16 Degree

There are a handful of eateries at Level LG of Gurney Paragon. One of them is 16 Degree.
16 Degree is a combination of a wine bar, a cigar room and a bistro. I am more interested in the latter aspect today.
The Pork Burger (RM33.00) has a pork patty of decent size. Also sandwiched between two halves of a sesame bun are cheddar cheese and bacon.
The order of Pork Burger is served with fries and garden salad on the side. Pineapple cubes impart tangy sweetness to the salad.
While the pork patty and sesame bun are acceptable, I feel that the burger is too dry overall. I believe that there is not enough dressing. Also for the price that 16 Degree is charging, I would have expected better sides such as steak fries.
Address: LG-27, Level LG, Gurney Paragon Mall, Persiaran Gurney, 10250 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-218-9681
Business hours: 10:00am-10:00pm
Taste
Presentation
Ambience
Hospitality
Value

Starbucks

Starbucks Coffee at Batu Ferringhi is my destination for drinks today. This new store is located between Holiday Inn Resort Penang and Golden Thai Seafood Village.
Modified from an existing beachfront villa, this Starbucks outlet is spacious indeed.
A section of the café has translucent ceiling to provide natural lighting during daytime.
Customers who want to catch the oceanic breeze can be seated outdoors. On a fine day, one can enjoy great views of the sea.
Anyway, my choice of drinks today is Mocha Praline Frappuccino (RM15.95).
Address: 69, Jalan Batu Ferringhi, 11000 Batu Ferringhi, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-881-2020
Business hours: 8:00am-1:00am (Sunday-Thursday), 8:00am-2:00am (Friday-Saturday)
Taste
Presentation
Ambience
Hospitality
Value

Xiang Yun Vegetarian House

Special thanks to Xiang Yun Vegetarian House for extending this food review invitation.

Xiang Yun Vegetarian House (香云素食坊) has moved from Yeap Chor Ee Road (Jalan Yeap Chor Ee) to Bayan Point behind Alora Hotel. This family business started as a hawker stall at Kompleks Lebuh Nipah which is still being operated by the matriarch.
The people behind this restaurant are vegetarians themselves. The recipes are result of years of adapting housewife-style cooking with vegetarian ingredients. Back in the old days, vegetarian food was considered bland and unpalatable. However, Xiang Yun is determined to prove that vegetarian food can be as tasty as non-vegetarian food, if not better.
While the original stall focuses on hawker-style food like Hokkien Mee (福建面), Curry Mee (咖哩面) and Chee Cheong Fun (猪肠粉), this air-conditioned restaurant features family-style cooking. The modest dining area provides a sense of homely ambience. A collage of magazine cuttings decorate one side of the wall.
Xiang Yun Vegetarian House differs from many vegetarian restaurants in how it makes meat substitute (素肉). Instead of gluten which is easier to work with, Xiang Yun uses soy pulp (豆渣). Although soy (黄豆) has significant amount of purine, soy pulp is relatively safe for consumption. Pound for pound, soy pulp has even lower purine content than red meat.

