Ah Leng Char Koay Teow

Previously operating at Khoon Hiang Cafe (群香茶室), Ah Leng Char Koay Teow (亚龙炒粿条) has moved across the street to Restoran Tong Hooi (东园茶餐室), right next to Federal Place.
As the patriarch's age is catching up to him, the stall is currently manned by his daughter. Regardless, her father is still present to supervise. Unlike many famous stalls, this humble family is rather soft-spoken and does not flaunt their fame like some of their equals do.

The plate of Special Char Koay Teow (RM11.50) comes with 4 large shrimps which are reasonably fresh. Meanwhile, the mantis shrimps (虾蛄) are overcooked, therefore are not as delectable as regular shrimps. Blood cockles (血蚶) are few and far between, and are not as juicy as I had hoped for. Most notably, Ah Leng Char Koay Teow does not use Chinese sausage (腊肠).
The plate of Special Char Koay Teow has superb "fiery aroma" (镬气). This is attributed to good control of fire under the wok. One key aspect is the use of pork lard (猪油渣) to provide a sense of greasiness. Overall, I am impressed with how the noodle turns out, but the quality of seafood ingredients leaves much room to be desired.
Ah Leng Char Koay Teow also operates another stall at Air Itam at night. From what I have heard, the father personally cooks at this nighttime location. Perhaps this is where I should go next.

Address: 343, Jalan Dato Keramat, 10150 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 9:30am-3:30pm, closed on Wednesdays
Business hours: 012-498-3962

D' Fat Mona Lisa

Special thanks to D' Fat Mona Lisa Café for extending this food review invitation.

Barely a month has transpired, yet my culinary journey brings me back to D' Fat Mona Lisa Café at Jalan Free School. Unlike the previous food tasting session, the restaurant has officially opened for business for several weeks already.
Before stepping in the café, it is an unwritten rule to catch a photo opportunity with Mona Lisa. Choose either the original one as painted by Leonardo da Vinci, or the restaurant's lovable plump version. The mascot of this restaurant is actually based on an actual person. Who? Well, it is for me to know and for you to find out!
The interior décor is now way cozier than before. In fact, this is one of the most elegantly designed café that I have seen for a long time. And this not a statement that I take lightly.
Besides lazy chairs and comfy couches, customers may opt to dine using proper tables. If you are just here to catch a casual drink with a friend, the bar counter may serve this purpose perfectly.
As it is Christmas season, one corner of the restaurant is dedicated to yuletide decorations. It's been a while since I last saw lavender. Well, these lavender flowers are mock ones anyway.
The ordering counter has been made tidier by moving the kitchen to the back. This gives more room for the barista to work with. In fact, D' Fat Mona Lisa has plans to send its chief barista to an academy overseas. Looks like the management spares no expense to provide superior dining experience.
As recommended by my host today, I requested for the Roasted Espresso Chicken (RM16.90). This dish consists of a portion of chicken thigh and drumstick, with mashed potato and garden salad on the side.
The chicken is what an avid coffee lover dreams of every night! Firstly, the chicken is marinated with espresso so that its bold taste is imparted into poultry. The chicken then slowly roasted, then served with gravy which also contains espresso! Espresso manifests itself as a pleasant bitter aftertaste, very much to my delight. However, one must truly love coffee in order to appreciate this dish.
The mashed potato is also reasonably delectable. I exploit the mashed potato by using it to wipe up any residual gravy on the plate. The espresso gravy is just too nice to pass off!
The barista recommended the Matcha Latte (RM11.00), so I obliged to make it my choice of drink today. Speaking as an avid matcha fan, I am also impressed with this fine cup of green tea-infused beverage. The influence of matcha is strong in terms of aroma and flavor. The drink is not too sweet too - this is a definite plus.
At D' Fat Mona Lisa, the cakes are specially sourced from several home-based suppliers. Of course, the cost is higher than commercial grade bakeries. Nevertheless, I am unsurprised that the restaurant goes for quality rather than convenience.

