La Bella Ristorante

Special thanks to La Bella Ristorante for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

La Bella Ristorante is a new restaurant at Leith Street, occupying the former premises of Kwong Sang House (广生洋服).
This shop used to be a tailor's shop back in the old days. The sewing machine was inherited ever since the place was converted to a restaurant.
"La Bella Ristorante" means "the nice restaurant" in Italian. The menu of this eatery consists of appetizers, pasta, pizza, steak and seafood dishes. As for beverages, alcoholic drinks like sangria, beer and wine are available.
My meals starts with an appetizer, Zuppa Di Frutti Di Mare (RM16.00). This seafood soup is loaded with delicacies like shrimp, mussel, clam and squid. Celery and broccoli are also included. Overall, I feel that the soup is well-received.
The Aglio Pane (RM6.00) is a garlic bread made from toasted bread slices with butter spread made from garlic and herbs. The bread is delightfully soft, but I prefer stronger garlic flavor. Toasted bread is best consumed when it comes out hot from the oven.
By far, my favorite dish today is La Bella Chicken Wings (RM18.00). This finger food snack comprises of four wings, making it sufficient for a proper meal or for sharing around the table. The wings are seasoned using a house-special blend of marinate. As a result, the meat is succulent down to the bones.
In terms of spiciness, the wings pack a respectable load of fiery pungency. Nevertheless, spiciness is one factor which makes the wings so delectable.

For pasta, the recommended choice is Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca (RM26.00), which is Italian for "spaghetti in garbage style". According to legend, the recipe was invented by a local restaurant in Ischia (Italian island near Naples) when a group of diners walked in as the shop was about to close. Running low on ingredients, the customers asked the chef to "facci una puttanata qualsiasi" ("give us any kind of garbage"). Hence, the chef prepared a pasta dish with whatever leftover ingredients he can find.
This explains why Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca contains assorted ingredients such as capers, tomatoes, black olives and garlic. Another key ingredient is canned premium anchovy, which is several inches long. The anchovy is mashed up and sautéed with other vegetables, then simmered to thicken its consistency. The sauce is then poured over spaghetti cooked al dente, followed by parsley as final garnish. Magnifico!

As for pizzas, Peperoncino La Bella (RM20.00) is among the popular choices. This hand-tossed pizza is topped with beef pepperoni, grated parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Etymology, the word "Peperoncino" refers to hot chili peppers, not pepperoni. Instead, the word "pepperoni" comes from the word "peperone" (bell peppers).
Thin-crust pizza, à la New York style, is usually enjoyed for its crispy, toasted crust. I think the crust is an area that needs improvement. I also prefer the pizza to have more toppings, particularly pepperoni slices and cheese. In fact, I like to see sticky strands of molten cheese as I pull each slice of pizza from the serving board.

As for poultry, La Bella Di Pollo (RM28.00) is the restaurant's special chicken recipe. The grilled chicken thigh is lightly flavored with brown sauce, but I think the gravy should be made thicker. The chicken itself is well-cooked as the flesh peels off seamlessly from the bones.
On the side are mashed potato and mixed vegetables, namely baked potato, tomato, broccoli and carrot. Food presentation is amazingly of fine dining style.
As for drinks, the recommended beverage is Sangria La Bella (RM16.00), a Mediterranean cocktail made from Merlot wine, Curaçao triple sec (orange-flavored liqueur), orange juice and lemon juice. This drink has fruity aroma and appealing citrus sweet-tanginess, making it ideal for casual drinkers like me.
Besides the à la carte menu, set lunch is also served on weekdays between 11:00am and 2:30pm. The meal consists of either soup or salad, a main dish, and a choice of drink. Set lunch starts from RM14.00 net.
La Bella Ristorante has an upper floor where there is a small library and recreational corner. It can also be used as overflow dining space.
Name: La Bella Ristorante
Address: 36, Lebuh Leith, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 016-416-0717
Business hours: 11:00am-3:00pm, 6:00pm-11:00pm, closed on Thursdays
Coordinates: 5.42043 N, 100.33327 E
Directions: From Penang Road (Jalan Penang), turn to Muntri Street (Lebuh Muntri) and take a right turn at the crossroad to Leith Street (Lebuh Leith). La Bella Ristorante is approximately 50 meters on your right. Street parking and privately-operated parking are available.

Asia Camera Museum

Special thanks to Asia Camera Museum for extending this attraction invitation.

Besides the Camera Museum at Muntri Street (Lebuh Muntri), George Town has another camera-themed attraction: Asia Camera Museum. This museum occupies the upper floor of a mansion at the intersection between Burmah Road (Jalan Burma) and Transfer Road (Jalan Transfer).
Asia Camera Museum is founded by four camera enthusiasts, who opened this museum out of their passion for photography. The main objectives of Asia Camera Museum are to pay tribute to professionals in photography (especially during the pre-digital era), and to educate the public on the history of photography.
There are over 300 cameras on exhibit at Asia Camera Museum; more than 1,000 pieces if accessories are included. Many of these cameras are the founders' personal collection over the years. Most cameras have been restored so that they are still functioning properly. It seems cameras were built to last back then.
In addition to cameras displayed in glass exhibits, Asia Camera Museum also allows visitors to handle several of them with bare hands. This hands-on experience helps visitors to appreciate the functionality and limitations of cameras before the digital age.
Here is a brief historical background of photography. The oldest surviving photograph in history is the view from the window at Le Gras. This photograph was taken using a camera obscura between 1826 and 1827 by Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833) in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, France. Back then, photosensitive materials were still in the infancy stage, so this photograph required several hours of exposure to produce.
The earliest photograph with unmistakable image of people is of the Boulevard du Temple (1838). This image was taken by French photographer Louis Daguerre (1787-1851), who is often credited for revolutionizing photography. Photosensitive material used to produce this image required 10 minutes of exposure, so images of pedestrians were not captured. However, this famous photograph managed to capture a still image of a man polishing his boots. This unidentified chap unintentionally became the first person ever to be photographed.
While the earliest cameras use a single pin hole to focus light, people started to use lenses to produce sharper images. However, the earliest lenses still had considerably weak diopter magnification, so camera manufacturers invented retractable lenses to save space when carrying these bulky cameras.
A viewfinder helps the photographer to aim the camera before a shot is taken. In the early days, the lenses for the viewfinder and the actual camera were separated to avoid the effects of optical aberration. The drawback is that the viewfinder and captured image were slightly offset from each other.
In terms of lighting, flash-lamps were used to illuminate the subject. Combustible chemicals like magnesium and potassium chlorate were used, but accidents can result in injury or death. In the 1920s, safer flashbulbs started to gain popularity. However, these flashbulbs still need to be replaced after each use. Therefore, photographers had to carry a considerable supply wherever they went.
Electronic flash eventually superseded flashbulbs. Using electronic circuitry, a capacitor is charged to several hundred volts, then is discharged quickly through a flash tube. Light generated is so glaring that the subject's eyesight is temporarily blinded. This is why celebrities had to wear sunglasses when they posed for paparazzi. The tradition continued to this day, but sunglasses are now meant to look cool rather than anything else.
Some of the best camera manufacturers in the early days were from Germany. In fact, German cameras became the yardstick for camera quality - so much that Soviet manufacturers began to make exact duplicates of German designs!
Japanese camera manufacturers were also quick to join the bandwagon. Companies like Canon, Nikon and Yashica began to introduce single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras in the 1950s. Later designs also had interchangeable lenses.
Few camera manufacturers survived to this day, but Canon is one which successfully transitioned to the age of digital photography.
Video camera also experienced rapid advancement on its own. One engineering breakthrough is the development of self-loaded film tape. A spring needs to be tightened beforehand, then a single press of button releases the spring, which loads the film tape frames sequentially into the camera. This allows the camera to capture successive images for extended period of time.
The ability to reproduce video images is as important as the ability to capture them. One significant development in film projection is the Latham Loop, named after Woodville Latham (1837-1911) who financed the invention. Inventor credit is often given to his employees William Kennedy Laurie Dickson (1860-1953) and Eugene Augustin Lauste (1857-1935).
Penang also had its fair share of photography history. One of the earliest photo studios in Penang was Siew Seong Studio (萧湘影室) at Penang Road (Jalan Penang). Opened in 1954, the studio operated for 6 decades until its closure in 2014.
To honor its long, proud history, Asia Camera Museum dedicates an exhibition hall for Siew Seong Studio where original equipment from the historical studio are restored and displayed.
Beside the exhibition hall, there is an adjoining Dark Room which depicts how photographs were developed from photosensitive films. Red lighting is used to avoid unintentional exposure. The tools and chemicals in the Dark Room are actual ones. For larger parties, the staff of Asia Camera Museum can demonstrate on how the films are being processed.
Unlike today's cameras, the earliest cameras were quite expensive, such that camera-repairing is a viable business. An old workbench is brought back to life at Asia Camera Museum. Hardware used back then was quite simple: screwdrivers and pliers. For cameras that were damaged beyond repair, the repairman usually tried to salvage as many parts as possible, such as screws of various sizes.
I find the most impressive and educational aspect of Asia Camera Museum is the set of three fully dismantled cameras. I was not aware that a simple camera comprises of several hundred pieces of individual components! It is also evident that the advent of digital cameras did not significantly reduce the complexity of mechanical parts.
Asia Camera Museum is open daily from 11:00am to 7:00pm. Admission is charged at RM20.00 for an adult, and RM10.00 for a student. Guided tour is available even for single visitors. In addition, the museum also offers group packages such as seminars, workshops and teambuilding events.
Name: Asia Camera Museum
Address: 10, Jalan Burma, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-262-3191
Business hours: 11:00am-7:00pm
Coordinates: 5.41773 N, 100.32932 E
Directions: From Penang Road (Jalan Penang), turn to Burmah Road (Jalan Burma). Asia Camera Museum is approximately 100 meters down on your right. It is a two-floor mansion just before Transfer Road (Jalan Transfer). Parking is available within the compound of the building. The museum is on the upper floor. Enter the main entrance and take the stairs inside.

