Special thanks to Magstore for extending this food review invitation.

Since my previous visit to Magstore Mini Supermarket (香港松坂库), this desserts and snacks shop at Queensbay Mall is rolling out the third series of ice cream flavors. In this series, four flavors make their debut. In addition, the menu includes new items like Curry Fish Balls (咖喱鱼旦) and new flavors for egg puffs (鸡蛋仔).
Magstore is still primarily a specialty store stocked with various foodstuff such as snacks, noodles, confectionery and drinks. Vast majority of these items are sourced from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The products are identical to those sold in their native land, not the export-only version that some brands produce.
Still, Magstore's most iconic specialty is its soft serve ice cream. Presented in a two-tier cup, ice cream fills the top cup. The bottom cup contains dry ice initially. When ready to serve, Earl Grey tea is poured into the bottom cup, causing dry ice to sublimate instantly and release spectacular cloud of tea vapor.
One of the new ice cream flavors is Parmesan Cheese / Pineapple Juice (芝士粉/菠萝淋酱, RM12.50), which represents the "salty" version in the latest line-up. The ice cream is made from Australian milk and is moderately sweet, allowing a syringe of pineapple syrup to take the center stage. I also like the fact that the ice cream has low cream content. This means that I can finish the whole cup without feeling so surfeited.
Representing "spicy" of the five basic tastes, Chili Dark Chocolate (辣椒黑朱古力, RM12.50) is my personal favorite today. While the ice cream is identical across all versions, this one is topped by a shower of dark chocolate powder. Infused with sharp spiciness, the ice cream tickles the throat of those who are not prepared to withstand its abrupt pungency.
Moving on, Goji Cherry White Chocolate (枸杞樱花桃白朱古力, RM11.50) happily assumes the "sweet" member in Magstore's third series of flavors. The powdery sprinkle comprises of a mixture of wolfberry, cherry blossom flower and white chocolate.
Finally taking the role of "sour" flavor, the Beetroot / Lemon Vinegar (甜菜根/柠檬醋, RM11.50) version is the most visually appealing one. The light shower of pinkish beetroot powder is overshadowed by a syringe of tangy lemon-flavored vinegar. With the entire syringe of vinegar emptied on the ice cream, one can enjoy light citrus sourness in each scoop of icy goodness.
Magstore's waffle-like Hong Kong Style Egg Puffs (香港名物鸡蛋仔) are no longer new to me, but several new flavors have been introduced since then. The cornerstone of its unique shape is a special waffle iron with spherical slots for the "bubbles".
I have the pleasure of trying the new red bean paste (红豆沙, RM9.90) filling. To prepare the waffle, flour batter partially fills the spherical compartments. Next, red bean paste is added. Then, more batter is added until it overflows and combines with adjacent "bubbles".
When hot, the crispiness of the waffle allows each "bubble" to be plucked off individually. Unfortunately, the waffle becomes soft and doughy when cooled, so it is advisable to consume immediately. According to the menu, other egg puff fillings are chicken floss (鸡肉丝), parmesan cheese (芝士) and chocolate chips (巧克力豆).
Curry Fish Balls (咖喱鱼旦, RM8.90) is the new kid on the block. Each serving comes with 5 fish balls with some potatoes and accompanying curry.
Surprisingly, the curry has strong flavor and is very appetizing indeed. Within its creamy consistency is respectable sense of fiery spiciness. Meanwhile, the springy fish balls are also delectable on their own, but even better when coated thoroughly with curry gravy!
Name: Magstore (香港松坂库)
Address: 3F-22A, Queensbay Mall, Persiaran Bayan Indah, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: N/A
Business hours: 10:30am-10:30pm
Coordinates: 5.33329 N, 100.30681 E
Directions: Magstore is located on Level 3 of Queensbay Mall, right next to Queens Hall and opposite of llaollao. Queensbay Mall has a multilevel parking garage and several outdoor parking spaces.

Lao Ban Soya Beancurd

Special thanks to Lao Ban Soya Beancurd for extending this food review invitation.

Located within the densely-populated district of Paya Terubong, Kuta Bali Cafe (峇里城食坊) is one of the largest hawker centers in Penang. Despite having over 50 different stalls, no two of them offer the exactly same type of food.
Along the eastern edge of Kuta Bali Cafe is a stall called Lao Ban Soya Beancurd (老伴港式冷豆花). This stall has been operating for several years now, but its low profile makes it relatively unknown beyond the immediate vicinity of Air Itam.
As the name implies, Lao Ban Soya Beancurd specializes in bean curd (豆花), a sweet jelly-like dessert which is typically served chilled. Using a secret recipe acquired several years ago, the bean curd is produced from premium quality organic soy beans.

