TSS Cafe & Restaurant

Special thanks to TSS Cafe & Restaurant for extending this food review invitation.

Located near Bukit Tambun's highway exit is TSS Cafe & Restaurant. The acronym "TSS" refers to the founder "Teoh Soon San", who has operated a traditional coffee shop here for several decades. Until today, its curry rice (咖哩饭) is popular among locals and highway travelers. The place packed with customers from the morning till late noon.
In the afternoon and evening, the indoor air-conditioned section of this building features an Italian restaurant. The menu consists of pasta, pizzas, meats, light snacks, coffee and cakes. Relaxing ambience, cozy couches and light jazz music at the background make this place a great place for a nice cup of coffee too.
One of the owners hails from Genoa, Italy. Like all good Italian family-run restaurants, TSS Cafe & Restaurant makes most ingredients from scratch. For example, tomato sauce for pizzas and pasta dishes are made from fresh tomatoes. Bread for burgers and soup is also baked fresh in the kitchen.
One of the most popular dishes here is Pizzette With Bacon (RM15.90). The thin crust is topped with freshly made tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and an infusion of Mediterranean herbs. The dough is tossed by hand in the kitchen, which explains its delightful mouthfeel which represents a fine balance between chewy and crispy extremes.
The main appeal of this pizza is the unique choice for bacon. Unlike the smoked version often preferred in the name of convenience, TSS Cafe & Restaurant uses freshly grilled pork slices instead. While some people may not like the bold aroma of fresh pork, I find it to be rather delectable. As the pork is made fresh, its tender and juicy sensation works well with the crust. This pizza is most certainly recommended for first-time customers.
The next dish is Spaghetti Carbonara (RM17.90). The pasta is cooked al dente as preferred by most Italians. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. The pasta is seasoned with light cream sauce, grated mozzarella cheese and pork bacon. Like the pizza, pork bacon imparts savory goodness to make this dish quite appetizing.
Whereas many restaurants tend to use excessive amount of cream sauce for carbonara, TSS Cafe & Restaurant takes a different stance. The amount of sauce is modest as it is only meant to impart flavor, not to make this dish surfeiting. Made from egg whites, the yellowish sauce manifests itself as a yolky emulsion which works well with the spaghetti.
For drinks, Caramel Macchiato (RM9.50) scores points off the bat through lovely aroma of caramel. This caffeinated drink has smooth milky consistency, making it quite pleasing to my palate. As fresh milk is used, the drink is naturally sweet. Therefore, it is quite unnecessary to use any sugar.
Cakes are sourced from a local home-based bakery. Today's choice is Raspberry Crêpe (RM12.90), which consists of alternating layers of thin pastry sheets and flavored cream. Raspberry jam is used within intermediate layers as well as a thin layer on top.
Although curry rice has been reputable here, the Italian aspect of TSS Cafe & Restaurant has been flying under the radar for several months. With creative menu items and insistence of being different from others, this eatery is worthwhile to visit when visiting this part of Bukit Tambun.
Name: TSS Cafe & Restaurant
Address: 1574, Jalan Simpang Ampat, 14200 Bukit Tambun, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 012-571-2582
Business hours: 5:00pm-11:00pm (Tuesday-Friday), 1:00pm-11:00pm (Saturday-Sunday), closed on Mondays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/tss.cafe96
Coordinates: 5.27527 N, 100.45841 E
Directions: Traveling southbound along North-South Expressway (Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan), take exit 158 towards Bukit Tambun. After the toll plaza, TSS Cafe & Restaurant is located on the left side of the next crossroad. Parking is available along the dirt road in front of this shop, or in front of the new block of shops immediately beside this eatery.

Cha Yen

Special thanks to Cha Yen for extending this food review invitation.

