Pacari

Special thanks to Pacari for extending this product review invitation.

Pacari is a premium brand of chocolates from Ecuador. Founded in 2002, this family business uses Arriba Nacional cocoa beans, which only grow in the Andes. To maintain its chocolates' quality, Pacari oversees the entire production process from tree to bar. Cocoa beans are directly sourced from small scale farmers to prevent exploitation by middlemen.
The word "pacari" means "nature" in local Quechua language. True to its philosophy of naturalness, Pacari only uses natural ingredients and its chocolates do not contain any artificial additives. Cocoa trees are also grown through organic and sustainable farming practices.

Pacari's flagship product is the Raw Organic Chocolate 70% Cacao (RM30.00). This single-origin dark chocolate is processed from beans grown in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Meanwhile, Esmeraldas Organic Chocolate 60% Cacao (RM27.00) hails from Esmeraldas, Ecuador's cocoa heartland.
Andean Rose Organic Chocolate 60% Cacao (RM27.00) is infused with geranium roses to present fragrant aroma. Meanwhile, Cuzco Salt & Nibs Organic Chocolate 70% Cacao (RM30.00) is intermittently punctuated by pink salt and crushed cocoa beans. Passion Fruit Organic Chocolate 60% Cacao (RM25.00) takes advantage of tangy fruitiness of the passion fruit.
Pacari has been awarded the World Best Chocolate for every year since 2012. Its chocolates do not contain any milk, soy or gluten. In fact, Pacari's products are 100% vegan. Most flavors are available as 50-gram bars.

Pacari Malaysia's online shopping portal accepts payment by credit card or bank transfer. Delivery fee is waived for orders above RM100.00. Further enquiries can be directed to the Malaysian retailer at hello@pacarichocolate.com.my.

Name: Pacari
Address: 7-5, Jalan 8/146, Bandar Tasik Selatan, 57000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: 03-6177-4465
Business hours: N/A
Website: https://www.pacarichocolate.com.my
Coordinates: N/A
Directions: N/A

Monroe

Special thanks to Monroe Cafe & Restaurant for extending this food review invitation.

1926 Heritage Hotel Penang is a boutique hotel along Burmah Road (Jalan Burma). It is just before the junction with Jalan Imigresen and is across the road from Jalan Chow Thye.
Monroe Cafe & Restaurant is one of the two eateries in this hotel; the other is Hainanese Delights. Monroe combines elements of a restaurant and a cocktail bar. Its casual ambience presents a suitable setting for dining with family and friends. There is also a small stage where live bands perform on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.
The restaurant pays homage to Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962). Throughout the dining section are several murals of the American actress including the famous white dress scene from the film The Seven Year Itch. The dining section also contains retro elements like an antique radio receiver, film camera, film projector and typewriter.
Monroe's food menu is predominantly Western with a handful of local Asian dishes. The recipes are crafted by the proprietor himself, who has great passion for cooking long before opening this restaurant.

For starters, Wild Mushroom Soup (RM15.90), Fresh Tomato Soup (RM13.90) and Fresh Carrot Soup (RM13.90) are all excellent choices. Cooked from fresh ingredients, one can taste the wholesome goodness that fresh food has to offer. The soups are drizzled with cream for aesthetic effect. Each bowl of soup comes with a slice of garlic bread.
Oyster Mornay (RM30.00 for 3 pieces, RM54.00 for 6 pieces, RM96.00 for 12 pieces) is another interesting delicacy. The oyster is baked on its shell and is covered with spinach and Mornay sauce. The gratinated crust prevents the oyster flesh from getting too dry. By the way, Mornay sauce is made from cheese and Béchamel sauce (flour, butter and milk).
For something more local, Chicken Satay (RM12.00 for 6 skewers, RM20.00 for 12 skewers) is a safe bet. Chicken is marinated with turmeric and then grilled over fire. Thanks to the lovely marinade, the satay is succulent indeed. As per tradition, satay is served with cucumber and shallots.
Moving on to main dishes, the Mediterranean Lamb Shank (RM46.90) is served with homemade brown sauce infused with red wine. The lamb shank is quite tender and presents pleasant mouthfeel within each chew. This dish is served with mashed potato, diced vegetables and carrot curls.
At Monroe, mashed potato is painstakingly made by hand as opposed to instant, processed ones. During dinner service, mashed potato is replaced with mashed sweet potato. The vibrant purple color is a welcoming sight. Mashed sweet potato has similar texture as mashed potato but the former is slightly sweeter.
The Grain Fed Rib Eye Steak (RM62.90) is grilled just about right; I can still taste the beef's juiciness without feeling too raw. The steak is served with mashed potato and grilled diced vegetables. Extra grain mustard sauce is provided in a separate cup.
Chicken Mushroom Roulade (RM30.90) is made from chicken thigh rolled with mushroom filling. After braising, the chicken roulade is served with Monroe's specialty sauce. Side dishes are roasted baby potatoes, baby-cut carrot, mashed potato and blanched spinach.
Taking a detour to seafood, Grilled Garoupa Fish (RM53.90) is cooked just right. It is crucial not to overcook the fillet as the grouper's flesh is susceptible to dryness. The fish is served with mustard and white wine sauce.
Fried Laksa Spaghetti (RM19.90) combines Italian pasta with asam laksa's seasoning. The fusion is similar to Johor laksa. This fusion dish contains hard-boiled egg, shredded cucumber, pineapple, onion, red chili, bird's eye chili (cili padi), ginger flower and lemon wedge.
Moving on to desserts, Strawberry Tart (RM15.90) boasts its creamy texture and pleasurable sweetness. On the side is a scoop of matcha ice cream with whipped cream. Chocolate syrup, strawberry syrup and rainbow sprinkles serve as decoration.
The coffee drinks, Cafe Latte (RM11.90) and Cafe Mocha (RM12.90), are reasonably good. Meanwhile, non-caffeinated beverages include milkshakes, Italian sodas and fresh fruit juices. Monroe also serves alcoholic drinks.
Food prices quoted above are based on à la carte orders. The pricing is substantially more affordable when the dishes are ordered as part of a set lunch or set dinner. Set lunch is served between 11:00am and 2:30pm daily. The meal comes with soup, dessert and a choice of drink (coffee, tea or fruit juice). Finally, it is interesting to note that Monroe is a pork-free restaurant.

Name: Monroe Cafe & Restaurant
Address: 1926 Heritage Hotel, 227, Jalan Burma, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 012-407-6699
Business hours: 11:00am-10:00pm (Tuesday-Friday), 7:00am-11:00pm (Saturday-Sunday)
Website: https://www.facebook.com/monroecafeandlounge
Coordinates: 5.42386 N, 100.32061 E
Directions: From Union Primary School, drive along the one-way Burmah Road (Jalan Burma) for approximately 200 meters. 1926 Heritage Hotel is located on the left just before the intersection with Jalan Imigresen. Monroe is at the front section of the hotel. Parking is available in front of and at the side of the hotel.

Sushi Kitchen

Special thanks to Sushi Kitchen for extending this food review invitation.

Sushi Kitchen made its debut in 2009 with its first restaurant at Sungai Ara. Today, there are 4 outlets in Penang and 1 more in Alor Setar. The Gurney Plaza outlet is located on Level 3 of the mall's new wing.
Sushi Kitchen specializes in vegan food and borrows many elements of Japanese cuisine. This explains the Zen-like serenity which is often associated with traditional Japanese restaurants. Customers who want to get closer to Mother Nature can be seated outdoors among the numerous potted plants.
Sushi Kitchen believes in using organic food which nourishes the body in a balanced manner. Unlike many vegetarian restaurants, Sushi Kitchen does not use gluten (面筋). Soy pulp (大豆纤维) is used very sparingly. To maintain hygiene, Sushi Kitchen uses vegetable wash to remove pesticides from fresh produce.
The Happiness Couple (RM20.00) assembles five of the restaurant's bestselling vegan sushi. Sushi pieces are presented elegantly on a long plate with wasabi (山葵) and crispy rice noodle on opposite ends. There are 8 pieces in total, making the Happiness Couple just right for 2 persons. For larger parties of four people or more, the 16-piece Happiness Family (RM36.00) is a better choice.
Global Warming Maki is a makizushi (巻き寿司) filled with Japanese short-grain rice, cucumber, carrot and daikon (大根). The roll is lightly fried to impart a layer of light crisp on its surface. Sushi Kitchen's signature vegan mayonnaise is used as the dressing. The creamy condiment contains neither eggs nor milk, but is derived from soy milk instead.
Crispy G-Ken Floss Maki is rolled such that rice faces outward like a California roll. The roll is topped with vegetarian meat floss (素肉松), which is made from soy pulp and attempts to mimic actual meat floss. The rice roll also contains shredded cucumber and carrot.
Rainbow Maki flaunts its vibrant colors thanks to the presence of red cabbage, cucumber and carrot. Held together by sushi rice, the roll is wrapped in seaweed (海苔) and is given a light sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Pure Inari is essentially sweetened tofu pouch resting on a clump of sushi rice. Inari (稲荷) is named after the Shinto god Inari, who is said to be fond of this food. In any case, inari remains one of my favorite types of sushi.
Last but not least, Wakame Gunkan has seaweed wrapped around the sides, making its appearance similar to a warship. This gunkan maki (軍艦巻き) is filled with chuka wakame (中華ワカメ), which is seasoned seaweed with a crunchy texture.