Since I am trying not-so-mainstream items today, why not hit off the tangent with an exotically-sounding Rum Cake (RM12.90)? This chocolate sponge cake is laced with actual rum, giving each bite a thrilling sensation down the throat. The rich chocolate goodness is also enjoyable.
D' Fat Mona Lisa Café has several conference rooms upstairs. These rooms are suitable for small corporate meetings. As the café is just downstairs, there are also rental packages which include meals. Do call up to enquire for details.

Name: D' Fat Mona Lisa Café
Address: 43, Jalan Free School, 11600 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-281-0797
Business hours: 11:00am-11:00pm (Monday-Thursday), 10:00am-12:00am (Friday-Sunday)
Website: http://www.dfatmonalisacafe.com
Coordinates: 5.40284 N, 100.30763 E
Directions: From Penang Free School, drive along Jalan Free School towards the round-about. D' Fat Mona Lisa Café is about 100 meters before the round-about, just opposite the retirement home. There is ample parking space within the compound.

Kai Curry Bar

Special thanks to Kai Curry Bar for extending this food review invitation.

Jalan Phuah Hin Leong an overlooked road in George Town. Tucked amidst several quaint guesthouses is Kai Curry Bar (Curry Bar カイ), an eatery serving Japanese-inspired curry dishes.
The proprietor of Kai Curry Bar is Mag, a born-and-bred Penangite who worked in the food business for several years in New Zealand (where she met her husband), then Japan (where her husband comes from), and finally back near the equator. Mag operates a catering business called Umai Kitchen, but inspiration of Kai Curry Bar came recently while she was driving by this serene neighborhood with her mother.
Kai Curry Bar is open for about a month now. Most dishes involve Japanese curry with certain degree of local adaptations. Spices used for the curry are sourced from local markets. To maintain the lovely aroma, Mag prepares the curry powder twice a week. I bet the exact mixing formula is her trade secret!
While Mag spends most of her time in the kitchen, she has two family members who assist her on daily basis: her mother who helps to serve the tables, and her six-year-old son who is her trustworthy food taster! Her son, Kai (カイ), also contributes cartoon doodles to the food menu. Obviously, Kai has an affinity for dinosaurs. Whose kid isn't?
My lunch started with a bowl of cold potato salad. I thought it was a simple scoop of mashed potato. The truth could not be any further! The mashed potato is prepared fresh, which explains why it still has the appealing fibrous texture. Of course, some people prefer "smooth" mashed potato à la KFC style, but I always prefer this "coarse" version.
Served beside the scoop of mashed potato is hijiki (鹿尾菜), a kind of seaweed cultivated from the wild. The cooling effect of the jelly-like seaweed complements the mashed potato is a harmonious way.
As far as beverage as concerned, I almost never stray away from teas when I visit a Japanese restaurant (or Japanese-inspired restaurant for this case). The recommended choice is Mugicha (麦茶), a type of tea made from roasted barley. The aroma and flavor of Mugicha is pretty similar to genmaicha (玄米茶), which is made from roasted brown rice instead. Mugicha is modest in taste and serves to normalize the savory flavors of curry.
The choice of entrée today is Pork Katsu Curry (ポークカツカレー, RM17.90). This dish comprises of a piece of deep-fried pork cutlet served with Japanese curry and rice.
There are two types of curry to choose from: pork (ポーク) and vegetarian (ベジタリアン); I picked the former. Pork curry is a thick gravy with tender chunks of pork and carrots, making it very savory indeed. According to Kai Curry Bar, the vegetarian curry is naturally sweet due to liberal use of vegetables, making it more appealing for children.

While the pork cutlet is acceptable in terms of taste, I think it is overshadowed by the delightful curry itself. Japanese curry was a relatively recent culinary creation when European powers made contact with Japan during the Meiji era. Spices from British India were tuned to satisfy Japanese palate. This explains why Japanese curry tends to be thicker, starchier and less spicy than the Indian counterpart.
There are a number of interesting add-ons to the curry, for which I picked sautéed mushrooms (RM3.00). Other recommended choices are spinach (RM2.00) and cheese (RM3.50).