Armenian Street (Lebuh Armenian) a popular tourist destination due to a large number of cultural and artistic attractions, including the nearby Khoo Kongsi (邱公司).
Cha Yen (ชาเย็น) is one of the many stalls at this bustling street. As the only refreshments stall at this section of Armenian Street, there is often a line of customers during weekends. The name "Cha Yen" means "iced tea" in Thai. As the name implies, the drinks here are inspired by Thai iced drinks.
There are several types of cold drinks here. Each serving is around 400 millilitres, which is larger than what most drinks kiosks consider "medium size". For convenience, each drink is uniformly priced at RM5.50.
The drinks at Cha Yen are mostly handcrafted, similar to how it is prepared by curbside carts in Thailand. The only exception is a machine to extract espresso shots from ground coffee. Extracting espresso requires higher temperature and pressure that are beyond conventional means. To remain faithful to the Thai versions, most ingredients of the drinks at Cha Yen are sourced from Thailand.
The titular Cha Yen (ชาเย็น) is Thai-style iced milk tea. It is one of the most popular comfort drink among Thais, and also the bestseller at this stall. The drink is prepared from oxidized tea leaves, giving a distinctive imprint of leafy aroma. Per tradition, the drink is prepared using a strainer which resembles a stocking.
Some people may prefer Cha Kheiwy Yen (ชาเขียวเย็น), which is iced milk green tea. Unlike green tea powder which most stalls tend to use, this stall uses ground tea leaves as they provide noticeably better aroma. Compared to the previous drink, this version gives more "leafy" taste but is inferior in terms of aroma.

Creamy consistency is the key to a nice cup of milk tea. The trick is to strike a balance between condensed milk and creamer. In fact, the proportion needs to be adjusted depending whether tea is served hot or cold. Once again, condensed milk and creamer are imported from Thailand.
While Thais also enjoy Milo's and Ovaltine's chocolate malt drinks, this stall opts for custom-ordered cocoa powder from a Thai manufacturer. The powder is extremely fine like sawdust, giving the Coco Yen (โกโก้เย็น) drink silky consistency which soothes the throat. This iced chocolate drink is very rich and has bold cocoa flavor. The chocolaty sensation lingers on the tongue and the mouth roof for quite some time.
Meanwhile, Cafaeyen (กาแฟเย็น) or iced coffee inherits roasted bitterness from its dark roast beans. I feel that the drink does not have the type of milky sensation that I envisioned. I think there is room for improvement in terms of creaminess.

To produce coffee beans, the stall uses a hand-crank coffee grinder. Grinding small amount at a time allows the powder to maintain its aroma for longer period of time.
Fizzy drinks are gaining popularity among Thai youths due to their sharp citrus sensation. There are several types to choose from, such as Cha Nom Yen (ชานมเย็น) and Blue Lemon Soda. Both types of drinks contain soda pop and flavored syrup, but the former also contains condensed milk to give it a pinkish, milky appearance. The latter is dairy-free, but instead uses a lime wedge to produce the thirst-quenching acidic appeal.
At Cha Yen, there are half a dozen types of syrup flavors, such as apple, strawberry, cantaloupe and grape. Syrup is also sourced from Thailand to produce the same taste that Thais love. For example, syrup used for Cha Nom Yen has fragrance and taste that resemble rose or strawberries, but not quite either.
Soda water is also imported from Thailand. There are two brands available; both are very similar in terms of taste.
For convenience, each drink comes with a plastic holder so that customers do not have to get their hands wet and frozen. This innovation has yet to catch on in Malaysia.
According to the proprietor, Cha Yen will be opening another outlet soon. The goal of this drinks kiosk is to introduce popular iced drinks that our northern neighbors enjoy.

Name: Cha Yen (ชาเย็น)
Address: Lebuh Armenian, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 017-441-0041
Business hours: 9:00am-7:00pm, closed on Mondays to Thursdays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/thaistylechayen
Coordinates: 5.41539 N, 100.33719 E
Directions: Cha Yen is located at Armenian Street (Lebuh Armenia), somewhat across Hock Teik Cheng Sin Temple (福德正神庙). As a tourist spot, parking in this area is quite limited. Chances are that you need to park several streets away and walk here on foot.

