China House

Special thanks to China House for extending this food review invitation.

Since its opening in 2011, China House (唐人厝) has completely redefined Penang's café arena. In fact, China House is more than just a café: It is a bakery-cum-wine bar-cum-art gallery-cum-library-cum-etc. And as if this isn't impressive enough, China House has three eateries with separate menus.
Located between Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai) and Victoria Street (Lebuh Victoria), China House is the longest café in Penang, measuring approximately 400 feet (120 meters) from end to end. China House consists of three adjoining buildings which are linked together by a central courtyard. China House can be entered from either street.
China House is partitioned into 14 sections, each has been meticulously designed to grace and elegance. The floor plan is somewhat resembling a labyrinth: It takes nearly two minutes to navigate from one end to another!
Kopi C is China House's most popular eatery. This Australian-style café is open all day, serving local-inspired dishes which appeal to locals and tourists alike. Kopi C serves Western breakfast from open till 6:00pm, salad and sandwiches for lunch, and simple fast entrées for dinner.
As the name implies, Kopi C also features a coffee bar to satisfy everyone's caffeine craving throughout the day. Fine coffee beans are specially sourced from Singapore. While most cafés can only afford to hire 1 or 2 baristas, Kopi C features a crew of 7!
The BTB Restaurant is China House's fine dining restaurant. "BTB" stands for "Bon Ton Bistro" and features signature dishes from its sister eatery Bon Ton Restaurant & Resort in Langkawi. The menu consists of an interesting selection of Western, Malay and Middle Eastern delicacies. BTB Restaurant is open from 6:30pm to 10:30pm.
Meanwhile, located right at Victoria Street entrance is The Canteen, which is the nighttime hangout spot for most people. Its menu is oriented towards finger food and quick bites. Bento box is also available for easy take-away.
The Canteen is teeming with night life especially during weekends. The atmosphere in this eatery is kept vibrant with live music starting 9:30pm daily.
On weekends, there is also additional performance starting from 3:00pm. In addition, Comedy Night is held on the first Thursday of each month. Loosen yourself up and prepare to be entertained by hilarious performances from local and international stand-up comedians.
If you are just seeking a place to chill for the evening, The Canteen also the right place to mingle with like-minded folks. There is a drinks counter which serves anything from liquor to soda.
The Canteen also caters to backpackers who are constantly on the move. There is a convenient vending spot for various thirst-quenching drinks, such as sparkling water and cold beers.
On the occasion that The Canteen is full, there is an overflow section for more visitors. Aptly-named Vic's Upstairs From The Canteen, this upper floor is also available for rent. It is large enough to accommodate 40 guests for private dinner, or 80 guests for cocktail parties.
Vic's Upstairs From The Canteen is furnished as a stylish living room. Cozy couches and elegant furniture provide a unique backdrop for private events. More competitive guests will find the pool billiards table to be a good opportunity to test their cueing skills with their buddies.
One of the most surprising aspect of China House is its bakery arm - Beach Street Bakery. A crew of 12 pastry chefs work around the clock to present more than 30 types of cakes at any given time. There are sponge cakes, cheesecakes, pies and cookies just to name a few. New cakes are being introduced from time to time; nothing stays constant here.
Open all day, the cakes at Beach Street Bakery are must-haves for dine-in customers. To maintain its novelty, China House insists that the cakes are only available in-house; they are not sold elsewhere. Cakes are usually sold by the slice, but Beach Street Bakery also takes phone orders for whole cakes. 24 hours advance notice is recommended.