Juice Me

Special thanks to Juice Me for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Lebuh Melaka is a less-traveled road in George Town, therefore Juice Me has been flying under my radar for considerable amount of time. Nevertheless once I learnt of its existence, the store's facade is unmistakable.
Juice Me is a juice bar with only one business: juice. To be exact, the shop specializes in cold-pressed juices. Cold pressing is a better way to extract juices from fruits and vegetables because, unlike a blender, the method does not generate heat. Certain nutrients, such as Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), are very sensitive to temperature.
There are 13 different blends of juices on the menu, each given a catchy name with tongue-in-cheek humor. Not all choices are necessarily available because the store only prepares a limited number of bottles.
To maintain freshness, juices are made fresh every day. Bottles are vacuum-sealed and must be cleared within the day.
Juice Me is adamant that no food additive is used. Every drop in the bottle is nothing less genuine than pure fruits, vegetables or nuts. Sugar is avoided, so honey may be used in its stead. In addition, there is absolutely no preservatives, artificial coloring (apart from natural color of ingredients), and food conditioners like emulsifiers.
For fruit juices, Bright Eyes one of the popular choices. This drink is made from carrot, orange and pineapple. The juice is named so because carrot is an excellent source of Vitamin A (retinol), which is essential for retinal health.
The Glow is made from orange, lemon, green apple, honeydew and strawberry. The use of citrus fruits makes the drink rich in Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant and is widely recognized for its ability to combat aging.

Moving to more colorful options, Unbeetable is named after its key ingredient, the beetroot, which is also responsible to lend its reddish hue. Beetroot is rich in Vitamin B9 (folic acid) which the human body cannot synthesize. Other ingredients in this juice are carrot, honeydew and lemon.
LAC is an acronym for its three ingredients: lemon, apple and carrot. Regular customers colloquially call this drink "relac" because the soothing sensation is quite relaxing. This orange-colored drink is bursting is tangy citrus flavor and natural sweetness of apple and carrot.

For green vegetables, Adios Hangover is made from cucumber, lemon and honey. It is also a good source of water-soluble nutrients (Vitamin B and C). Taste-wise, it has sharp, tangy flavor with underlying coolness of cucumber.
As for the Green Oasis, the juice is made from celery, romaine lettuce, green apple and lemon. Green Oasis is perfect for lowering blood pressure and weight management. It also helps to detoxify the body of harmless substances.

The immune system works best when the human body maintains alkaline pH level. Unfortunately, most food, especially meats, are acidic in nature. Juice Me as a number of alkalizer drinks, such as Get That Curve. This drink is extracted from guava, red apple and grape. Taste of guava is the most prominent in this juice.
Another popular alkalizer is Cool That Summer. Made from watermelon, green apple and mint, this drink is the perfect choice during a hot day. The juice is bursting with natural fragrance upon opening.

