The Canton

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

The Canton (广饮广食农家菜) is a small restaurant at Jalan Rangoon. This air-conditioned eatery provides a comfortable setting for family meals. Its Chinese name "广饮广食" literally means "Cantonese food and drinks", and is also the name of a gourmet television program in Hong Kong.
The Canton specializes in Cantonese-style home-cooked food (私房菜). Food recipe is inherited from the proprietor's grandparents who were farmers. Many of the restaurant's dishes are braised in claypots, where prolonged heating helps to enhances aroma and flavors of raw ingredients.
The Signature Curry Chicken (招牌咖哩鸡, RM11.90) is inspired by fiery flavors of Indian spices. Fortunately, this dish is well within the tolerable range of pungency of most people. Also included in the curry are potatoes and scallion (青葱). Overall, the curry chicken strikes a chord with my palate.
The next dish is Signature Braised Pork Ribs In Fermented Black Bean Sauce (招牌豉汁焖排骨, RM12.90). In this dish, pork ribs are cooked with douchi (豆豉), which results in a substantial degree of saltiness. The claypot also contains tofu, ginger, scallion and coriander (香菜). Overall, I find this dish acceptable but pales in comparison to the previous one.
Braised Trotter With Mixed Spices (五香焖蹄膀, RM12.90) has just been introduced to the menu recently. Pork is served in dark gravy using the restaurant's signature spice mix. I personally enjoy eating pig's trotter for its unique jelly-like texture. This dish also contains slices of juicy daikon (白萝卜) to serve as counterbalance to pork.
Scalded Fresh Vegetable (葱油菜心, RM5.90) is one of the few vegetable dishes on the menu. Choy sum (菜心) is the choice of vegetable due to its soft leaves and juicy stems. Fried onions contribute appetizing aroma especially when this dish is still hot. On the other hand, I feel that the amount of onion oil is way more than necessary; less oil would have been nicer.
Considering the fact that MSG is not used in cooking, The Canton's home-cooked food is fairly delectable. The pricing is also pretty reasonable compared to other similar restaurants. Besides this shop, the proprietor also operates hawker stalls at Kuta Bali Cafe, Kedai Minuman Dan Makanan CF and Sg. Pinang Food Court.

Name: The Canton (广饮广食农家菜)
Address: 28, Jalan Rangoon, 10400 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 016-475-9774
Business hours: 12:00pm-2:30pm, 6:00pm-9:30pm, closed on Mondays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/TheCantonMalaysia
Coordinates: 5.41928 N, 100.32530 E
Directions: The Canton is located on the right side of the one-way Jalan Rangoon. It is approximately 150 meters from Burmah Road (Jalan Burma). Street parking is available along Jalan Rangoon and Lorong Selamat.