The stall only does vending; the production of bean curd is done at home. Unlike most commercial brands, Lao Ban Soya Beancurd refrains from using artificial preservatives. Therefore, the bean curd needs to remain refrigerated at all times and must be consumed within 4 days.
Contrary to popular belief, Lao Ban Soya Beancurd's products contain negligible amount of purine, making them ideal for those who suffer from gout. Using the bare minimum amount of sugar, the bean curd can be a part of healthy diet even for children. In addition, Lao Ban Soya Beancurd's products are entirely vegan-friendly.
There are 6 flavors of bean curd to choose from. Original (原味) flavor is the most popular one to date. Almond (杏仁) and Honeydew (蜜瓜) are fast-moving too. Customers who prefer fruitier taste can try the Peach (水蜜桃) and Strawberry (草莓) variants. The Durian (榴莲) flavor is available yearlong but is only sold on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
To maintain freshness, Lao Ban Soya Beancurd maintains a small inventory of products every evening. As a result, it is not uncommon for certain flavors to be sold out before the usual closing time. For large orders, Lao Ban Soya Beancurd recommends advance ordering to ensure adequate supply for its regular customers.

Name: Lao Ban Soya Beancurd (老伴港式冷豆花)
Address: Kuta Bali Cafe, 19, Lintang Paya Terubong 1, 11060 Air Itam, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 016-442-8289
Business hours: 6:00pm-11:00pm
Coordinates: 5.39094 N, 100.27662 E
Directions: Drive northwards along Jalan Paya Terubong towards Air Itam. After the fire station, turn right at the next traffic lights. At the end of this road, turn right again. Kuta Bali Cafe is located on the left. Lao Ban Soya Beancurd is one of the stalls on the far side. Parking is available around the hawker center.

Le Périgord

Special thanks to Le Périgord for extending this food review invitation.

Tucked along a row of shops near the former location of Inaka, the dark facade of Le Périgord is easily overlooked. This French restaurant is operated by a young couple who used to work in multiple restaurants in Australia. They returned to Penang last year to pursue their dreams of operating their own restaurant.
Occupying two shop units along Burmah Road (Jalan Burma), the dining section of Le Périgord is spacious indeed. Although somewhat upscale in appearance, the restaurant provides casual dining setting at reasonably affordable prices. This restaurant is named after Le Périgord, a region in France famed for production of truffles, foie gras, duck confit and wines.
Le Périgord's breakfast menu is available until 10:30am. One of the most noteworthy dishes is Double Le Champignon Portobello (RM23.90). This delicacies revolves around two pieces of enormous portobello mushrooms served over scrambled egg. Cherry tomatoes and sea salt-baked kale chips serve as garnish.
Portobello mushrooms are deliberately presented upside-down such that the gills serve as vessels for a special blend of broth. Derived from the mushrooms and truffle oil, the thick broth is extremely savory and aromatic. Before devouring the mushroom, it is highly advisable to sip some of this exquisite broth!
Also available in the breakfast menu is Birchermüesli (RM12.90), a healthy breakfast cereal made from rolled oats. Oats are accompanied by an assortment of healthy nuts, seeds and fruit pieces. Yogurt milk provides the necessary moisture for easy consumption. Taste is balanced overall - mild sweetness of raisins is occasionally punctuated by acidic green apples. Thanks to high fiber content, a serving of Birchermüesli is quite filling.
Creamy Salted Egg Cronut (RM13.90) is the latest addition to Le Périgord's breakfast menu. This bite-size snack is inspired by the fusion of Western pastry with Asian sweet paste. A light sprinkle of icing sugar provides additional sweetness but I find this redundant. In fact, I feel that the plating of this dish deserves more attention.
Similar to Lao Sar Pau (流沙包) in Cantonese dim sum restaurants, the cronut is filled with salted egg paste that is highly gratifying on its own. As one punctures the flaky pastry puff, the viscous emulsion oozes out slowly. Consuming this lovely treat is highly gratifying; I cannot recommend this dish highly enough.
As for drinks, Latte (RM10.90) is my personal choice to start the morning. Le Périgord sources coffee beans from Macallum Connoisseurs. Having dined at Macallum Connoisseurs before, I think this is a sensible choice. A piece of butter cookie is provided on the side.
Le Périgord's food menu is entirely pork-free. At noon, the restaurant offers set lunch for mere RM19.90. Dinner service is provided through the à la carte menu, with prices starting from RM28.00. Due to its spacious premises, Le Périgord is also able to host private events for over a hundred guests.
Name: Le Périgord
Address: 253G-1-7, Jalan Burma, 10350 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 012-559-9139
Business hours: 8:00am-10:00pm, closed on Mondays
Coordinates: 5.42825 N, 100.31436 E
Directions: Drive along Burmah Road (Jalan Burma) from Pulau Tikus direction. After the junction with Codrington Highway (Lebuhraya Codrington), turn right as you see Burmahtel. Le Périgord is located at the end of this row of shops (Wisma Soon). It is exactly opposite of Petron gas station. Street parking is available along this service road.

