beef Tataki (牛肉たたき, RM19.90) is another delicacy during my visit today. How does eating raw beef sound to you? If you are skeptical about this, welcome to the club.
At Sakana, the beef is first marinated with salt and pepper, then allowed to set for a couple of hours. Next, the marinated slab of beef is "cooked" by freezing. When ordered, the beef is allowed to thaw slightly, then cut into thin slices using a meat slicer. The thin slices and semi-frozen state suppress any "raw" sensation which people associate with raw meat.
The beef slices are surprisingly delectable. With each bite, meat juice is released to provide a nice sense of savory appeal. The beef also pairs well with dipping sauce made from coriander (コリアンダー). The refreshing mint flavor adds a different level of enjoyment to this dish of raw meat.
Like before, Sakana provides free parking for 2 hours at the multi-level building across Hutton Lane. Bring along your parking ticket to be validated at Sakana.

Name: Sakana Sushi Bar & Cuisine
Address: 252, Jalan Penang, 10000 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 013-946-9796
Business hours: 12:00pm-11:00pm
Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sakana-sushi-bar-and-cuisine/147047928794150
Coordinates: 5.41887 N, 100.33156 E
Directions: Drive along the one-way Jalan Hutton towards Jalan Penang. Located halfway between the intersection with Jalan Transfer and with Jalan Penang, car park is available in the green multi-storey building on the left. Sakana at the intersection with Jalan Penang, on the right side of Jalan Hutton.