Fancy a nice glass of house wine? Vine & Single may strike a chord here! No, you need not be single to enter this quaint wine bar.
Vine & Single offers a wide selection of imported wines, cocktails, martinis and margaritas. There are 8 types of red wine alone, so I am certain that you can find your favorite concoction here. Wines are sold by the glass.
Seeking a quiet place to read? Retire to the Reading Room which is furnished with several bookshelves of "pre-loved" books. Ah yes, book donations are most welcome. There are also several board games should you prefer to pass your leisure this way.
Artistically-inclined visitors may be delighted to explore the Art Space, located just above BTB Restaurant. This art gallery features creative works from a different artist on a monthly basis. This month, the Art Space is exhibiting masterpieces from Bruno Tanquerel, a French artist and architect.
Some of these artworks are placed here on consignment. Approach the staff if you see a piece which fits well in your living room.
Next to the art gallery is Bon Ton The Shop, one of several gift shops in China House. Here, visitors can find gift ideas such as jewelry, local handicrafts and even travel books from Borders.
Hosting a corporate meeting but tired of the usual whiteboard and flipchart setting? 14 Chairs is a unique venue for a change! This private room is named after the 14 chairs around the 12-foot long marble table. An antique wooden screen serves as backdrop for this one-of-a-kind conference room.
Set in the middle of China House is an open courtyard landscaped in the style of Chinese gardens in Suzhou (苏州).
This serene garden features a small pond on one side. This place serves a good backdrop for photo opportunities such as bridal shoots. I think it would have been a plus to have koi (鯉) fish in the pond.
If you love the charming atmosphere of this courtyard, visit again after sunset to be awed by an entirely different scenery at night.
Despite having several distinctive eateries, customers of China House can enjoy food from different menus without switching tables. Although our dining table today is at Kopi C, but our food choices cover BTB Restaurant, The Canteen and Beach Street Bakery.
The first meal to delight our palate is the Laos Chicken & Pumpkin Curry With Pumpkin Seed (RM32.00) from the menu of Kopi C.
The spotlight of this dish is a bowl of pumpkin curry with chicken à la Laotian style. Using a unique blend of spicy and sweet flavors, the curry is delightful to the very last drop. The chicken itself is also scrumptious, thanks to the lovely marinate. I also enjoy the clever use of pumpkin seeds to give a nutty twist to the curry.
Alongside the curry are interesting side dishes such as mango and cashew nut kerabu, prawn crackers, acar (pickled vegetables) and sambal belacan (dried shrimp chili paste). Steamed rice with coconut milk is served in a tall cone, wrapped using banana leaf for extra fragrance. Please be forewarned that the sambal belacan is very spicy; go easy with it.
The next dish is Seared Seabass (RM46.00) prepared by the masterful chefs of BTB Restaurant. This dish consists of a thick piece of sea bass fillet, grilled to perfection, then served with local-inspired laksa sauce. The most appealing aspect of the sea bass is that it remains juicy and tender, although the skin has attained the mouth-watering crisp.
The sea bass is served on mash potato with chili jam. On the side are coriander and mint salad. A twist of lemon and chili paste are provided should a customer prefer more adventurous flavors.
Not willing to be outdone, The Canteen presents the Mushroom Quesadillas (RM25.00) which deserves equal if not more commendation. Using tortilla wrap, the quesadillas are filled with mushrooms, onions, carrots, salsa verde (green sauce) and mixed cheese. Served on the side are salsa and cream cheese. The overall sensation of this dish is simply a lovely combination of sweet and fresh flavors, coupled with appealing texture of well-prepared tortilla wrap.
As for beverage, we ordered the Crushed Mint & Lime Soda (RM10.00), a carbonated drink with tangy-sweet flavor. As for juices, our choice is Pineapple, Cucumber & Lemon (RM10.00).
Although the drinks are reasonably thirst-quenching, I feel that they pale in comparison to the food which we just indulged in.
Finally for dessert, we sampled the bestseller of Beach Street Bakery - Tiramisu With Kahlua (RM15.00 per slice, RM150.00 for whole cake). According to the staff, nearly 2,000 slices of this tiramisu cake were sold last year!
The cake portion at Beach Street Bakery is no laughing matter. Each slice of cake here is easily 50% larger than the standard portion in other cafés. And unlike conventional tiramisu cakes, Beach Street Bakery does not use coffee powder. Instead, sensation of espresso is derived from a unique ingredient: Kahlúa, a type of coffee-flavored liqueur.
China House is owned by Bon Ton, the same company which also operates Bon Ton Resort and Temple Tree in Langkawi. In addition, Bon Ton also owns 179 The House which is located several doors away from China House's Victoria Street entrance and adjacent to The Boat Food Court. 179 The House is an antique, art and furniture shop - the eccentric outwardly kind. This is not your typical IKEA store.
The pink tank in front of 179 The House is a photo opportunity for passers-by. This prop also serves as fundraiser for Lassie, a charitable animal shelter for homeless canines and felines in Langkawi.

If you are visiting China House at night, be sure to take a stroll in the courtyard for the mesmerizing night scene.
This romantic setting is the perfect spot for you to get down on one knee, if you catch my drift...
Name: China House (唐人厝)
Address: 153, Lebuh Pantai, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-263-7299
Business hours: 9:00am-12:00am (Sunday-Thursday), 9:00am-1:00am (Friday-Saturday)
Coordinates: 5.41489 N, 100.33907 E
Directions: China House is accessible from both Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai) and Victoria Street (Lebuh Victoria). The Beach Street entrance is near the intersection with Lebuh Ah Quee, whereas the Victoria Street entrance is halfway between the intersections with Gat Lebuh Armenian and Gat Lebuh Chulia. Street parking is available near either entrances.

1 comment:

  1. Great post on our city and local food.

    Please visit us next time you come: