Noor & Dean's Café

Special thanks to Noordin Street House and TourDirections Penang for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Noordin Street House (双裕楼) at Noordin Street (Lebuh Noordin) is a dainty guesthouse in the historic district of George Town. This two-and-a-half storey heritage building provides an alternative style of accommodation to backpacking tourists.
This establishment started in October 2013 when the proprietors, Mr. Muniswaran and Mr. John toyed the idea of running a breakfast café in the middle of town. The plan took off and culminated into a proper guesthouse with an adjoining full service restaurant. Since then, Noordin Street House has enjoyed an endless flow of travelers. Room occupancy is a staggering 90%, not an easy feat in the hotel sector.
The premises of Noordin Street House was extensively renovated from scratch. An architect by profession, Mr. John was responsible from the overall makeover to the most detailed decor. Keeping in line with 1950s retro concept, no stone is left unturned when transforming the entire premises back to the good old days.
The front of the guesthouse is quite welcoming and down to earth. A rack of travel brochures provide useful sightseeing suggestions to guests and passing backpackers alike.
A number of nostalgic fixtures and appliances adorn the lobby. A large wooden TV rack stands imposing by the stairs. Glossy porcelain vases reveal their majestic beauty and intricate artwork.
A primitive radio receiver refuses to yield to the test of time. Surprisingly, this old-fashioned device still functions properly. Alas, the tunable frequency bands are no longer in use, therefore what it can pick up today is just static.
On the side of a wall is an old telephone with a classical rotary dial. Preserved through the passage of time, this primitive phone still works! It rings whenever there is an incoming call, and the handset still works fine. The only thing it cannot do is to make outgoing calls. I guess the reason is because modern telephone networks have migrated to touch-tone dialing, or even fully digital in certain cases.
At the upper floors, Noordin Street House features five luxurious suites include one at the loft. Each unit is uniquely furnished with retro 1950s furniture, but with modern comforts such as air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, wireless intercom, coffee maker, 42" LED TVs, in-room showers etc. A suite is usually meant for two guests, but the largest one, Silk Suite, can accommodate up to four. Works are underway to add another three suites downstairs plus an indoor swimming pool.
At the common area, there is a cozy lounge where travelers can mingle around and regale tales from around the world. A rooftop garden also provides an alternative outdoor retreat, giving decent views of the nearby KOMTAR and 1st Avenue Mall. Guests who prefer indoor activities can be entertained by a well-maintained game room and mini library.
Noor & Dean's Café is the bistro-style eatery on the ground floor of the guesthouse. Besides catering to guests (especially breakfast, which is included in the price of the room), the bistro is also open to the public. The food here is halal-certified and does not include beef.

The dining section is divided into smoking and non-smoking areas. As most of us are non-smokers, we are ushered at the latter section.
At the far end of the smoking section is an espresso bar where baristas Saras and Connie skillfully prepare various caffeinated and mocktail beverages.
Mr. Muniswaran manages the daily operations of the guesthouse including the bistro. Noor & Dean's spares no expense to provide the best dining experience possible at affordable prices. Chef Asri and Chef Navin, renown chefs in the hotel industry, were specially brought in to craft the restaurant's menu from scratch. The dynamic duo have been around since the beginning, and are tirelessly working behind the scenes to prepare fine dishes with the highest quality ingredients.
Taking apart the word "Noordin", "Noor" and "Dean" refers to Asian and Western culinary cultures respectively. The food menu at Noor & Dean's consists of an interesting selection of local Malaysian delights, Nyonya delicacies, Western-style favorites, and several creative fusion of Asian and Western culinary recipes. The food menu applies to both lunch and dinner.