If you are fond of temaki (手巻き), the Vegetable Hand Roll (RM8.00) may appeal to you. Lettuce and preheated seaweed are rolled as a cone, which is filled with shredded carrots, red cabbage, cucumber and vegetarian meat floss. Vegan mayonnaise serves to moisturize the hand roll.
Black God (RM15.90) is named after the titular Japanese-Korean manga Black God (黒神). What I am most impressed with this noodle dish is the soup recipe. Prepared from organic five-grain oat milk (五谷燕麦奶), the soup is cooked to order as opposed being prepared upfront. Sushi Kitchen does so in order to minimize wastage and its footprint on the environment.
The organic charcoal noodle has similar texture as soba (蕎麦). Also included are shiitake mushrooms (香菇), enoki mushrooms (金针菇), carrots, cabbage and organic brown flaxseeds. Soothing aroma comes from sesame oil. Despite its unassuming appearance, this dish is immensely satisfying to the last drop.
Another recommended noodle dish is Red Sea Udon (RM12.90). The soup is only mildly spicy by Malaysian standards. The reddish soup is formulated from local spices such as chili peppers, turmeric, lemongrass and curry leaves. Coconut milk is remarkably absent from the ingredient list. Meanwhile, the springy udon noodle is specially sourced from Japan.
In terms of presentation, Seaweed Fried Rice (RM9.80) scores points in this category. At the center of the large plate is a hemispherical heap of fried rice covered by seaweed. The seaweed dome traps heat emanating from fried rice, which is still piping hot from the wok. As soon as the seaweed layer is punctured, tantalizing aroma permeates the immediate vicinity.
The fried rice is pleasing to the palate thanks to fiery aroma imbued within each grain. Fried rice can be upgraded from white rice to brown rice for RM1.00 more; the latter is more nutritious and has subjectively better texture.
Hailing from Sushi Kitchen's seasonal menu, Golden Age (RM10.00 for 3 pieces, RM17.00 for 6 pieces) brings out the natural sweetness of fresh mangoes in a subtle way. Sushi pieces are also filled with seaweed, carrots, cucumber and "meat floss".
The six pieces of sushi are elegantly presented on a long plate. Sesame seeds and vegan mayonnaise make the rolls more irresistible than they already are. The plate is also garnished with deep-fried spaghetti and daikon strip. It is evident that Sushi Kitchen places great emphasis on aesthetics.
Sushi Kitchen also serves vegan cakes that are baked at its central kitchen in Sungai Ara. The cakes are currently available at the Gurney Plaza outlet only. For only RM15.00, customers can enjoy a slice of vegan cake (7 choices available) and a cup of organic coffee. Ordering separately costs RM20.80, so this is an attractive deal indeed.
Name: Sushi Kitchen
Address: 170-03-82, Plaza Gurney, Persiaran Gurney, 10250 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-373-1402
Business hours: 10:00am-10:00pm
Website: https://www.facebook.com/sushikitchengurney
Coordinates: 5.43682 N, 100.30964 E
Directions: Sushi Kitchen is located at Level 3 of Gurney Plaza's new wing. Gurney Plaza has basement and multi-level parking garages.

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.