The Straits Cafe & Lounge

Special thanks to Ixora Hotel for extending this food review invitation.

Located next to Megamal Pinang in Prai, Ixora Hotel is a 4-star hotel with 326 rooms. The hotel is named after the ixora flower, which is also planted within hotel grounds. The main eatery of Ixora Hotel is The Straits Cafe & Lounge, located just next to the lobby.
This evening is the preview session of Ixora Hotel's Ramadan dinner. This year, the theme for the buffet is "Warna Warni Ramadan" (Colorful Ramadan). During the actual Ramadan, there are 4 sets of menu on daily rotation. Several signature dishes are available daily.
Unlike other Ramadan buffets this year, Ixora Hotel provides a wide variety of kurma (palm dates). Besides the original type, there are also dates with almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts, white sesame seeds and black sesame seeds.
My personal favorite type of dates is the one with sesame seeds, as I feel that the oily nature of sesame seeds tends to accentuate the enjoyment of dates.
Another signature item that is available throughout Ramadan is Kambing Panggang Golek. Whole Australian baby lamb is roasted over burning charcoal for 5 straight hours. Surprisingly, the flesh remains reasonably juicy and flavorful. The secret behind this feat is the 2-day marinade which allows the meat to break down to savory amino acids. Served with black pepper, mint and rosemary sauce, the lamb is the main highlight this evening.
Ramadan dinners will not be complete without Bubur Lambuk Berempah. Soft rice porridge is flavored with a myriad of pungent spices, expanding my appetite substantially. Meanwhile, Sup Ekor Berjintan is enhanced by different spices with fennel seeds in particular. The soup is on the saltier side of my preference; I think the amount of salt should be toned down.
Shawarma Ayam is a Middle Eastern dish which features chicken marinated with herbs. Roasted on a vertical rotisserie, meat is shaved layer by layer as it becomes cooked. Shaved meat is then sandwiched between pita bread. Cucumber, tomato, tahini sauce and mayonnaise are added to provide more balanced taste.
Laksa Johor is the result of a fusion between Malay and Western cuisine. Compared its Penang counterpart, the fish broth for Laksa Johor is noticeably thicker. Other ingredients are similar: chili peppers, onion, ginger flower, cucumber and lettuce.
What truly sets Laksa Johor apart from common laksa is the use of spaghetti in lieu of rice noodle. I am not sure which type of noodle I prefer, but the use of spaghetti is certainly interesting.
Penang Koay Teow Goreng is the state's signature wok-fried noodle dish. Cooked with shrimps, fish cake, eggs, bean sprouts and garlic chives, the dish possesses lovely aroma especially when served hot from the wok.
For staple food, Nasi Rampai Aidilfitri is one of the main highlights this evening. Basmati rice is cooked with a variety of spices including turmeric, onion, garlic and ginger. The former is responsible for giving the yellowish hue and the distinctive fragrant aroma. The rice is garnished with green peas, chickpeas, black olives, bell peppers, carrots, fried onion and dried chili pepper.
Daging Rendang Maharani is the chef's very own specialty dish. Beef is pleasantly flavored with a combination of savory spices. By combining rendang recipes from 3 different states: Rendang Tok (Perak), Rendang Minang (Negeri Sembilan) and Rendang Kedah (Kedah), each bite of beef is gratifying indeed.
As for poultry, Ayam Masak Gajus is featured tonight. I enjoy the succulent and balanced flavor of chicken. Cashew nuts on the side help to improve crunchy mouthfeel as well as to provide subtle sweetness.
Moving on to seafood, Kupang Mangga Berlada is one of the better ones to try. Moderate-sized mussels are baked with thick gravy with mango purée. Dried chili pepper and curry leaves provide the desired degree of spiciness.
Ulam (raw vegetables) is a healthy delicacy that is often enjoyed by the Malay community in rural areas. Examples of available vegetables are jantung pisang (banana flower), ulam raja (king's salad), daun pegaga (Asiatic pennywort leaves) and petai (stink beans).
These raw vegetables are often eaten with flavorful condiments such as cincalok, budu and tempoyak.
In addition, there are also various kinds of kerabu (Malay salad), crackers and pickled foodstuff like salted fish and salted eggs.
As for the desserts section, Ixora Hotel has a handful of Malay kuih which is prepared in-house. I think the variety of kuih can be expanded upon. Should guests prefer baked Raya cookies, there are several jars of these too. I also enjoy Bubur Cha-Cha Pengat Pisang, a Peranakan sweet dessert made from taro, sweet potato, banana, sago and pandan-flavored coconut milk.
Ais Kacang and Cendol are popular desserts in the Malaysian food scene. Guests are allowed to help themselves to over a dozen types of ingredients and syrups. Shaved ice is provided using an electric ice shaver.
There is also a chocolate fountain for guests who love chocolate. Marshmallows and cut fruits are provided to take advantage of the fountain.
Ixora Hotel's Ramadan buffet is available from 13 June 2016 to 4 July 2016. The prices are RM72.00 net for an adult and RM45.00 net for a child. Vouchers are available for purchase even before the start of Ramadan. As an incentive for early birds, the first 300 adult vouchers are offered at special price of RM68.00 net. In addition, customers enjoy a free voucher for every 9 adult buffet vouchers purchased.