Do you suffer from lactose-intolerance? Don't worry, Juice Me has non-dairy milk substitute too. Almond milk is recognized as healthy supplement as it is a good source of Vitamin E (tocopherols), dietary fiber and calcium. Best of all, almond milk is free form harmful cholesterol. Get your wholesome dosage of almond goodness from the Very Almond!
How do you satisfy your chocolate cravings without ruining your weight loss regime? The Chocolate Lover is the answer you are looking for. This drink is made from almond milk, cocoa, honey, vanilla bean and filtered water.

Juice Me offers two bottle sizes: 250 millilitres (RM9.00) and 500 millilitres (RM15.00). If not consumed immediately, the juice needs to be refrigerated to maintain freshness. It is normal for the ingredients to sediment after some time, so shake well before opening. Once the bottle is opened, it is advisable to consume the juice within 30 minutes to prevent oxidization.
Juice Me accepts phone orders and provides free delivery within Penang Island (minimum order required).
For take-away or delivery orders of 6 bottles, Juice me provides a convenient cup carrier for easy handling. Furthermore, Juice Me is also going to launch a bottle recycling program to support environmentalism.
Name: Juice Me
Address: 65, Lebuh Melaka, 10400 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-228-7300
Business hours: 10:00am-8:00pm, closed on Sundays
Coordinates: 5.41333 N, 100.32259 E
Directions: Driving eastbound along Jalan Dato Keramat, turn left to Lebuh Melaka. Juice Me is approximately 150 meters down the road on the left. It is on the next block after Huong Que Vietnamese Food. Street parking is available.

Thai Me Up

Special thanks to Thai Me Up for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Located several doors away from The Lightbulb at Jalan Zainal Abidin is a new Thai restaurant called Thai Me Up (夜太美).
The menu at Thai Me Up features several noodle dishes. The chefs hail from central Thailand, so the food here may appear different compared to most Thai restaurants in Penang. In pursuit of authentic cooking, ingredients are sourced from Thailand wherever possible.
The signature dish at Thai Me Up is Khao Soi (ข้าวซอย, RM8.90). This noodle dish is influenced by Burmese cuisine and is wildly popular in northern Thailand and Laos. The name means "cut rice" because noodle is traditionally made from a large sheet of rice dough, steamed, rolled up, and then cut with a pair of scissors so that it forms long strips.
Thai Me Up takes creative license by using soy noodle (豆签) instead. This noodle is quite popular in Malacca. I like the springy texture of this noodle as it gives good mouth feel. The thin strips also do a great job in absorbing lovely flavor from the curry.
The curry is yellowish in color due to use of spices such as turmeric. Thanks to coconut milk content, the curry is rich and creamy. When sipped in small amounts, the curry has a nice blend of sweet and spicy flavors. The taste is further enhanced by using chicken chunks, onion, parsley and chili paste. Overall, this single dish contains over a dozen ingredients!
The next dish is Boat Noodle (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ, kuai tiao ruea, RM7.90), which has recently gained popularly in Penang. Unlike other restaurants, the portion served at Thai Me Up is for a proper meal. Therefore, it is unnecessary to order five or ten bowls anymore. The soup base is made by stewing pork bones in dark soy sauce until it becomes very savory. This dish contains pork cutlets and meat balls, but I still prefer the Khao Soi anyhow.
For noodle dishes, condiments provided are crushed peanuts, chili flakes, fish sauce and sugar. The fish sauce is quite pungent, but I like to enjoy Thai food the way Thais do.
As for side dishes, Moo Dad Deaw (หมูแดดเดียว, RM10.00) is a popular choice. This dish is made from marinated pork strips, which are deep-fried until reddish-brown. The dish is garnished with a sprinkle of sesame seed and fried basil leaves.
As a new restaurant, Thai Me Up is in the midst of developing its menu. Moving forward, more à la carte Thai dishes will be available. The restaurant serves pork but the menu remains beef-free.

Name: Thai Me Up
Address: 39F, Jalan Zainal Abidin, 10400 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 016-470-6123
Business hours: 11:30am-3:00pm, 6:00pm-3:30am, closed on Tuesdays
Website: Facebook
Coordinates: 5.41674 N, 100.32568 E
Directions: From Macalister Road (Jalan Macalister), turn to Jalan Zainal Abidin at the UMNO building. Thai Me Up is approximately 100 meters down the road, on the right side. Street parking is available.