J-Garden

Special thanks to J-Garden for extending this food review invitation.

J-Garden is a Japanese-style Western restaurant near Queensbay Mall. This new eatery is located behind Eastin Hotel and is at the ground floor of Econtel Hotel.
The indoor section of J-Garden has a cozy and laid-back atmosphere. Light background music further improves the relaxing ambience. J-Garden fits right into the category of family style restaurants.
As the corner unit of this row of shops, J-Garden has an extra plot of land at the side. Currently, white meadow fence surrounds this outdoor section. A raised wooden platform, decorated with potted plants, will serve as outdoor dining with garden theme in the future.
Today's meal starts with the familiar Carbonara (カルボナーラ, RM28.00). Although this ubiquitous pasta is served in every Italian restaurant, J-Garden's infuses some Japanese elements in the form of bunapi shimeji (ブナピーシメジ) mushrooms. These mushrooms are juicy and succulent, improving mouthfeel with their crunchy texture.
While Carbonara is typically served with shrimps or ham, this is my first encounter where the pasta is served with Iberico bacon. The pork is imported from Spain, and is cured using salt and pepper in J-Garden's own kitchen. Once cooked, Iberico bacon is a very gratifying pork treat with the right level of saltiness for this pasta dish.

To provide the thick consistency that this pasta dish is fondly known for, the Carbonara is served with creamy sauce that is neither surfeiting nor bland. Finally, the pasta is topped with a bountiful shower of grated parmesan cheese. The portion of this pasta dish is quite large, giving diners more bang for the buck.
The next dish is crafted for the most devoted carnivores, Hamburger Steak (ハンバーグ, RM32.00). This generously-sized ground beef patty is infused with bold meaty goodness. Nevertheless, I prefer the patty to be made more compact so that it does not crumble so easily.
The steak is topped with demi-glace, a French-inspired brown sauce made from meat stock and espagnole sauce. Meanwhile, a slice of cheddar cheese provides the much-needed saltiness for the pure beef patty. This dish is served on a hot iron plate to keep the meat warm.
Served on the side of the beef patty are shimeji mushrooms, gently cooked to preserve delectable fungi juices. I am surprised that the carrot slices are very sweet, but I take comfort with the fact that this is the natural sweetness of Australian carrots.
The Hamburger Steak usually comes in a set meal which includes rice, miso soup and a side dish. However, I take a pass on other items to make room for other entrées. I was told that this dish is only available for a limited time.

If you are looking for snacks, the Camembert Cheese Fried (カマンベールチーズフライ, RM18.00) is worthwhile especially if you love cheese. Made in Normandy, France, Camembert cheese is cut into bite-size cubes, breaded then deep-fried to give each piece a layer of crisp.
This French cheese has gummy and creamy texture, much to my delight. Its saltiness is mild, as there is more emphasis on savory flavor.
There is also a handful of cherry tomatoes that are breaded and fried in the same manner. I personally feel that the juiciness of tomatoes makes them not so compatible with the breading. In addition, a small amount of blueberry jam is provided on the side. I think the jam should be made less sweet so that it does not overwhelm the cheese's flavor.
One of J-Garden's signature desserts is Pumpkin Crème Brûlée (カボチャクレームブリュレ, RM15.00). While most crème brûlée recipes use vanilla flavor, J-Garden takes advantage of the natural sweetness of pumpkin. The pudding is coated with a transparent layer of sugary glaze using a butane torch.
On the side is a scoop of matcha (抹茶) ice cream and azuki beans. I think the azuki beans may compete with the crème brûlée in terms of sweetness. If the ice cream is eaten first (typically so because it melts quickly), the natural sweetness of pumpkin may be shrouded by the azuki beans.
Last but not least, a gooseberry and chocolate ring serve as garnish on the side.
Overall, I find the Pumpkin Crème Brûlée to be rather amazing. I cannot recommend this dessert highly enough.

The beverage menu includes several Japanese drinks which may sound unfamiliar among locals. One example is Calpis Yogurt Drink (カルピスヨーグルトドリンク, RM10.00), a milk-based drink from Japan - produced by the same manufacturer as Asahi beer.
This yogurt drink is pleasantly sweet and tangy, with similar taste as Yakult yogurt. This enjoyable drink appeals to most people especially to young children. Optionally, some coke can be added for extra fizzy sensation.

Sakura Cha (桜茶, RM8.00), also known as Sakurayu (桜湯), is a herbal tea made from pink flowers of cherry blossom. The flowers are pickled in salt and vinegar, then preserved by drying. To prepare the drink, a flower is added to hot water and is allowed to steep for several minutes. During this time, the petals unfurl and release flowery essence to the water.
The fragrance of cherry blossom is subtle; I think it is mainly enjoyed for its taste. However, I must admit that the saltiness of this tea does not strike a chord with my palate. Nevertheless, I am glad to try something new today.
Speaking of something new, I am also introduced to Ume Konbucha (梅昆布茶, RM6.00). This drink is made from Japanese kelp, pickled plums and sea salt. This hot tea is typically brewed from its powdered form.
The Ume Konbucha is moderately salty, but also contains slight hint of sourness from plum. Compared to Sakura Cha, I find this drink to be more palatable. Ultimately, I am still not accustomed to its saltiness, but I am sure that the Ume Konbucha is ideal as a slow-drinking tea for nostalgia-seeking Japanese expatriates.

J-Garden is open for less than a week. So far, I notice that food is able to leave the kitchen at a reasonable rate without compromising quality. Meanwhile, I find the waiting service to be commendably attentive.
There are not many restaurants in Penang which specialize in Japanese-style Western cuisine, so I am glad to visit J-Garden to expand my exposure. Although the pricing at J-Garden may seem costly, I think that the food portion, quality, authenticity and overall dining experience commensurate the price tag.

Name: J-Garden
Address: 64-G, Persiaran Bayan Indah, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-637-1139
Business hours: 12:00pm-3:00pm, 6:00pm-10:00pm
Website: https://www.facebook.com/JGardenRestaurant
Coordinates: 5.33650 N, 100.30706 E
Directions: J-Garden is located near Queensbay Mall. The restaurant is the corner unit of a row of shops between Eastin Hotel and Shanghai Ding. Look out for signs for Econtel Hotel; J-Garden is located at the ground floor. There are parking spaces in front of and at the side of this row of shops, but vacant spaces can be scarce especially on weekends.

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