Special thanks to Uber for extending this event invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

After debuting in Klang Valley and Johor Bahru, Uber is finally expanding its transportation services to Penang!

Uber started in 2009 in San Francisco as a platform for passengers to connect to drivers directly. Today, there are 300 cities with Uber's presence, making Uber one of the largest transportation network service in the world.

In conjunction of Uber's launching in Penang, I have been invited to an exclusive cocktail party at Thirty Two At The Mansion. However, I am not driving tonight! To get firsthand experience of its services, I am going to ride with Uber tonight!
In Uber's business model, each driver works freelance and owns his/her own vehicle. While several Uber drivers drive full-time, the vast majority of them do so at their own pace. Whether to make a living after retirement or to supplement their income during difficult times, Uber bring much-needed job opportunities to the community.

Not any Tom, Dick and Harry can be Uber's driver. To safeguard Uber's reputation and safety record, every prospective driver must undergo rigorous background check. To qualify, the driver must possess a valid driver's license, has a safe and clean vehicle (usually not exceeding 5 years), has comprehensive vehicle insurance, and has the right personality in the service line.

To start using Uber, simply down the Uber app from Google Play or App Store. At the login screen, confirm your current location for pickup. Alternatively, move the green pin on the map if you want to be picked from a different location. Unlike normal taxis, you can request Uber to pick you from your doorstep!
Once the pickup point has been selected, choose your destination. You may enter the destination address or simply move the red pin on the map. If you do not have the address, you may leave this section blank and inform the driver later. Uber's coverage in Penang is currently limited within Penang Island.
For first-time users, click on the "PROMO CODE" button and enter the code "PGFOODHUNTER". This code gives 2 free trips with Uber, to a maximum of RM30.00 per trip! This promotional code is valid for limited time and applies to new users only.
You can also get a fare estimate beforehand. The actual fare may differ depending on traffic conditions. In a nutshell, Uber's fare is calculated based on distance and time.
RM2.00 + RM0.70/kilometer + RM0.35/minute
The rate is valid for any type of vehicles within the same class (Uber has only one class in Penang today). There is no extra charge for more passengers (up to three), so it makes sense to carpool. Uber's app has a built-in feature to split the fare with other passengers.

Overall, Uber is generally cheaper than local "metered" cabs, which has gained notoriety for haggling, picking destinations and refusing to use taximeters. For convenience and as an added security measure, Uber's fare is directly billed to a credit card. Hence, there is absolutely no cash transaction within the vehicle.

Once the passenger confirms the ride, the software hails the nearest available vehicle to the selected pickup location. The passenger is given complete information about the incoming vehicle including the driver's name, photograph, car model, vehicle registration plate number, driver's rating, current location and estimated time of arrival.
To prevent drivers from being picky, the driver has no knowledge of the passenger's destination until pickup. Drivers are also not allowed to refuse service because they need to meet at least 95% acceptance rate.

My driver this evening is a friendly Mr. Ho, who owns a comfortable Perodua Alza. Mr. Ho has a regular job during the day, but drives for Uber after work to supplement his household income.
Uber uses Waze GPS navigational system to guide the driver through the fastest possible route. As an added security measure, the vehicle's coordinate is logged in real time so that Uber can verify that its drivers are indeed taking the shortest path. In the spirit of transparency and accountability, the passenger can also share his/her real time location with others.
The actual fare is calculated once the vehicle reaches the destination. Notice that my ride this evening is free due to the promotional code! To improve Uber's service quality, the passenger can give anonymous rating of the driver. Uber requires each driver to meet an average rating of 4.5 stars.
Time flies during the trip, and it is not long before we arrived at Thirty Two At The Mansion. This colonial-style English manor faces the sea and is a popular place for bridal photography.
The mansion is currently the premises of a fine dining restaurant. The fact that Uber can reserve the entire restaurant for tonight's cocktail party - gives a sense of how grand Uber wants this launching event to be!
In addition to the restaurant, Thirty Two At The Mansion also features an outdoor eatery called Babylon Beach Blanket.
Uber's cocktail party is located at a large hall right next to Babylon Beach Blanket. Throughout the evening, guests wine and dine with an assortment of finger food and free flow of wine!
A band is hired to lighten the ambience throughout the evening. Uber also invited a stand-up comedian to entertain guests with his satirical humor.
Uber's presence in any city results in reduction in drunk driving. Instead of putting lives at risk, one can easily hail a car at the push of a button. Remember to use the promotional code "PGFOODHUNTER" for the first time so that you get 2 free trips! Given these free trips, there is no reason not to experience the convenience that Uber has to offer!