Satay (沙爹, RM8.00) is a great way to start a meal together. This appetizer consists of 6 skewers of "chicken", seasoned with turmeric and then roasted till golden brown.
The tenderness of the "chicken" skewers is quite close to actual chicken, minus the undesired burnt marks. The turmeric seasoning makes the soy pulp very appetizing. Some peanut sauce is provided, but I feel that it is insufficient for 6 skewers. Nevertheless, I recommend this appetizer with high regard.
Pasembor (素鲜余, RM5.90) is a salad of Penang origin. It is known as Mamak Rojak outside the state because this dish was initially sold by Indian Muslims. Although this popular street food often uses prawn fritters and boiled squid, Xiang Yun's vegetarian version uses only dough fritters, potatoes and bean curd. Like the original dish, sweet and spicy sauce is used as dressing.
An order of Golden Crunchy Bun (黄金包, RM4.90) comes in three pieces. The pastry crust of the bun is quite delectable and does not feel too oily. In the mouth, the pastry releases a puff of refreshing aroma.
The buns are filled with "pork", although the taste distinctively differs from actual pork. The only thing in common between vegetarian pork and actual pork is the sweetness of char siu (叉烧).
When dining with children, French Fries (美式薯条, RM4.90) is one way to keep them pacified before main dishes are served. Unfortunately, I feel that the fries are too salty. I may suggest using a special type of dipping sauce such as guacamole, otherwise this dish by itself appears unexciting.
One of Xiang Yun's signature dishes is Nasi Lemak (招牌椰浆饭, RM6.90). The sambal paste is still savory despite the fact that no shrimp is used. Spiciness of the paste is kept to minimum to allow its savoriness to manifest more prominently. Overall, I am impressed with the harmonious blending of sambal and rice cooked with coconut milk.
Other ingredients of Nasi Lemak are a piece of "mackerel", "minced meat", "anchovies", pineapple cubes, roasted peanuts and cucumber. The texture and taste of the "mackerel" are quite close to the actual fish. Meanwhile, "anchovies" are made using fried julienned potatoes, which have crispy-starchy texture similar to fried arrowhead (炸芽菇).
Although I have tried the Bah Kut Teh Rice (肉骨茶饭, RM8.90) before, it remains as one of my highlights today. Obviously at Xiang Yun Vegetarian House, no pork is used. Therefore, the dish derives the "meaty" aspect from mushrooms, bean curd skin (腐竹) and soft bean curd. There are also imitation "fish balls", but they appear too springy. I think more flour will make the texture more realistic.
Meanwhile, the herbal soup is similar to the original recipe that uses pork. Wolfberries (枸杞) and fried soy pulp are used to enhance flavor of the rich herbal soup. Leaf lettuce (油麦) is also included. As Xiang Yun is observes Buddhists' dietary restrictions, no garlic is used. I find this dish to be very enjoyable, down to the last drop in the teapot!
For something more tantalizing to the taste buds, the Claypot Indian Curry (沙煲咖哩余, RM12.90) provides the spicy-sour sensation that we love in Indian cuisine. Using kaffir lime and other spices from the subcontinent, the curry saturates the "fish slices" with irresistible goodness. This dish comes in a large portion and is usually meant to be shared around the table.
Teochew Steam (潮州蒸余饭, RM7.90) presents milder taste but is still appetizing regardless. The center piece of this dish is a piece of "steamed fish". Although the gravy appears clear, it has surprisingly thick consistency. Mushrooms, bean curd, wolfberries contribute to the taste of this modest yet satisfying dish.
Today's special menu includes Sambal Petai Rice (叁巴臭豆饭, RM7.90). The biggest challenge for the chili paste is what to substitute shrimps with. Despite my initial skepticism, the chili paste is feels well-balanced in overall taste. Although bean curd is used to lend some "substance", I feel that the amount of stink beans is somewhat insufficient.
Although most menu items at Xiang Yun Vegetarian Restaurant are Asian in nature, there are also a handful of Western dishes. The Cheese Coated Chicken (奶酪素扒, RM14.50) is one such example.
Made from soy pulp, the "chicken cutlet" is covered with a slice of cheese which has slightly melted. In adherence of vegetarian principles, no rennet is used to produce the cheese. As for dressing, the cutlet is dressed with sweet and tangy sauce. Unfortunately, I feel that the dish is too salty for comfort.
On the side is a piece of garlic bread, which I appreciate for its scrumptious crispiness. Fries are also provided, but I think mashed potatoes may be a better call.
In addition to garlic bread and fries, there is shredded vegetable salad with Thousand Island dressing.
Fish & Chips (香酥余扒, RM11.90) uses the similar side dishes as the previous one, but instead of featuring "chicken", vegetarian "fish fillet" is used instead. In order to provide fish-like taste for the fillet, some seaweed is added to soy pulp. A wedge of lemon and tartar sauce are provided.
Similar to Fish & Chips, French Romance (白汁余扒, RM14.50) is a limited-time item from the special menu. Tartar sauce has been substituted by Béchamel sauce, which is a French sauce made from butter, flour and milk. Although the "fish" has acceptable taste and texture, I prefer the fish used in the Claypot Indian Curry.
Between 3:00pm and 5:00pm every day, customers can enjoy any 2 cups of coffee for the price of 1. This promotional offer is meant to keep a steady flow of customers between lunch and dinner, since the restaurant remains open between meals anyway.
The single-shot Espresso (浓缩黑咖啡, RM5.90) is derived from Brazilian-grown Arabica beans. As the beans are lightly roasted, the Espresso carries a steady sense of acidity. Personally, I prefer coffee beans with medium roast. Light crackers are provided on the side.
As for Latte (拿铁), there is a choice whether to use fresh milk (RM7.90) or soy milk (RM9.90). I prefer the soy milk version as it blends seamlessly with the taste of espresso. The type of soy milk is sufficiently creamy to form a frothy layer on top. Since the presence of soy milk may overwhelm the coffee, an extra shot of espresso may become necessary for certain coffee lovers.
Alternatively, the Cappuccino (卡布奇诺, RM7.90) is served in a ceramic cup and has a thicker layer of milk foam. I actually like the natural sweetness of fresh milk. Overall, the coffee gives smoothing sensation as it trickles down my throat. My only nitpick for this drink is the rather faint aroma of coffee.
The philosophy behind Xiang Yun Vegetarian House is to allow people to adopt vegetarianism on regular basis, as opposed to treating vegetarian meals as one-off dining experience or merely to fulfill religious obligations. Therefore, the pricing and portion are designed to make the food here appealing to the general public.