Should a customer prefer more spiciness, there is a shaker containing powdered chili pepper. However according to Japanese dining etiquette, adding condiments to food is generally frown upon as this apparently undermines the chef's preparation method.
In addition to the plate of curry, there is also a small pot containing seasoned lotus root. I must say that I am immensely impressed with how this side dish is prepared. The lotus root still retains its crunchy and juicy texture, and possesses highly delectable flavor in an appetizing way. I like this side dish so much that I asked for seconds.
Besides pork katsu, other choices of meat are chicken katsu (チキンカツ), seared chicken (炙りチキン) and pork hamburg (ポークハンバーグ). The pork hamburg does not use any flour at all; minced pork is held together using beaten eggs. Should you prefer fish, there is also the option of fish cutlet (フィッシュカツ) which is made from mahi-mahi (マヒマヒ), a type of fish found in Pacific waters and often used in Hawaiian cuisine. The curry dishes can also be enjoyed with udon (うどん) noodle in lieu of rice.
Kai Curry Bar is open for lunch (11:00am to 3:00pm) and dinner (6:00pm-9:00pm), Tuesday through Saturday. Sunday is Kai's off-day as the food taster (it's a very demanding job), while Monday is when Mag prepares food for the week ahead. Kai Curry Bar is one highly recommended eatery indeed.
Name: Kai Curry Bar (Curry Bar カイ)
Address: 15, Jalan Phuah Hin Leong, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-226-0322
Business hours: 11:00am-3:00pm, 6:00pm-9:00pm, closed on Sundays and Mondays
Website: http://kaicurrybar.com
Coordinates: 5.42369 N, 100.32257 E
Directions: Driving along Burmah Road (Jalan Burma) from New World Park, turn right to Jalan Phuah Hin Leong. This small road is somewhat opposite of Union Primary School. Kai Curry Bar is one of the shops on the left. Parking is limited in this neighborhood; be tactful not to obstruct other houses.

Kochabi Double Content

Special thanks to Kochabi Double Content for extending this food review invitation.

The eateries at Penang Times Square are often overlooked despite their strategic location. In place of the former Taiwan Kochabi (台湾古早味) is Kochabi Double Content (古早味锅加锅), a Taiwanese restaurant under new management.
Kochabi Double Content retains the Taiwanese theme of its predecessor, but expands to more localized food. The menu concept here is to provide upscale restaurant cuisine at individual portions. The pricing is meant to appeal to the masses.

Although most dishes are available in à la carte style, set meal is highly recommended as it includes minced pork rice (鲁肉饭), three side dishes (小菜) and a pot of soup for only RM5.00. The choice of soup changes from day to day; today's soup is Chinese radish soup (白萝卜汤). In fact, the name "Double Content" (锅加锅) refers to set meals where entrée and soup are served in separate pots.

One of the most popular dish here is Slow Cook Basil Wine Chicken (台式三杯鸡, RM16.90/RM11.90), which I can vouch for. This poultry dish originated in Jiangxi Province (江西省) in China, but it was popularized in Taiwan before reaching Malaysian shores.
The "three cups" in its Chinese name refers to three types of sauces used to season the chicken. While there may be regional variations, the three sauces are usually rice wine, sesame oil and soy sauce. Prolonged heating allows the chicken to absorb flavors of sauces, giving the meat an appealing flavor deep down its very core.