Name: Uber
Address: N/A
Contact: N/A
Business hours: 24 hours
Website: https://www.uber.com/cities/penang
Coordinates: N/A
Directions: N/A

The Cafe

Special thanks to Georgetown City Hotel for extending this food review invitation.

In the spirit of buka puasa tradition during the holy month of Ramadan, The Cafe at Georgetown City Hotel is hosting a Ramadan Al-Mubarak Buffet. During this period, the International Buffet Dinner on weekends and Oriental Buffet on Fridays are temporarily suspended until after Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
This dinner buffet is crafted as a composite of traditional kampung-style Malay delicacies with more contemporary multi-ethnic dishes. The buffet runs from 22 June 2015 to 14 July 2015.
Muslims devotees customarily break fast by taking several pieces of kurma first. This is then followed by Maghrib prayers and a proper meal. While most hotel restaurants only offer one type of kurma, The Cafe provides three types: tamar from China, rotab from Iran, and kenta from Tunisia.
As for the proper meal, Sup Ayam Berempah (Spiced Chicken Soup) is a quick way to satiate hunger after fasting for an entire day. This chicken soup is quite satisfying as its saltiness appeals to a hungry palate.
Meanwhile, Bubur Lambuk (Malay Porridge) is not a bad choice either. This porridge is usually served during Ramadan in communal settings. Its rice grains have been mashed thoroughly such that the congee has nearly homogeneous consistency.
The live action counter presents an attractive assortment of fresh seafood. Guests simply pick their favorite choices and hand over to the staff who will handle the grilling.
My foremost choice is the delectable catfish (ikan keli), which is quite bony but tasty nevertheless. Other fish provided are mackerel (ikan kembung) and stingray (ikan pari).
The shrimps are also quite attractive since they are quite fresh. It is quite enjoyable to munch on its sweet, juicy flesh. Squid and mussels are not bad of a choice either.
Air asam (tamarind sauce) is provided as dipping sauce for grilled seafood. The combination of sour and spicy flavors of the sauce serve to accentuate the taste these marine creatures.
Guests who enjoy Curry Mee will find the coconut-rich curry to be very satisfying. The bright red curry is littered with fried bean curd (豆腐卜).
As for noodles, yellow noodles (黄面) and rice vermicelli (米粉) are both available. Personally, I prefer to use a mixture of both types. Other ingredients on the line are fish balls, boiled egg, chopped lettuce, bean sprouts, chili paste, fried onion and chopped scallion.
Today, Indian comfort food is represented by Chicken Murtabak. These delicacies are filled with seasoned minced chicken, then grilled on an iron griddle until the dough is cooked. Dhal (lentil curry) and pickled ginger are provided as condiments.
Moving to mainstream dishes, Daging Rendang Kampung (Malay Spicy Beef) is recommended as the beef is nicely marinated.
For poultry, there is Grilled Chicken Glazed With Mushroom Sauce. While the gravy is acceptable in flavor, I feel that the chicken should be cut into smaller pieces for the gravy to maximize its appeal.
Udang Baktia (Baktia Shrimp) is essentially stir-fried shrimps in spicy sauce. Personally, this is the first time that I have heard of this dish name.
Squid is another marine denizen that made its way to the next dish: Stir-Fried Squid With Dried Chili. The sweet-savory sauce works well with succulent pieces of squid.