Name: Xiang Yun Vegetarian House (香云素食坊)
Address: 17-G-31, Medan Kampung Relau, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-637-1108
Business hours: 11:00am-10:00pm, closed on Tuesdays
Website: http://xiangyunvegetarian.wix.com/bayanpoint
Coordinates: 5.33312 N, 100.29423 E
Directions: From Jalan Kampung Relau, drive along the front of Alora Hotel, then turn around to the next row immediately behind the hotel. Xiang Yun Vegetarian House is located on the left side towards the end of this road. Private parking spaces are available along both sides of the road.

Golden Phoenix

Special thanks to Golden Phoenix for extending this food review invitation.

Located next to USM's Sungai Dua entrance, Golden Phoenix Restaurant (金凤凰美食中心) is a popular eatery among students and local residents alike. The name of this food court is not explicitly displayed. Instead, a golden phoenix logo appears at the front of the building.
Similar to Kedai Makan Chang Senr (昌胜咖啡室) at Pulau Tikus, all hawker stalls at Golden Phoenix are handpicked based on merit. Although many candidates are vying for a spot at this popular eatery, the proprietors are very selective on which ones make the cut. Many of these 30-plus stalls are popular brands around Penang. There is even one stall with Ipoh origin.

One of the busiest stalls here is Gou Lou Wan Than Mee (高佬竹升云吞面). Hailing from Kampong Malabar's Kedai Kopi Gou Lou (高佬茶餐室), this stall is its third outlet in Penang. In fact, the founder is currently operating here; his disciples now run the Kampong Malabar stall. In addition to his signature dishes, the owner also introduced some exotic ingredients such as venison (鹿肉).
Besides Wan Than Mee (云吞面), Zhajiang Noodles (炸酱面, RM6.00) is one of his signature dishes. Lovely chunks of pork are served on top Jook-sing noodles (竹升面). The pork is seasoned with savory gravy made from fermented soybean paste (炸酱). In addition, crispy pork lard (猪油渣) is used to provide better mouthfeel.
The Wan Than Soup (云吞汤, RM5.50) and Dumpling Soup (水饺汤, RM1.50 per piece) are also crowd favorites.
Served in clear soup, the pieces contain generous amount of minced pork filling. Shrimps are also added to pork to enhance its addictive appeal.
Another famous stall is Mao San Wang Char Koay Teow (猫山王炒粿条), which I cannot recommend highly enough. This stall is open during daytime only; a different operator takes charge at night.
Although fried rice is also available, this stall is renowned for its tasty yet affordable Char Koay Teow (炒粿条, RM5.00). This dish is a great showcase of fiery aroma (镬气) which permeates the flat noodles thoroughly. Mastering the right techniques to prepare this dish requires years of practice.
In addition, the shrimps used are respectably large in size. Juicy and succulent, shrimps of this size are usually unheard of which a budget of RM5.00. In addition, there is also sliced Chinese sausage (腊肠) to provide some meaty sweetness. Chicken eggs are used, but I think duck eggs can help to bring this dish to a new level.