Mezza9

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

Iconic Hotel is a business hotel at the southern end of Icon City. In fact, Iconic Hotel is the only hotel of such size in this part of Seberang Perai. The hotel is owned and managed under the same company that developed Icon City.
Mezza9 and Crumbles & Cream are the two eateries in Iconic Hotel. The former is the hotel's primary coffeehouse and is also where guests are served breakfast. The name "Mezza9" refers to the fact that the hotel is located on the mezzanine floor.
Starting this month, Mezza9 is serving Taste of Nyonya Buffet Dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings. The menu covers a wide range of Peranakan (Nyonya) dishes, including those from Penang and Malacca (Melaka). To date, Iconic Hotel is one of the two hotels in Penang which serves Nyonya-themed buffets on recurring basis.
Popiah (薄饼) is one of most recognizable Nyonya snacks. The dough skin is extremely thin and is somewhat tricky to make. The skin needs to be cooked in a steamer in order to preserve its desired chewiness.
Popiah is filled with ingredients such as jicama (sengkuang), carrots, bean sprouts, fried egg, lettuce, chopped scallion, fried shallots, chili paste and sweet sauce.
The mixture of juicy ingredients makes the roll appetizing indeed.
Another related Nyonya snack is Pie Tee (小金杯). Instead of soft dough skin, Pie Tee uses crispy tart shells. Other ingredients of Pie Tee are identical to Popiah except for the inclusion of shrimps in the former.
Nyonya Fruit Rojak is a fruit salad which comprises of jambu batu (guava), jambu air (rose apple), jicama, belimbing (starfruit), pineapple, mango and apple. The salad is dressed in rojak sauce that is prepared from belacan (fermented shrimp paste). Light sprinkles of crushed peanuts and sesame seeds help to improve mouthfeel.
Jiu Hu Char (鱿鱼炒) is essentially a mixture of dried cuttlefish with shredded jicama. The savory taste of cuttlefish is complemented by juicy texture of jicama. Jiu Hu Char is customarily wrapped in lettuce before being eaten.
As for soup, Kiam Chye Ark Thng (咸菜鸭汤) is stewed from duck meat for several hours until the soup becomes saturated with savoriness. Meanwhile, the soup's saltiness comes from pickled Chinese mustard (芥菜).
Ayam Pong Teh is a Nyonya delicacy from Malacca and is not so common in Penang. To prepare this dish, chicken, potatoes and shiitake mushrooms are stewed with fermented soybeans (豆瓣酱).
Udang Goreng Assam (亚参虾) is appealing to diners who enjoy the sweet-tangy taste of tamarind sauce. Shrimp heads are removed prior to cooking.
Up next, Otak-Otak is a spicy mixture of ground fish meat, tapioca starch and a variety of spices. The soft, delicate mixture is typically wrapped in long sheets of nipa palm leaves. The wrap is stapled on both ends, and then barbecued over flame.
One of my favorite dishes this evening is Telur Dadar Cincaluk. Fried egg is flavored with a special condiment called cincalok, which is a local specialty in Malacca. Made from fermented shrimps, cincalok is quite salty on its own. Fortunately, its marriage with omelette tones down the level of saltiness to an acceptable degree.
For something lighter on the palate, Nyonya Chap Chye (娘惹杂菜) is a sound choice. There is no fixed recipe for this dish because it is usually meant as a way to utilize leftover vegetables in the kitchen. In this case, the mixture of vegetables is cabbage, carrot and wood ear fungus (黑木耳). Several shrimps are also added.
Whenever it comes to Nyonya food, I am always eager to get my hands on Inchi Kabin (胭脂鸡). To prepare this dish, chicken is marinated with coconut milk and spices, and then deep-fried to golden perfection. Unfortunately because the fried chicken has been left out for a while, this dish is noticeably drier than its ideal state.
When it comes to rice, Nasi Ulam Istimewa fills this role neatly. Steamed rice is cooked with a mixture of herbs such as daun kaduk (wild betel leaves) in particular. With the perfect composition of rice and herbs, this rice dish is delightful in terms of aroma and taste.
Lor Bak (卤肉) is traditionally made from pork, but Mezza9 substitutes pork for chicken in compliance with halal regulations. Minced chicken is seasoned with five-spice powder (五香粉) to impart savory flavors. Chicken is then wrapped in tofu skin (腐皮) and deep-fried until the roll becomes crispy.
Also delectable is Kerabu Mangga, a cold salad dish that is made from julienned mango and other vegetables.

Hailing from Indonesia, tempeh is a delicacy made from fermented soybeans. But unlike tofu, tempeh does not require soybeans to be converted to soy milk. Tempeh is used in a variety of Indonesian dishes including gado-gado.
Nyonya Acar, also known as Acar Awak, is a salad mixture of julienned carrots and cucumber with copious amounts of crushed peanuts and sesame seeds. Nyonya Acar is best served chilled.