Our delightful feast commences with an appetizer with a titular name, Noor & Dean's Platter (RM28.00). Providing small servings of a variety of finger food, this platter is the best option for diners who are indecisive of what to order. Sampling portions include chicken wings, cucur udang (shrimp fritters), pakora (fried chickpea batter) and spring rolls. I suspect that the delicacies are meant to represent Western, Malay, Indian and Chinese appetizers respectively.
Literally meaning "mix-mix", Gado-gado (RM18.00) is an Indonesian mixed salad of various steamed vegetables with peanut sauce dressing. Besides vegetarian ingredients, a handful shrimp fritters and boiled eggs are also included. A particular highlight is tempeh, an Indonesian specialty made from fermented soybeans. Overall, the spicy peanut sauce is beautifully prepared and does a good job in flavoring the Gado-gado salad.
Once again, culinary fusion culimated in the creation of Panini-Mutton Varuval (RM16.00). Sandwiched between two lovely pieces of toasted bread, savory portions of dry mutton curry serve as scrumptious fillings. I am delightfully surprised by the successful marriage of this European-style bread with a curry of Indian origin. Speaking of multi-racialism!
A local crowd favorite is the Cucur Udang (RM10.00), which was one of the delicacies featured in the Noor & Dean's Platter earlier. I find the shrimp fritters to be oilier than my comfortable zone; perhaps thinner coating of batter and brief frying are recommended. In any case, kudos to the wonderful preparation of spicy peanut sauce. The peanut sauce is an ideal dip for the fried shrimp fritters, as well as bean curds and cucumbers.
The Grilled Chicken Arrosto (RM22.00) is the main highlight of the feast today, and also my personal favorite. The seasoned chicken is grilled to scrumptious golden perfection, then served with a flavorful concoction of lovely rosemary sauce. On the sides, mashed potatoes, broccoli, cauliflowers and carrots serve as counterbalance to the meaty chicken flesh.
Though pale in comparison to the former dish, the Batter Mix Garoupa Fish & Chips (RM26.00) is reasonably appealing owing to its delightful batter. Unlike dory fish, grouper is more refined in texture and flavor, making the latter tastier especially in conjunction with tartar sauce. A serving of fries and mixed salad serve as sides.
Another bold attempt to marry Asian and Western cuisine culimated with the Shish Kebab & Pasta (RM26.00).
"Shish" (şiş) means "skewer" in Turkish. The name clearly illustrates how the kebab is prepared. Threaded on a skewer, the chicken is beautifully bathed with heat from an oven, retaining most natural juices intact. Separating chunks of succulent chicken are grilled vegetables such as mushrooms, bell peppers, onions and cherry tomatoes. A dish fit only for kings, my only complaint is that I cannot get enough to quench my cravings!
At the base of the skewer stand is a hearty serving of spaghetti olio à la Italian style. The pasta is nicely cooked to the right level of springiness, then further flavored with vegetables such as bell peppers, mushrooms and celery. Then, a light sprinkle of black pepper is showered on the top for more appetizing effect. Mediterranean cuisine is characterized by liberal use of olive oil, mint sauce and cheese to enhance the overall flavor.
Served on a sheet of banana leaf, the Nasi Goreng Jalan Dua (RM18.00) appeals to diners who crave for Malaysian comfort food. The name of this dish, "Jalan Dua", is a subtle reference to Noordin Street, which is colloqually known as "2nd Avenue".
The central focus of this local-inspired dish is an aromatic serving of fried rice with squid. Accompanying dishes are chicken satay (skewer), shrimps, ikan bilis (anchovies), "sunny side up" egg and keropok (crackers).
As a maritime country, it is not surprising that many Malaysian delicacies revolve around seafood. This Bawal Goreng (RM16.00) is one such example. This dish consists of two parts: fish curry and fried pomfret.
The fish curry is a powerful brew of fish essence and devilish spices. A couple of okra (ladies' fingers) are added into the mix. As the curry is strong in flavor, it is advisable to order to bowl of steamed white rice, which is not included by default.