Next is a signature dish from Hunan Province (湖南省), Hu Nan Spicy Stewed Beef (湖南香辣牛腩锅, RM18.90/RM13.90). Besides Sichuanese, Hunan cuisine (湘菜) is also renowned for liberal use of spices. The level of spiciness at Kochabi Double Content has been toned down to suit the general palate among locals.
Next is the Claypot Braised Spicy Pork Belly (四川辣子回锅肉, RM17.90/RM12.90), one of the most recognizable dishes in Sichuanese cuisine (川菜). First, the pork is slowly simmered with a variety of sauces and spices. Then, the meat is cut into manageable size, then stir-fried in shallow oil. The resulting dish is very fatty, but this one of the reason that it is so appealing. Unlike the one served at Phoenix One, this dish is nicely prepared.
Moving to seafood, I find the Claypot Steamed Cod Fish With Dried Radish (生煲菜脯雪鱼, RM33.90/RM28.90) to be very enjoyable. The tenderness of cod coupled with savory flavor of sauce and juicy enoki mushrooms is very gratifying.
The cod is best enjoyed while it is still tender. If the fire is left unattended for some time, the flesh becomes firmer and less refined.
If you prefer the cod in pan-fried style, then A Mei's Pan Fried Cod Fish (阿妹煎雪鱼, RM33.90/RM28.90) is your choice. This dish is named after Taiwanese pop diva A-Mei (张惠妹), but I am not aware of any connection. In gastronomical terms, I feel that it is rather wasteful to pan-fry good fish as this does not make good use of its fine texture.
On the other hand, frying can sometimes prove to be the right call. An example is the Taiwan Stir Fry Golden Prawns (宝岛黄金虾, RM18.90/RM13.90) which, in my personal opinion, is quite delectable.
These medium-sized peeled shrimps are breaded, then stir-fried to give a coating of scrumptious crisp. The cooked shrimps are then served with honey-sweet sauce.
For something less meaty, there is also Three Flavour Japanese Toufu (三味日本豆腐, RM13.90/RM8.90) on the menu.
The bean curd is served with unripe mango strips and mango-flavored sauce. The overall sensation is similar to Thai-style kerabu.
The Kochabi Braised Duck With Ginger (古早羗芽鸭, RM17.90/RM12.90) is also not bad. This opinion is coming from someone who fancies ginger. On the low side, I feel that the duck can use more heating so that it becomes tender.
Next of the dining table are the several poultry dishes.
First, the Flavour Pan Fried Chicken (风味煎鸡排, RM15.90/RM10.90) is reasonably well-prepared. The extent of cooking is just right - not too dry nor oily. As a result, the chicken is quite succulent as a whole.
For a tangy alternative, try the Crispy Lemon Chicken (柠檬香鸡排, RM13.90/RM8.90). A piece of breaded chicken is deep-fried in cooking oil, then garnished with sesame seeds and topped with lemon sauce.
Another kerabu-like dish is the Fried Chicken With Mango Sauce (香芒炸鸡排, RM14.90/RM9.90). I find that chicken and mango are not the best friends here. Personally, I prefer the bean curd version.
If you are looking for something more mainstream, the Pan Fried Garlic Chicken (蒜香煎鸡扒, RM15.90/RM10.90) may be the right choice. Unfortunately, the chicken chop is rather oily. I think the amount of oil should be toned down, otherwise this dish is too surfeiting.
Moving on to the Claypot Stewed Duck Thai Style (暹罗焖鸭, RM17.90/RM12.90), I like the bold flavor of duck in brown gravy, which is also absorbed by a hard-boiled egg and a piece of bean curd. I am not sure whether this cooking style is indeed Thai in origin, though. The name does not really matter as long as it tastes good.
This is a dish which I find interesting: Claypot Pork Ribs With Taro In Brown Sauce (红烧芋头排骨煲, RM18.90/RM13.90). The stewed pork ribs are complemented with taro, nicely assimilating savory and starchy flavors. This dish includes vegetables such as carrots, snow peas and cabbage.
Sometimes, a modest-looking dish can turn out to be fantastic. I highly recommend the Drunken Chicken (醉鸡, RM17.90/RM12.90) if you are looking for a dish with more gravy. The key to its appeal is the use of rice wine - so good that the gravy is literally good to the last drop!