This evening buffet includes several non-Nyonya dishes such as Pasta Au Gratin. For this dish, pasta is baked and served in a shallow dish. The top surface is covered by a layer of browned cheese crust.
The aroma of Butter Prawns is at its zenith when the dish is served hot.
At the action counter, Ikan Bakar is prepared using seafood namely butterfish, squid and shrimps. Seafood is grilled inside pockets of aluminium foil to retain their moisture. Since food is cooked to order, expect to wait for 20 minutes or so before being served.
The action counter also includes Goreng-Goreng: deep-fried banana, sweet potato and cempedak fritters.
Pengat Durian has similar consistency as the more common Pengat Pisang. Durian's presence in the soup is most pronounced in terms of aroma, but the subtle sweetness of durian is enticing too. Pengat Durian can also be eaten with Pulut Serawa Durian, which is essentially steamed glutinous rice balls.
Bubur Cha Cha is yet another essential entry in Nyonya recipe books. This sweet dessert is made from coconut milk and miniature sago pearls. Diners have the privilege of customizing other ingredients: banana, taro and 3 types of sweet potato. Besides Bubur Cha Cha, Bubur Pulut Hitam is also available.
One of the most popular Malaysian desserts is Sago Gula Melaka. The sticky jelly-like pearls are made from sago, a staple crop which only grows in Southeast Asia. Tasteless on their own, sago pearls are almost always eaten with gula melaka (palm sugar) and coconut milk.
Chai Kueh (菜粿) is a steamed dumpling filled with garlic chives, while the outer layer is made from soft dough skin. Unlike Popiah, Chai Kueh is much thicker and is quite sticky. Although Chai Kueh is meant to be eaten with sweet chili sauce, I personally prefer not to add any.
Ang Koo Kueh (红龟粿) literally means "red tortoise cake" in Hokkien. The sticky pastry, made from glutinous rice, is deliberately dyed red because the color is considered auspicious in Chinese culture. In addition, tortoise is believed to bring longevity to the family. As per tradition, Ang Koo Kueh is filled with sweet mung bean paste.
Made from wheat flour and tapioca starch, Kuih Lompang comes in many colors but it is often dyed green or brown. The steamed pastry is shaped like a small cup with an indentation at the center. Grated coconut is added to the top. In fact, the Malay word "lompang" means "indent".
Next on the pipeline of Nyonya kuih is Pulut Tekan. Glutinous rice is dyed blue using bunga telang (butterfly-pea flower) extract. Rice grains are pressed into compact blocks and then steamed. Since the rice cake is nearly tasteless on its own, it is served with kaya (sweet coconut jam).
The yellowish cake is known as Kuih Bingka. Comprising mostly of tapioca starch, the cake also contains eggs, coconut milk and pandan leaf extract. After baking, the cake's outer surface turns brown.
Still in the realm of glutinous rice, Pulut Inti is flavored with grated coconut and gula melaka. Pulut Inti is often served in a banana leaf wrap in order to enhance its aroma.
Cream puff is called "profiterole" in France. At Mezza9, this French pastry is fused with an exotic fruit. Not just any fruit, but the king of all fruits: durian. While the puff pastry remains similar, the creamy custard inside is flavored with sweet durian flesh. The Durian Cream Puff certainly appeals to the mainstream Malaysian palate.
Apart from that, the desserts counter also covers a wide assortment of French pastries. The cakes are cut into bite-size pieces for the convenience of diners.
This evening's meal concludes with a cup of coffee from the espresso machine. Iconic Hotel uses coffee beans roasted by Boncafé. The coffee's aroma is rather modest, but it has surprisingly strong flavor.
Taste of Nyonya Buffet Dinner is served every Friday and Saturday from 7:00pm to 10:00pm. The price is RM78.00+ per adult and RM39.00+ per child. For every 3 paying adults, the 4th person dines for free. In lieu of this offer, diners can also turn up in traditional Baba or Nyonya costumes to get 25% discount off the bat.

Name: Mezza9
Address: Iconic Hotel, 71, Jalan Icon City, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-505-9988
Business hours: 6:00am-1:00am
Website: https://www.iconichotel.com.my/dining
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.

Pony Tale

Special thanks to Pony Tale De' Cafe for extending this food review invitation.