Das Rad Cafe

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Das Rad Cafe is located at King Street (Lebuh King), directly behind Gem Restaurant. Opened earlier this year, this restaurant is operated by a couple of German-Malaysian heritage. "Das Rad" means "the bicycle" in German, which is befitting as the proprietors are cycling enthusiasts themselves.
Located within the heritage zone of George Town, Das Rad Cafe retains most of the building's original facade as well as its quaint partitions and backdrops. There are several bicycles on display to reaffirm the proprietors' passion towards this competitive sport.
At this point, it should not come as a surprise that Das Rad Cafe serves German food. Familiar dishes such as schnitzel (boneless meat) and bratwurst (German sausage) make their mark at this restaurant. The presence of Das Rad Cafe is certainly welcoming as there aren't many German restaurants in Penang.
My choice for lunch is the Pork Schnitzel With Potato Salad (RM25.00). The platter includes a pair of pork cutlets with matching paprika sauce, potato salad and salad greens on the side.
To prepare pork schnitzel, pork cutlets are beaten to make them tenderer. Next, the cutlets are coated with crispy breading made from crumbs, eggs and flour. The cutlets are immersed in hot oil and fried to golden perfection.
Pork schnitzel is often enjoyed with paprikaschnitzel, a condiment made from paprika, bell peppers, tomatoes and onions. Eaten with the cutlets, each bite presents a unique sense of savoriness with mildly sour undertones.
Potato salad is nicely prepared. Seasoned with salad dressing and chopped coriander, the diced potato cubes are in agreement with my palate.
A cup of latte (RM11.00) comes with a piece of breadstick. The coffee drink itself is quite enjoyable. The latte presents milky composition which soothes the throat during every sip.
Although the food menu is not as full-fledged as other German restaurants, Das Rad Cafe provides a reasonable compromise under casual dining setting.

Address: 10B, Lebuh King, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 017-570-1839
Business hours: 10:00am-6:00pm (Tuesday-Friday), 9:00am-6:00pm (Saturday-Sunday), closed on Mondays

Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake

Special thanks to Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

After several months since its opening, Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake (てつおじさんのチーズケーキ) at Summerton is celebrating its latest addition to the menu. Launching nationwide on 30 October 2015, Chocolate Cake is the latest addition to its series of new cheesecake flavors.
Like the original flavor, the Chocolate Cake (チョコレートケーキ, RM23.00) is 16 centimeters cross and is punctuated with chocolate chips. While the amount of cheese is reduced to make way for chocolate, the Chocolate Cake retains the soft and fluffy texture which many customers have known and love. Similar to its predecessor, this cake can be enjoyed warm or chilled.
The preparation process of the Chocolate Cake is rather labor-intensive. To produce the fluffiness which distinguishes Uncle Tetsu's from other cheesecakes, batter needs to be beaten thoroughly so that air pockets are trapped within the cake. For this outlet, fresh eggs are used as opposed to processed eggs. This is because the former yields better aroma when baked.
Unlike normal bakeries, Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake uses a steam-baking oven. This is to maintain moisture of air surrounding the cake, such that the surface of cake does not dry out and form a flaky layer of crust. To maintain uniform heating, the cake is rotated several times during the hour-long baking process.
During the launching day (30 October 2015), the Chocolate Cake is priced at a mere RM10.00 throughout the entire day. While stocks last, of course. For each of the next 6 days (31 October to 5 November 2015), the store offers 20% discount for the first 100 customers.
Meanwhile for lighter snacks, the Signature Cheesestick (RM8.50) is served in a convenient cup to enjoy while on the go. The cheesesticks are noticeably sweeter than the cheesecakes, but have less cheesiness. The cheesesticks are roasted and flipped periodically so that heating is uniform. The result is a crispy snack with cookie-like texture but is much lighter on the mouth.
There are three flavors for the cheesesticks. Should you prefer, you can request for a mixture of each type in the same cup.
Last but not least, Cheese Zuccotto (RM21.90) uses denser pastry and is filled with cream cheese of various flavors: dark chocolate, strawberry purée or parmesan cheese. This Italian-inspired dessert is best served chilled.
Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake uses high quality ingredients, such as flour from Japan and cheese from Australia. Besides eggs and dairy products, no meat is used during preparation. Therefore, the food here is suitable for ovo-lacto vegetarians. In about a month's time, Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake will be opening a new kiosk at Gurney Plaza.