The other half of this dish is a whole ikan bawal (pomfret). The fish is deep-fried until the outer layer has a delightful crisp. Seasoned beforehand, the pomfret remains surprisingly fresh and easy on the tongue. Two types of dips are provided: sliced chili peppers in soy sauce, and sambal (ground chili with shrimp paste).
The Claypot Nasi Lemak With Ayam Rendang (RM18.00) is yet another unusual preparation of otherwise-familiar Minangkabau dishes: ayam rendang (chicken with dry curry). Infused with essense of Nusantara spices and coconut milk, the quarter-chicken is slowed cooked until the liquids become nearly dry, leaving behind the chicken which is very flavorful and aromatic. Noor & Dean's creatively uses the claypot to serve the chicken and rice.
On the side of the claypot, there is a plate of ingredients familiar to nasi lemak: boiled eggs, ikan bilis (anchovies), sambal (ground chili with shrimp paste), roasted peanuts and cucumber slices.
One cannot claim to have visited Penang without sampling the iconic char koay teow (炒粿条) dish. Noor & Dean's own creation is the Oyster Char Koay Teow (RM16.00). The serving is much larger than the average hawker. Diners are further gratified with the liberal use of large shrimps, squids and oysters. Ironically, I find that oysters only play a minor role here. Most of the flavor comes from the shrimps and squids. Other important ingredients used in this char koay teow dish are bean sprouts, garlic chives (韭菜) and eggs.
I am reasonably satisfied with the usage of more-expensive-than-normal ingredients for the Oyster Char Koay Teow. However, I feel that the level of saltiness should be toned down. It may be tempting to tune the flavor in a way to appeal towards Western guests (who tend to have higher tolerance to saltiness), but I think the char koay teow should ultimately be prepared in accordance to its traditional style.
Besides, char koay teow, another signature Penang specialty is Joo Hoo Char (鱿鱼炒, RM10.00), in essence stir-fried cuttlefish and shredded vegetables. Although cuttlefish appears to take the center stage, the cornerstone ingredient is the humble jicama (turnip). Traditional recipe dictates that jicama should be chopped manually, alongside dried cuttlefish and various vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, onions and shiitake mushrooms.
After light frying, a common way to enjoy this dish is by wrapping a bite-size portion in stem lettuce (生菜) plus an optional dip of sambal paste. The overall sensation is quite gratifying, showcasing the unique texture of jicama and the more flavorful cuttlefish.

Chicken Curry Kapitan (RM16.00) is a Nyonya dish with culinary philosophies from Malay and Chinese cooking. The curry is mild but adequately flavored with coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves, also giving it an appealing fragrant aroma. The chicken is cooked alongside the curry, therefore absorbing most of the curry's spicy essence.

If you love the Panini-Mutton Varuval, why not sample the Lamb Varuval (RM18.00) too? Created by master chefs from Chettinad, varuval (வறுவல்) is a unique preparation method of pre-cooked meat sautéed in oil and various spices. The outcome is a gratifying serving of flavorful mutton, making this a highly recommended dish!
It is time to move on to desserts. Also hailing from the Indian subcontinent, the Raita (रायता, RM5.00) is a fine salad dessert made from dahi (दही) or sourmilk. First, dahi is seasoned with coriander, cumin and various herbs and spices. Then, cucumber and onions are mixed in. Raita is served cold, usually as a cooling dessert to counterbalance the heatiness of meaty Indian dishes.
Sweet tooth cravings can be quenched by a slice of Sizzling Almond Cakes (RM12.00). The Swiss-style almond cake is served hot on a sizzling plate, alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It is an interesting way to keep the cake warm, but I find this approach quite wasteful of the ice cream, which is nearly molten by the time the steam clears. In addition, there is an inevitable burning odor from the base of the almond cake. Although most of the cake tastes fine, I believe there is a less wasteful way to present this dessert.
A snack closer to home, Banana Fritters With Vanilla Ice Cream (RM8.00) is a serving of two pisang goreng (banana fritters) and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Unlike the traditional version, the banana fritters are drizzled with chocolate syrup. Overall, I find the taste not as well as desired; reasons are twofold: The chocolate syrup and vanilla ice cream hinder the natural sweetness of bananas, and the bananas are too small in size to the point that it is overwhelmed by the batter coating. I recommend the chocolate syrup to be dropped, ice cream to be served separately, and larger-sized bananas to be used.
In contrast to the previous dish, the Sago Gula Melaka (RM6.00) is a cooling dessert for a change. Sago is a starchy flour extracted from a type of tropical palm trees with the same name. The composition is very thick to the extent that it resembles jelly. Served alongside the sago dessert are gula melaka (palm sugar) and coconut milk. Both condiments are added into the sago dessert before consumption. This is quite a satisfying dessert, although honestly the portion is quite small to truly enjoy it.
Switching gear to the espresso bar, baristas Saras and Connie conjured a series of handcrafted coffee and mocktail beverages for our enjoyment.