Underneath the bubu (traditional Malay fish trap) are a number of exotic Malay delicacies, such as kerabu (salad), ulam (raw vegetables), sambal (sauces) and jeruk (pickled vegetables).
One of the better kerabu dish is Kerabu Sotong (Squid Salad), at least in my opinion. Crunchy strips of cooked squid are flavored with various local spices to create this appetizing delicacy.
For ulam, the choices are not as plentiful as other hotel restaurants. Raw vegetables tonight are daun selasih (Asiatic pennywort leaves), daun selom (selom leaves), daun kaduk (wild betel leaves) and petai (stink beans).
Raw vegetables are typically eaten with sambal for more appealing taste. Sauces available here are budu (fermented anchovies), sambal belacan (spicy shrimp paste), cincalok (fermented shrimps), kicap cili padi (bird's eye chili sauce), acar rampai (pickled cucumber and carrot) and air asam (tamarind sauce).
On the other side of the rattan fish trap are a handful of salad dishes - both prepared and do-it-yourself salads.
In particular, the Pasta Salad is worth trying. Cooked linguine is mixed with cooked shrimps, a sprinkle of grated cheese, and parsley as garnish.
As for Malay kuih, the number of choices is not as plentiful as Vistana's Ramadan buffet. Nevertheless, the handful of kuih varieties is sufficient to give a general insight to traditional Malay pastries.
Lemang is made from glutinous rice, coconut milk and salt - mixed and cooked in hollowed bamboo over bonfire. Banana leaves are used as inner lining of bamboo to allow easier removal of cooked rice.
Puteri ayu is a commonly found in Ramadan bazaar because it is relatively easy to prepare. To prepare this cake, pandan-flavored batter is poured into cupcake mold and then steamed.
Meanwhile, kuih seri muka consists of two layers. The white section is made from glutinous rice, while the custard-like green layer is made from pandan juice, egg, coconut milk and sugar.
As for contemporary-style pastry, the Strawberry Mousse Cake is the most popular as it depletes quickly.
It is difficult not to overlook the attractive presentation of Strawberry Jelly. The base of this custard is laden with basil seeds, while kiwi slices are arranged in spiral pattern on top.
Last but not least, Ais Kacang is the perfect way to conclude a meal. Choose from a variety of ingredients such as attap chee (fruit of nipa palm), nutmeg, red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly, raisins and peanuts. The staff helps with shaved ice, evaporated milk, gula melaka (palm sugar) and rose syrup.
It is my unwritten rule to top the shaved ice with a scoop of ice cream. There are six ice cream flavors to choose from. Why choose when you can have all six?
The Cafe's Ramadan buffet dinner is priced at RM50.00 net per adult, and RM38.00 net per child or senior citizen. There are seven rotating sets of menu, so guests should find different dishes from day to day. Every diner is entitled to a raffle which will be drawn at the end of Ramadan. The price is a free hotel stay in one of Berjaya's hotels.
Name: The Cafe
Address: Georgetown City Hotel, 1-Stop Midlands Park, Jalan Burma, 10350 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-220-7373
Business hours: 7:00pm-10:00pm
Website: http://www.georgetowncityhotel.com/en/dining
Coordinates: 5.43301 N, 100.30679 E
Directions: Georgetown City Hotel is adjacent to Midlands 1-Stop. The Cafe is located towards the right from the main entrance. There are ample of parking spaces at the basement. Diners at The Cafe can get their parking ticket validated for flat parking rate of RM3.00 for 3 hours.