Name: Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake (てつおじさんのチーズケーキ)
Address: 110-01-05, Persiaran Bayan Indah, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-683-1327
Business hours: 10:00am-10:00pm
Website: http://www.uncletetsu.com.my
Coordinates: 5.33946 N, 100.30904 E
Directions: Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake is one of the shops at the Ground Level of Summerton. Summerton a mixed residential-commercial property near Queensbay Mall. The building is located between Putra Place and Villa Emas condominium blocks. Parking is available in front of and inside Summerton.

Isaribi Tei

Special thanks to Isaribi Tei for extending this food review invitation.

Isaribi Tei Japanese Restaurant (いさりび亭) at Chow Thye Road cannot be any closer to nature. Opened since 2004, this Japanese restaurant has an exterior appearance of a nature reserve.
The restaurant owner, Mr. Yasuyuki Kayashima (茅島康之さん), is a food technologist by profession. Mr. Kaya (a contraction of his family name) has worked for many years in Europe and Thailand, before settling down in Penang around 10 years ago. The word "Isaribi" (漁火) refers to bonfire used by fishermen use to lure fish at night. This serves as a metaphor for the restaurant's ability to attract customers with its lively assortment of Japanese fusion food.
Isaribi Tei assimilates Japanese dishes with elements of other influences, particularly European cuisine. With over 300 dishes in its extensive menu, each dish has been meticulously crafted from scratch, taking into consideration all angles including visual, gastronomical and diner's experience.
Starting with sushi, the appetizer of choice is Saba Maki (鯖巻き, RM25.00). Raw mackerel, approximately a third of an inch in thickness, is served over rice. The appearance of silvery skin facing upwards makes this dish resemble more like nigiri (握り) than maki (巻き).
In Japanese cuisine, mackerel is typically cooked due to its firmer texture which requires some heating to soften. Therefore, serving raw mackerel is relative uncommon. Nevertheless, the fish carries mild saltiness which complements the tanginess of vinegar-laced short-grain rice. Served alongside the sushi is pickled ginger (ガリ) and wasabi (山葵).
Moving on to Spanish-influenced tapas, Juicy Oysters (牡蠣グルメ, RM30.00) take the center stage. Oysters are battered with wheat flour and then deep-fried to crisp. Served over cucumber slices, the oysters are topped with mayonnaise drizzle and shrimp roe (えびこ).
Another showcase of Japanese fusion food is demonstrated in the Rainbow Trout Cordon Bleu (虹鱒コルドンブルー, RM30.00). Inspired by French culinary arts, Pacific trout is stuffed with potato salad (ポテトサラダ) and cheese (チーズ) à la cordon bleu. The fish is then deep-fried to golden perfection. Rainbow trout is known for its delicate texture, so great care has been taken during cooking. The trout has mild flavor, therefore cheese is used to enhance its appeal.
From time to time, Isaribi Tei introduces new items on temporary basis. Today, Kimuchi Pork Ramen (キムチ豚ラーメン, RM25.00) is on the seasonal menu. Pickled napa cabbage lends its appetizing savory flavor to the pork broth. Also included are succulent slices of pork.
Unlike its Korean counterpart, Japanese kimchi is prepared without fermentation. Therefore, the cabbage lacks lactic acid which is responsible for sourish sensation. Instead, Japanese kimchi places more emphasis on sweetness and savoriness, as opposed to pungency and tanginess.
Isaribi Tei has 15 different types of bento (弁当), each with an interesting theme such as samurai (侍) and daimyo (大名). Most types include rice or noodles, so each serving is a staple meal on its own. There are also a handful of vegetarian versions. Each bento meal includes a bowl of miso soup (味噌汁).