First up is the Iced Vienna Coffee (RM14.00), easily my personal favorite. Using two shots of espresso in a standard-sized cup, the coffee is topped with whipped cream instead of milk or sugar. The cream is than sprinkled with cocoa powder and several coffee beans for visual effect. I like the rich, creamy flavor of this cold beverage, not to mention the sensation of crewing roasted coffee beans suspended on top.
Milano Mocha (RM14.00) is another ice-blended beverage in the pipeline from the espresso bar. Exploiting the compatible marriage of espresso and cocoa, this is a good choice of beverage to satisfy your chocolate cravings.
The Caffè Macchiato (RM8.00) is a hot caffeinated beverage made from espresso and milk foam. Lighter than espresso, the milk foam forms a distinctive layer on top the former, resulting in a visually elegant appearance.
Mezzo Mezzo (RM9.00) is an Italian phrase for "half-half". This appropriately describes this coffee beverage: 50% espresso with 50% chocolate. As in most cases, the quality and flavor of espresso is most pronounced when enjoyed hot.
For coffee enthusiasts who also prefer more milky composition, the Caffè Latte (RM8.00) is an old school favorite. The strong flavor of espresso is complemented with smooth flavors of steamed milk and milk foam, giving the mixture a whitish outlook.
The mocktails are another interesting section in Noor & Dean's menu. The house-signature Noor Meets Deans (RM12.00) is a wild concoction of orange, cranberry, pineapple and lemon juices, with a base of ginger ale and grenadine. Grenadine, a bread-and-butter bar syrup, gives the beverage a pinkish hue as well as the pleasantly sweet sensation.
Another interesting mocktail mix comes in the name of Teoh's Punch (RM12.00). A fruitier alternative to Noor Meets Deans, this fruit punch is still a formidable thirst quencher on its own right. The beverage is made from orange, apple, cranberry and pineapple juices, then given a twist of carbonated soda pop.
Bold enough to experience an alternative minty twist? Then a chilling glass of Cool Mint & Lime Fitz (RM12.00) is the right choice! Lime juice is mixed with grenadine and mint leaves for refreshing sensation, then mashed using a muddler. Next, this mojito-like mocktail is topped with soda pop and crunched ice, then garnished with mint leaves and a lime wedge for visual elegance.
Stepping away from food and beverages themselves, I must give a word of commendation to the fantastic waiting crew, whose members are not only professional in the line of table-waiting, but also very friendly and patient to cater to our every needs throughout our dining session.
What is my verdict on the dining experience at Noor & Dean's Café? No doubt, the menu prices are obviously higher than the average hawker at Gurney Drive food court. Nevertheless, one also needs to consider the excellent culinary skills, quality food ingredients, bold approach to fusion cuisine, and professional staff before reaching a conclusion.

All things considered, it is my humble opinion is that the excellent gastronomic experience commensurates the higher-than-usual price tag. From a certain perspective, the food at Noor & Dean's Café can even be considered affordable when compared to 5-star hotel restaurants which usually charge twice or more for dishes of comparable quality.

Name: Noor & Dean's Café
Address: 71, Lebuh Noordin, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-262-7173
Business hours: 8:00am-11:00pm
Coordinates: 5.41186 N, 100.33120 E
Directions: From Lebuh Mcnair, turn right into Lebuh Noordin. Noordin Street House is approximately 30 meters on the left. Noor & Dean's Café is located on the ground floor of the guesthouse. There are ample street parking spaces on both sides of Lebuh Noordin.