Sunway Hotel

Special thanks to Sunway Hotel Seberang Jaya for extending this food review invitation.

Besides the sister property in George Town, Sunway Hotel Seberang Jaya is also hosting a month-long Ramadhan buffet dinner in Sunway Carnival Convention Centre. The convention center is located at Level 4 of Sunway Carnival Mall, just a short distance from the hotel itself.
The theme of this buffet dinner is "Jom Buka Puasa Aneka Citarasa Nusantara Sempoi". There are five rotating menus in order to present a different dining experience every day. The kitchen crew is led by Executive Sous Chef Ismail who has 25-years extensive experience in this line.
Following the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, it is customary for Muslims to break fast with kurma (palm dates) and water, followed by Maghrib prayers, after which they may proceed with a proper meal.
Soup is often a good choice to start a wholesome meal. Sup Ekor (Oxtail Soup) is a savory soup which boosts appetite for remainder of the feast. Meanwhile, Bubur Lambuk (Malay Porridge) is another appealing appetizer made from mashed rice, anchovies and spices.
One distinctive characteristic of Malay cuisine is its unique blends of tropical spices to enhance flavor for nearly every dish. One such example is Nasi Bukhairi (Mixed Rice) which uses long-grain basmati rice. Served on banana leaves, rice is flavored by aromatic ingredients such as nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamon and cloves.
"Nice" is an understatement to describe this Nasi Bukhairi. Well-seasoned pieces of chicken increases the appeal of this mouth-watering dish. It is a shame that not many restaurants prepare this rice dish outside Ramadan month.
If beef offal agrees with your palate, the Paru Lembu Masak Jintan Hitam (Beef Lungs With Fennel Flower) is likely to delight your appetite. I like the unique texture of beef lungs and how they are seasoned in a special way.
Fusion between Malay and Italian cuisine culminated in Daging Kambing Stew A La Italy (Italian Style Mutton Stew). While the stew itself is delectable, I think the mutton is too tough to be truly enjoyed.
As for poultry, I feel that the Ayam Panggang Bersos BBQ Pedas (Spicy BBQ Grilled Chicken) is quite bland in taste. I believe the key to improve is through better marinating.
Another chicken dish tonight is Ayam Masak Kismis (Grilled Chicken With Raisin Sauce). I would have enjoyed this dish better if the amount of salt were to be toned down.
I have recently grown fond of catfish - as food, not as a pet. Therefore, I am delighted to find Sambal Ikan Keli (Catfish With Chili Paste) as one of the presented dishes tonight. Although littered by countless tiny bones, catfish flesh has smooth texture and delectable fatty skin.
Meanwhile, Udang Masak Cili Pedas (Braised Shrimp With Chili Paste) is cooked with chili paste with subtle hint of sweetness.
Next up, I feel that the Sotong Masak Kong Poo (Kung Po Stir-Fried Squid) is too tough and chewy for comfort. I personally prefer the squid to be made softer.
As for shellfish, I kind of like the taste of Kepah Hijau Goreng Dengan Tauchu (Braised Mussel With Fermented Bean Paste). I would like to suggest that more fermented bean paste is used to give the mussels stronger flavor.
Isi Ketam Dengan Sos Tomato Basil (Crabsticks With Tomato Basil Sauce) is decently palatable. I seldom commend on processed meat like crabsticks, but the tomato basil sauce certainly makes up for it.
One interesting vegetable dish is Sayur Nangka Ikan Bilis Dengan Kobis Bulat (Jackfruit With Anchovies And Cabbage). Jackfruit is a local fruit which is usually eaten raw, but it is also possible to part of a cooked dish.
Apart from pre-cooked dishes, there are also a number of individual warung (stalls) which prepare specific dishes on request basis.
The main highlight is Kambing Panggang (Grilled Lamb), which is served every day throughout Ramadan. Seasoned with herbs and spices, roasting is done perfectly as the mutton remains pink and juicy in the middle.
Besides lamb, Lembu Panggang (Grilled Beef) is also available at the roasting section. The tenderness of beef is acceptable, although I prefer it to be softer. Black pepper sauce and mushroom sauce are provided should guests prefer extra flavor.
We Malaysians have an affinity for satay, haven't we? Sate Ayam (Chicken Satay) is nicely marinated with several spices including turmeric (kunyit), which also lends its yellowish color. While the taste is good, I think the chicken is quite dry; it must have been left out for some time.
Another favorite delicacy especially in Malay stalls is Sotong Kangkung (Squid With Water Spinach). The main ingredients are boiled squid and water spinach.
In addition, this dish is served with crab balls, fish balls, crab sticks and belacan (shrimp paste).
Laksa Penang is popular for its sour fish broth made from tamarind (asam). The broth is conventionally made from mackerel (ikan kembung), which is first poached then flaked into tiny pieces. Other ingredients are pineapple strips, chopped onion, ginger flower, bird's eye chili, eggs, julienned cucumber, lettuce leaves and mint.
Another crowd favorite among Malaysians is Roti Canai. To prepare this popular snack, flour dough is tossed, stretched and folded over so that it traps air bubbles. The dough is cooked on an iron griddle with palm oil, flipped occasionally to ensure uniform heating. Vegetable dhal (lentil curry) and pickled onions are provided as condiments.
For something quick and easy, the Kari Pap (Curry Puffs) is a viable choice. While the pastry is quite delectable, I feel that the potato curry inside is quite dry.
Meanwhile, Cucur Kodok (Deep-Fried Banana Balls) is another deep-fried local snack that is well-received especially by the Malay community. I actually prefer to enjoy them while they are still piping-hot from the fryer.