The Claypot Tong Po Meat (秘制东坡肉, RM19.90/RM14.90) is a delicacy from Hangzhou (杭州). A single slab of pork belly is braised with rice wine, then stewed until the entire pork becomes soft and flavorful. According to legend, this dish was invented by Su Shi (苏轼), also known as Su Dongbo (苏东坡), a Chinese poet during the Song Dynasty (宋朝), during his exile in Hangzhou.
The Sticky Three Word Pork Ribs (秘制三字骨, RM18.90/RM13.90) is more like finger food as opposed to a proper dish. I find the pork to be quite dry, but it is somewhat compensated by the accompanying plum sauce.
If you enjoy lamb, you may want to try the Kochabi Pan Fried Lamb (古香煎羊排, RM20.90/RM15.90). Although the mutton appears to have been grilled, it is actually pan-fried. I feel that marinating should be improved as the lamb is slightly lacking in flavor.
For each set meal, there are three side dishes which vary on daily basis. They play subordinate roles compared to the entrée.
Kochabi Double Content also has several steamboat choices, such as this Kim Chi Steamboat (韩式泡菜锅, RM27.90). The ingredients include thin slices of pork, several types of bean curd, vegetable and seafood. The beef version is also available for RM28.90.
A Taiwanese restaurant is incomplete without Beef Soup Ramen (牛肉面, RM14.90). The soup is reportedly too sweet, so it should be toned down in favor of beef savoriness. In general, local Malaysians tend to prefer stronger flavor compared to Taiwanese people.
As for side orders, there is a small serving of Iron Egg (铁蛋, RM3.90). This dish scores points in terms of presentation, but I would like to see more flavorful taste in the yolk.
The beverage choices at Kochabi Double Content are rather similar to Chatime or one of its many clones. The drinks featured today are Honey Green Tea (蜂蜜绿茶, RM4.90), Passion Fruit Red Tea (百香红茶, RM4.90), Carrot Juice (萝卜汁, RM6.90), Plum Red Tea (梅子红茶, RM4.90), Original Milk Tea (经典奶茶, RM4.90), Soya Milk Red Bean (豆奶红豆, RM4.90) and Original Milk Tea (经典奶茶, RM4.90).
I must say that I am impressed with the dessert menu at Kochabi Double Content. According to the staff, one of the bestsellers is the Azuki Matcha Toast (抹茶冰霜, RM13.90), where toasted bread is topped with matcha-flavored ice cream and azuki beans.
Next is the Strawberries Serendipity (士多啤梨屋, RM15.90), which strawberry lovers will fall in love with in a heartbeat.
In this dessert, butter and chocolate sponge cakes are accompanied by fresh strawberries, strawberry ice cream and strawberry sauce. It is strawberry frenzy here!
Banana lovers out there can try the Crepe De Banana (猴子园, RM13.90). There are bananas on top the crêpe as well as inside!
This dessert is served with chocolate ice cream. I think it is better to serve banana ice cream instead, just to hit the point harder.
Last but not least, the Mango Charlotte Crave (黄金芒果屋, RM13.90) is a rather interesting dessert. Ladyfingers (a type of sponge cake) is used to form a wall, in which mango ice cream is filled. Visually-wise, it looks glamorous but the way to enjoy this dessert is rather messy. Mango slices are also provided on the side.
Penang Times Square is still relatively quiet compared to nearby malls like Prangin Mall, 1st Avenue Mall etc. However, the growing number of eateries and extensive food court are certain to draw larger crowd to in the near future.
Name: Kochabi Double Content (古早味锅加锅)
Address: 77-G-69, Penang Times Square, Jalan Dato Keramat, 10150 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-228-7296
Business hours: 12:00pm-10:00pm
Website: https://www.facebook.com/KochabiDoubleContent
Coordinates: 5.41251 N, 100.32553 E
Directions: Kochabi Double Content is located at the Ground Floor of Penang Times Square. The restaurant can be entered from outdoors and indoors. It is several doors away from Maybank, along the east side of the mall. Penang Times Square has plenty of parking spaces at the open plaza, basement and upper levels.