Teriyaki Bento (照り焼き弁当, RM36.00) features teriyaki-style delicacies, comprising of teriyaki chicken, chicken skin, unagi and nori tsukudani (海苔佃煮).
The teriyaki chicken is grilled to the ideal level of tenderness, then covered with sesame seeds for enhanced aroma. Chicken skin (とりかわ) in skewer (串焼き) style is another lovely treat, thanks to the intense teriyaki seasoning and its lovely layers of fat.
Unagi (鰻) is one of the more highly-sought fish in Japanese cuisine. This freshwater eel is prized for its unique texture which absorbs flavors readily. Unagi is almost never eaten raw. Instead, the fish is customarily grilled and glazed with tare (垂れ) sauce to yield sweet-savoriness.
Nori tsukudani (海苔佃煮) is seldom served in local Japanese restaurants, but I have several reasons to suggest that it should be. To prepare nori tsukudani, seaweed is simmered in mirin and soy sauce for several hours. During this process, the seaweed becomes saturated with pleasant sweetness. Due to its intense flavor, only a small amount is required to enjoy with rice.

Potato salad (ポテトサラダ) is served on the side. The salad is made from mashed potatoes with chopped vegetables such as carrots and cucumber.
It is difficult to choose a bento from a list where each one has a unique character. For the adventurous diner, try the Ninja Bento (忍者弁当, RM38.00). This platter consists of spicy zarusoba, soft-shell crab maki, assorted tempura and salmon sashimi.
Zarusoba (笊蕎麦) is cold-served buckwheat noodles that are traditionally presented over a bamboo tray (笊). The noodles are unorthodoxly flavored with chili oil (ラー油) and sesame oil (ごま油), then covered with mayonnaise (マヨネーズ) and chopped scallions. Despite my initial skepticism, the soba noodles are not excessively spicy. Regardless, its sharp flavor really helps to elevate the noodles to greater height.
Next is maki sushi with deep-fried soft-shell crab (ソフトシェルクラブ) and cucumber at the center. The crab is harvested just after it shed its old shell before its new shell hardens. Therefore, the chitinous plating is sufficiently soft to be eaten. The sushi is topped with mayonnaise drizzle and colored roe (とびこ).
Also included are assorted pieces of tempura (天麩羅), which comprises of a couple of large shrimps and several pieces of sweet potato. The shrimps are notable for their freshness, as evident from their crunchy and sweet flesh. Tempura is cooked very briefly with extremely hot oil, so that the batter turns crispy without absorbing too much oil. As usual, tempura is served with tentsuyu (てんつゆ) as dipping sauce.
Last but not least, the bento includes three pieces of salmon sashimi (サーモン刺身). In preparing sashimi, Norwegian farmed salmon is favored over their Pacific cousins as the former has the fatty texture that provide better mouthfeel for sashimi.
Other items on Isaribi Tei's menu are temaki (手巻き), teppanyaki (鉄板焼き), grilled dishes (焼き物), fried dishes (揚げ物), claypot dishes (鍋物), rice dishes (丼物) and Western dishes (洋食). Homemade ice cream is also available, with over a dozen flavors such as black sesame, yuzu, wasabi and blue cheese.
As part of the restaurant's corporate social responsibility, Isaribi Tei strives to be environmentally friendly. For example, food waste is converted to compost, which is subsequently used as fertilizer in the garden. This allows the restaurant to maintain its greenery without relying on synthetic fertilizers.

Name: Isaribi Tei Japanese Restaurant (いさりび亭)
Address: 60, Jalan Chow Thye, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-229-8684
Business hours: 11:30am-3:00pm, 6:00pm-10:00pm
Website: https://www.facebook.com/Isaribi-Tei-Japanese-Restaurant-141591585903238
Coordinates: 5.42472 N, 100.32047 E
Directions: From Burmah Road (Jalan Burma), turn right to Service Road (Jalan Servis), then right again at Irrawaddy Road (Jalan Irrawadi). At the next crossroad, turn right again to Chow Thye Road (Jalan Chow Thye). Isaribi Tei is one of the shops on the right almost at the end of the road. Street parking is available. There is also a private car park at the back of the restaurant, accessible from Burmah Road.