Name: The Straits Cafe & Lounge
Address: 3096, Jalan Baru, Bandar Perai Jaya, 13600 Perai, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-382-8888
Business hours: 6:00am-12:00am
Coordinates: 5.37805 N, 100.39825 E
Directions: From Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (North-South Expressway), take the Prai exit and head west. After Megamal Pinang on the left, turn left and follow the road to Ixora Hotel's basement parking. The Straits Cafe & Lounge is located next to the lobby. Ixora Hotel provides free parking for guests who subscribe to the hotel's Facebook page. Remember to bring along the parking ticket to get it validated at the front desk.


Special thanks to Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul for extending this food review invitation.

Today's invitation to Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul is to cover the preview of the hotel's upcoming Ramadan buffet. Held in the ballroom, an elaborate backdrop decorates the front stage. This evening and during Ramadan, live music is performed by duo band Irama Nada, who were brought back from last year due to popular demand.
Like the previous year's Ramadan, the buffet theme is "101 Resipi Penuh Tradisi Tok Wan". There are literally 101 dishes on the menu every evening. According to the staff, the chefs went back to the drawing board multiple times to find the perfect composition of wet (such as curry) and dry (such as grilled meat) dishes.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. With these words of wisdom in mind, it is prudent to start the meal with some kurma (palm dates). This is how Muslims break fast in the evening during Ramadan.
Bubur Lambuk is another integral delicacy in any Ramadan buffet. During the holy month, local communities often prepare large quantities of Bubur Lambuk to be given to the poor and needy.
At the outdoor grilling station, Kambing Panggang (Roasted Lamb) steals the limelight. Every evening, a whole lamb is slowly grilled over burning charcoal, which imparts a unique sense of toasty aroma to the lamb.
Should guests prefer white meats, Ikan Keli Panggang (Grilled Catfish) and Ayam Panggang (Grilled Chicken) are also available. The meats have been marinated for several hours to ensure that the spices penetrate them thoroughly.
Another delicacy during this upcoming Ramadan is Sate Ayam (Chicken Satay), which makes an anticipated return after a hiatus last year. Demand is so overwhelming that the staff is barely able to keep up with continuous orders.
Compared to last year, the number of kawah (Malay wok) dishes have been scaled down. Most cooked dishes are now prepared in the kitchen. The only exception is Daging Gulai Kawah, where the beef curry is kept warm by slow fire under the wok.
My favorite cooked dish tonight is Daging Masak Kicap. The beef is marinated well and is cooked in sweet sauce. Every bite of the beef is gratifying indeed.
If sea snails appeal to your palate, Siput Belitung Masak Lemak should strike a chord with you. The aroma and taste of this dish are enhanced through the use of lemongrass (serai) and pineapples. The sea snails do not contain much meat within their shells, but this does not deter me from prying their flesh with toothpicks.
As for fried dishes, Ayam Goreng Berempah (Spicy Fried Chicken) is among the popular ones. Ikan Keli Goreng is available too, though I prefer the grilled version of catfish.
Cencaru Belah Belakang is another delicacy made from mackerel. Each fish is slit open from the bottom and is stuffed with fiery sambal (chili paste). Cendawan Goreng (Deep-Fried Mushrooms) is wildly popular due to the juicy savoriness under the layer of crisp.