Following the success of the first restaurant at SPICE Canopy, Pony Tale De' Cafe has expanded its presence to Auto-City. The new branch resides in a cottage-style building that was formerly occupied by Soho Country House.
Although the building has two floors, only the ground floor is currently open to the public. Near the entrance are two private dining rooms. One of them doubles as a gift shop, while the other has a small collection of books for children's reading pleasure. It is always comforting to see restaurants that are family-oriented.
Towards the back of the dining section is a large mural which features the restaurant's titular pony mascot. The mural also emphasizes the fact that the restaurant's menu covers cuisines from all around the world.
The Pony Signature Breakfast Set menu is available from 9:00am to 11:30am on weekdays, and from 9:00am to 12:00pm on weekends and public holidays. During this time, customers enjoy free flow of Americano, peppermint tea, fruit punch and desserts at the buffet counter.
The main appeal of Pony's Country Breakfast (RM23.80) is sautéed mushrooms and potatoes - juicy and delectable. Also commendable is the buttery appeal of croissant. Other items in this breakfast meal are jumbo chicken sausage, scrambled eggs and coleslaw.
Next, the American Big Breakfast (RM24.80) features American comfort foods such as hash browns, baked beans, chicken ham and toasted wholemeal bread. Jumbo chicken sausage, scrambled eggs and coleslaw are included too.
As the name implies, European Vegan Breakfast (RM18.80) uses vegan ingredients only. The constituents of this dish are sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, hash browns, baked beans and coleslaw. A multigrain bun provides dietary fiber.
Norwegian Smoked Salmon Pony Special Omelette (RM20.80) presents an interesting gastronomic experience. Saltiness of smoked salmon is somewhat toned down by the omelette, allowing both ingredients to complement each other.
Another crowd favorite is Nutella Butternana Pony Baker's Pancakes (RM23.80). The three pancakes are spread with creamy Nutella. Served on the side are buttery pan-fried bananas, which go pretty well with pancakes. There is also a cup of chocolate ice cream. Overall, I enjoy this dish very much.
Seafood English Muffin (RM24.80) uses two halves of an English muffin that are baked with cheese, mushrooms and seafood. Seafood ingredients are shrimps, New Zealand mussels and squid. I must say that the seafood at Pony Tale is extremely fresh.
Moving on to pasta, Seafood Aglio Olio Angels Hair Spaghetti (RM30.80) is sautéed with garlic and olive oil. Angel hair, also known as "capelli d'angelo" in Italian, is dyed black using squid ink. This pasta dish comes with large shrimps, New Zealand mussels and Canadian scallops. Overall, I am quite satisfied by this lovely dish.
Sicilian Seafood Pumpkin Pot (RM43.80) is one of Pony Tale's most iconic dishes. After hollowing the pumpkin, the shell is reused as the bowl for soup. The soup contains penne and marine delicacies like shrimps, New Zealand mussels and blue mussels. The rich taste of soup, combined with extremely fresh seafood, makes this a highly recommended dish.
Filipino Seafood Sinigang (RM24.80) is a traditional Filipino stew based on tamarind, onion, Filipino chili (siling labuyo and siling mahaba) and other spices. Also included are salmon fillets and shrimps. Thanks to tamarind, the stew carries appetite-inducing sourness reminiscent of Thailand's tom yum. The stew also packs a substantial dose of pungency.
Pony Tale currently uses two types of coffee beans: House Blend and Italian Roast. Although most coffee drinks are prepared from espresso, manual brewing techniques like drip brewing and siphon brewing are available upon request.
Espresso is usually extracted from the House Blend, which consists of 70% Arabica beans and 30% Robusta beans. The drinks shown here are Espresso Macchiato (RM8.80), Americano (RM8.80) and Caffe Latte (RM10.80).
Irish Shakerato (RM11.80) is an iced coffee drink which is prepared from espresso and Irish cream. The foamy layer on the top half is whipped cream. Coffee is meant to be drunk through the cream. The traditional Irish Shakerato uses Irish whiskey and is served hot, but no alcohol is used in Pony Tale's version.
The primary components of Chaipresso (RM12.80) are chai tea leaves, cinnamon powder and espresso. The allure of this hot drink is the soothing aroma of cinnamon and other herbs. Go for a single shot of espresso if you prefer cinnamon to take the center stage. I personally prefer to have two shots (additional RM2.00) for the extra "kick".
Chococado Espresso (RM22.80) is the signature drink of Pony Tale. The thick emulsion is blended from fresh avocados. There are three steps to enjoy this drink. First, the avocado shake is consumed as it is, resulting in creamy sensation on the lips. Secondly, chocolate ice cream stirred with the shake to present a unique hint of sweetness. Espresso is finally poured in, culminating in bitter-sweet aftertaste.
From the Autumn series of fruit juices, Apple Cinnamon Booster (RM14.80) is blended from fresh apples and dashed with Ceylon cinnamon powder. This version contains yogurt, but non-yogurt version is also available for vegans. For something greener, Greenish Pony (RM15.80) is blended from spinach and passion fruit. Meanwhile, Green Bonanza (RM14.80) is prepared from a variety of greens, apples and lemon juice.
Virgin Berries Mojito (RM15.80) hails from the Spring series of fruit juices. The combination of wild berries, citrus fruits and mint presents refreshing coolness to the tongue. No alcohol is used to prepare this mojito.
Finally, Coffee Berry (RM18.80) is a mixture of coffee, Belgian chocolate and selected wild berries. This drink is also served chilled. I love the way these three distinct ingredients are brought together in a seamless manner.
In summary, Pony Tale offers a unique dining experience by presenting a diverse range of international cuisines. Managing the kitchen is not an easy feat. I appreciate that the food is cooked in a healthy way, for instance, by using olive oil to cook most dishes. It is also worthwhile to mention that Pony Tale's menu is entirely pork-free.

Name: Pony Tale De' Cafe
Address: 1832-G1, Jalan Perusahaan, Auto-City, 13600 Juru, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-502-1631
Business hours: 9:00am-11:00pm (Sunday-Thursday), 9:00am-12:00am (Friday-Saturday)
Website: https://www.facebook.com/ponytaleAC
Coordinates: 5.33707 N, 100.42914 E
Directions: From the North-South Expressway, take the Bukit Mertajam exit and head west. Turn right at the end of the road, and then take the next left turn to arrive at Auto-City. Pony Tale is located between Seoul Garden and Sushi King. There are plenty of parking spaces throughout Auto-City.