Sunway Hotel's buffet also includes a special section where other traditional Malay delicacies are prepared. Many of these dishes are seldom seen in urban cities, so it is a delightful experience to sample them.
The first dish is Kerabu Tanghoon A La Thai (Thai Glass Noodles Salad). This cold salad is made from Thai rice vermicelli, which is translucent and absorbs sourness quite well.
Meanwhile, Kerabu Ikan Bilis (Anchovy Salad) is another Malay salad which features deep-fried anchovies and roasted peanuts.
One should also not miss the Kerabu Nenas (Pineapple Salad). Tangy cubes and pineapples serve to tantalize the taste buds.
For refreshing taste of raw vegetables, try some Kerabu Kacang Botol (Winged Bean Salad) too.
Create your own Pasembur Ubi Kentang (Potato Salad) using ingredients such as baked potatoes, shrimp fritters, bean curd and boiled egg. Sweet peanut paste is provided as dressing.
For something fruitier, Rojak Buah Buahan (Fruit Salad) is a good choice too. This salad is a mixture of raw fruits such as rose apple (jambu air), jicama (sengkuang), guava, cucumber and apple.
Sweet dressing is provided for the fruits. The dressing is made from belacan, chili, lime juice and sugar.
During the monsoon season, the seas are too rough for fishermen to catch fish. Therefore, Ikan Kering (Dried Fish) often an essential food ingredient because it can be preserved for long periods of time. The fish is highly-salted, therefore only a small amount is needed to be consumed with a bowl of rice.
Similarly, Jeruk (Pickles) are preserved vegetables and are meant to be non-perishable. The choices available tonight are papaya, palm fruit (asam kelubi), nutmeg and plum.
Rural Malays are fond of Ulam (Raw Vegetables) due to ease of preparation. This basket contains an assortment of various local vegetables, including ulam raja (king's salad), daun pegaga (Asiatic pennywort leaves), daun gajus (cashew leaves), daun selom (selom leaves), pucuk paku (vegetable fern), petai (stink beans) and jantung pisang (banana flower).
To compensate for the lack of flavor in most vegetables, Sambal (Condiments) are also provided. For tonight's dinner, the condiments provided are cincalok (fermented shrimps), budu (fermented anchovies), acar rampai (pickled cucumber and carrot), air asam (tamarind sauce), sambal belacan (spicy shrimp paste) and kicap cili padi (bird's eye chili sauce).
There are also jars of crispy crackers to enjoy, such as papadom (black gram cracker), keropok ikan (fish crackers) and keropok sayur (vegetable crackers).
The dessert section provides a combination of traditional Malay kuih and Western-style pastry. Both types of delicacies serve to pacify your sweet tooth. Some of these goodies deplete quickly, so you may wish to grab them early on.
Kuih Sago are sticky tapioca balls coated with grated coconut. Tapioca flour is dyed red for aesthetic appeal.
Meanwhile, Kuih Dadar are pandan-flavored crêpes which are filled with grated coconut and palm sugar.
Kuih Pulut is a sticky pudding made from glutinous rice steamed with coconut milk.
As for Western-style cakes, the Black Forest Cake is made from several layers of chocolate sponge cake with lots of whipped cream and cherries between layers.
The Coffee Cream Cake boasts an elaborate icing made from whipped cream and colored chocolate sprinkles.
Pandan Cream Cake is cut into bite-size pieces for easier consumption. I enjoy the pleasant scent of pandan leaves amongst the sponge cake.
On the other hand, I feel that the Orange Sponge Cake is overpowered by orange flavor. I think it is better to reduce the amount of orange essence.
Pavlova is a soft meringue with hard, crispy crust. This unique dessert is named after Russian ballerina dancer Anna Pavlova, but was first introduced in New Zealand and Australia.
Although Panna Cotta means "cooked cream" in Italian, the jelly-like texture makes it more like a custard. Panna Cotta is served in small glasses where layers of fruit jelly can be seen.
As for the Semolina Pudding, this dessert is made from durum wheat. The pudding is littered with colorful jelly beans. I personally feel that the pudding is too sweet for me.
In contrast, I feel that the Rose Sago is quite bland in taste. I think some sugar or honey will work better.
The Strawberry Jelly is acceptable in my opinion, although I usually prefer mango and honeydew flavors.
Finally for fruits, there are papaya, honeydew, red and yellow watermelon. The fruits are served on ice to keep them cold.
Sunway Hotel's Jom Buka Puasa Aneka Citarasa Nusantara Sempoi buffet dinner is served from 20 June 2015 to 14 July 2015. The net price is RM78.00 for an adult, RM38.00 for a child (between ages 5 and 12 years) or senior citizen (55 years onwards). There is 20% discount for the first 1,000 customers.

In line with Ramadan spirit of helping the needy, RM2.00 from the proceeds of each ticket will be donated to charity. Meanwhile, each diner also stands a chance to win daily, weekly and grand prizes. The top prize is a vacation package for 2-night stay at Batam View Beach Resort for 2 persons plus airfare.

Name: Sunway Hotel Seberang Jaya
Address: Sunway Carnival Convention Centre, 3068, Jalan Todak, Pusat Bandar Seberang Jaya, 13700 Prai, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-370-7788
Business hours: 6:00pm-10:00pm
Website: http://seberangjaya.sunwayhotels.com/offers/SCCCRamadhan.aspx
Coordinates: 5.39859 N, 100.39828 E
Directions: From Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (North-South Expressway), take the Seberang Jaya exit and head west. After the Petronas gas station on the left, turn left where you will see Sunway Carnival Mall on your left. Sunway Carnival Convention Centre is located at the Level 4. The convention center shares the same parking facility as the mall.