There are also a range of delectable curries, including Ikan Patin Masak Lemak Tempoyak. For this dish, catfish is cooked with coconut milk and tempoyak. The latter is a Malay condiment made from fermented durians. It is fortunate that Ramadan coincides with the durian season this year.
It is also welcoming to see Sambal Tempeh Bersama Kacang Panjang on the menu. Tempeh, made from fermented soy beans, is cooked with chili paste and yardlong beans. It is a shame that not everyone is fond of tempeh.
As for vegetables, Pucuk Ubi Masak Lemak Kuning features silky tapioca leaves in a yellowish gravy flavored by turmeric (kunyit).
Another authentic Malay delicacy is Serunding. Made from meat floss and grated coconut kernel, the mixture is fried with minimal oil until it becomes golden brown. Serunding is typically eaten with ketupat (palm leaf rice) and lemang (bamboo rice); both are available today. Daging Rendang Tok (Marinated Beef) and Gulai Daging (Beef Curry) are also provided to enjoy with rice.
The buffet also features various kinds of kerabu (Malay salad) such as Kerabu Ayam, Kerabu Mangga, Tempe Ikan Bilis and Acar Jelatah.
Guests who fancy ulam can help themselves to raw vegetables like jantung pisang (banana flower), petai (stink beans), bendi (okra), daun kaduk (wild betel leaves), daun selom (selom leaves) and daun selasih (basil leaves).
Asam Laksa is also available this evening. The cornerstone of this dish is spicy broth stewed from flaked fish, which is typically mackerel (kembung). Noodles, chili pepper, onion, pineapple, cucumber, cabbage and ginger flower are provided. Belacan (shrimp paste) is optional, but it certainly helps to enhance the flavor of Asam Laksa.
Raw kerang (cockles) are also available. A pot of boiling water and a sieve are provided for guests to cook the cockles. Boiling duration depends how cooked each guest prefers the cockles. I think 60 seconds work best for me.
Towards the end of the feast, a number of sweet desserts are available for guests to enjoy. This year, the desserts are Pengat Pisang (Banana & Coconut Milk Soup), Bubur Kacang (Red Bean Soup), Bubur Pulut Hitam (Black Glutinous Rice Porridge) and Bubur Gandum (Oatmeal).
When it comes to Kuih Melayu (Malay Kuih), Vistana goes to great lengths to procure several dozen varieties from home-based producers. Noteworthy ones include onde-onde, ketayap, karipap, kuih puteri ayu and kuih lapis. Today's preview event only shows a fraction of what's available during the actual Ramadan dinners.
Guests who prefer moist desserts can help themselves to a number of fruity custards and jellies.
Ais Kacang is one of Malaysia's favorite dessert, enjoying widespread popularity across all ethnicities. Shaved ice is eaten together with a dozen ingredients such as red beans, sweet corn, nata de coco, gula melaka (palm sugar) and crushed peanuts.
Vistana's Ramadan buffet runs daily between 7 June 2016 and 5 July 2016. To keep its buffet appealing to the general public, Vistana is resisting the tendency to increase prices from last year. Offered at RM65.00 net per adult and RM30.00 net per child, Vistana's buffet is one of the most affordable ones in town considering the food quality, variety and ambience.
Name: Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul
Address: 213, Jalan Bukit Gambir, 11950 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-646-8000
Business hours: 7:00pm-10:00pm
Coordinates: 5.33637 N, 100.29159 E
Directions: Driving southbound on Jalan Bukit Gambir, turn left just before Vistana and drive up to the lobby entrance. Basement parking is available from the back of the hotel. The parking fee is RM3.00 per entry for banquet guests.