Gertak Sanggul Ah Lee Fish Head Bee Hoon (美湖亚利鱼头米粉) also brings its fine wares nearer to populated areas. This stall from Gertak Sanggul at the southwest edge of Penang Island is notable for its delicious soup bases, such as clear soup (清汤), tomyam (东炎), and sour & spicy (酸辣汤). Porridge is also available here.
As for soup ingredients, most customers find the fried fish (炸鱼) very addictive, something I concur after trying some by myself. Made from yellowtail (油甘鱼), crispy flour batter coats succulent chunks of fish. Alternatively, fried fish head is also available for customers who prefer stronger fish flavor.
In addition, there is also fresh fish (鲜鱼) should customers prefer so. The choice of fish is grouper (石斑鱼). I think fresh fish works better with porridge, so I am inclined to pick fried fish for noodles. Alternatively, customers can also opt for pork in lieu of fish.
The reddish appearance of Tomyam Meehoon (东炎米粉, RM6.00) hints the fiery appeal of tomyam soup. The tomyam resembles local Penang style, not the clear version from Thailand. This appetizing soup can be consumed directly without feeling surfeiting even in the slightest bit.
For lighter meals like breakfast, the San Shi Moi Toast (三师妹烤面包) is a popular choice. Formerly known as Yi Shi Heng Toast (二师兄烤面包), this stall is similar to Joo Leong Café (裕隆茶室) at Sungai Tiram. The current proprietor is the fellow apprentice of her senior who has since retired.
Like the Sungai Tiram parent shop, this stall is popular for its Toasted Bread (面包, RM2.20). Each serving consists of two slices of specially-ordered bread, toasted to light crisp and sweetened with signature butter spread. The butter has the right consistency which accentuates the fresh sensation of toasted bread.
Half boil egg (半生熟蛋) is also popular for breakfast. In addition, American-style breakfast items such as hot dog (香肠) and ham (火腿) are also available.
Rice is the staple diet for most Malaysians. This is why there is also an Economy Rice (经济饭) stall at Golden Phoenix.
Operated by a jovial elderly lady, Penang Road Kochabi Economy Rice (槟榔路古早味经济饭) is inherited from her late parents who have been operating near Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul (槟榔律驰名潮州煎蕊) several decades ago.
With help from only one temporary assistant, the energetic lady is able to prepare over 40 different dishes every day. The actual dishes may vary from day to day. There is a wide variety covering various types of meat, vegetables and other Chinese-style delicacies.
Unfortunately, this stall is only open for lunch. How nice it would be if it were open for dinner too! This part of Penang can really use a nice economy rice stall in the evening. So far, most nearby stalls have been nothing but disappointing.
As for drinks, Kopi O (RM1.00) is served in a traditional porcelain cup, which has been heated beforehand so that the coffee stays warm as long as possible. This particular blend of coffee is a secret recipe exclusive to Golden Phoenix. The drink is neither sour nor excessively bitter - right in the middle of my comfort zone.
If you prefer some condensed milk too, Kopi Susu (RM1.20) provides a different sensation of sweetness. The milky texture makes the drink quite smooth, but I still prefer the bold taste of good old Kopi O. Perhaps Kopi C (using evaporated milk) is a good compromise between flavor and smoothness.
Once exclusive to mamak stalls, Teh Tarik (RM1.00) is now enjoyed by Malaysians of all walks of life. The bubbly layer on top is the result of "pulling" action during preparation of milk tea. Like Kopi Susu, I feel that the level sweetness can be reduced by using less condensed milk.
Overall, the dishes that I tried at Golden Phoenix appeal to my palate. The pricing is surprisingly affordable by even by food court standards, making this eatery very attractive for students and local residents alike. On weekends, it is not uncommon for all tables to be occupied during peak hours.
Another notable aspect of Golden Phoenix is the absence of houseflies which many hawker centers suffer from. I believe this is due to the fact that the premise is well-ventilated and the operators maintain high levels of hygiene. For example, the floor is mopped three times a day, while used dishware is immediately collected. Why can't other food courts emulate this example?

Name: Golden Phoenix Restaurant (金凤凰美食中心)
Address: 2-G-2, Jalan Sungai Dua, 11700 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 012-420-6888
Business hours: 7:00am-1:00am
Website: Facebook
Coordinates: 5.35284 N, 100.30031 E
Directions: From Tesco Extra, drive along Jalan Sungai Dua towards the USM entrance. Golden Phoenix is located after McDonald's. There are parking spaces along the service road or across the street at Vanda Business Park.