Auction Rooms

Special thanks to Auction Rooms for extending this food review invitation.

Kimberley Hotel is a new hotel at Jalan Sungai Ujong, within a short walking distance from Prangin Mall. Refurbished from heritage buildings, the 5-floor hotel has 118 rooms in total. Just across a narrow alley from the hotel is Auction Rooms, an eatery which is also under the same management.
Auction Rooms was inspired by auctions that the owner observed during her stay in Australia, although no auctions actually take place here. Despite the modest facade, the dining section of Auction Rooms is elegantly furnished with comfortable sofa cushions and pillows. Cool ambience and warm lighting make the place quite relaxing indeed.
Set lunch (RM18.00) is served between 11:00am and 3:00pm daily. The meal includes a starter, a choice of main dish (such as Otak Chicken Wings and Fish N Chips), ice cream dessert and a drink. The food at Auction Rooms is pork-free.
Today's appetizer is deep-fried spring roll, which is best enjoyed when still hot from the fryer. Inside the crispy roll are shredded jicama and carrot. I like the fact that the spring roll does not feel too greasy.
According to the staff, Grilled Chicken Chop With Mushroom Sauce is one of the popular dishes here. A piece of deboned chicken leg is grilled until brown, then served with grilled potato and a spoonful of mushroom sauce.
The chicken is bursting with juicy tenderness, thanks to the right choice of meat and perfect doneness. Creamy and chunky mushroom sauce serves to enhance chicken flavor to greater heights.
Another choice of main dish is Chicken Parmigiana. Also made from deboned chicken leg, the fillet is deep-fried until crispy. As per tradition, chicken is then topped with fresh tomato sauce and molten cheese. This dish is also served with grilled potato.
The chicken is enjoyable right from the first bite. I like how the succulent flesh interacts with tangy tomato sauce and creamy cheese. I find the fillet to be enjoyable from the beginning till the end. Although I still believe that pan-frying produces better Chicken Parmigiana, I am still satisfied with Auction Rooms' cooking.
Ice cream is served as the dessert. The ice cream is quite dense and does not melt too quickly, much to my delight. I also like the use of honey corn flakes to provide lovely crispiness.
As for drinks, the set meal comes with iced peach tea. Should customers prefer, the à la carte drinks menu also provides a range of coffee, tea, juice and mocktail choices.
The pastry section of Auction Rooms has a handful of cakes to enjoy with coffee. The cakes are sold by the slice.
A slice of Chocolate Deluxe (RM14.00) is the choice to satisfy our sweet tooth. The dark chocolate mousse cake is rich in bold flavor, striking a chord with my palate. A piece of white chocolate and sprinkle of gold dust serve as icing on the cake.
Having fulfilled our sugar craving, the next order of business is an adrenaline boost to get through the lazy afternoon. Mocha (RM11.00) and Cappuccino (RM11.00) are prepared from an espresso machine and are reasonably well-prepared. Foam art provides aesthetic appeal.
The restaurant also serves set dinner (RM28.00) from 6:00pm to 10:00pm. The meal also includes starter, dessert and drink, but different main dishes are offered. Meanwhile, breakfast at Auction Rooms primarily caters hotel guests, but walk-in customers are also welcomed to dine.

Name: Auction Rooms
Address: 38A, Jalan Sungai Ujong, 10100 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-263-6688
Business hours: 7:00am-10:00pm
Coordinates: 5.41581 N, 100.33173 E
Directions: From Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong, turn left to Jalan Sungai Ujong. Auction Rooms and Kimberley Hotel are located shortly on the left. There is a narrow lane between both buildings which leads to a car park at the back of the hotel.

Up And Above

Special thanks to Up And Above for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Up And Above European Cuisine opened its doors 4 months ago. This semi-fine dining restaurant specializes in French cuisine with elements of other European dishes, particularly Italian. Located at a row of shops just opposite of Pulau Tikus' post office, this 2-floor restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The kitchen is headed by Chef Thomas Lee, who is also one of the owners of the restaurant. An aspiring chef with decade-long experience working in the United Kingdom and Singapore, Thomas is back to his hometown in Penang to start his own restaurant. The name of this restaurant reflects his pursuit of greater heights of excellence.
To cater the fast-moving lunch crowd, Up And Above has the C'est Bon Lunch Special every day between 12:00pm and 3:00pm. "C'est bon" means "it's good" in French. Diners can choose either chicken, pork or fish - each with several cooking techniques (such as sous-vide, oven-baked, pan-fried) and gravy (such as black pepper, creamy mushroom, spicy tomato). Each dish also comes with a choice of starch: either Pilaf Rice, Olive Rice or Mashed Potato.

The meal begins with Soup Of The Day (RM5.00), which turns out to be Tomato Soup. Prepared from fresh tomatoes, the soup is dominated by appetizing tanginess. Unlike many restaurants, sweetness takes the backseat in Tomato Soup as too much sugar tends to overwhelm the palate early on.
Chicken Parmigiana (RM17.90) is based on traditional Italian dish Parmigiana Di Melanzane, made from eggplant, tomato and cheese. The current form was introduced and popularized by Italian immigrants to the United States. For this dish, a piece of deboned chicken leg is coated with honey corn flakes, then pan-fried with corn oil. Bacon strip and mozzarella cheese are added towards the end. Finally, the chicken fillet is dressed in freshly-made tomato sauce.
Each dish comes with a heap of coleslaw on the side. The coleslaw is made from finely shredded red cabbage and green cabbage, in an appearance similar to German sauerkraut except that it is not fermented. Raisins provide subtle sweetness but not to supplant the natural sweetness of vegetables. The coleslaw is held together using French mayonnaise, which contains mustard to sharpen the taste. Each chew of this crunchy coleslaw is satisfying indeed.
Pork Parmigiana (RM17.90) is prepared in a similar manner. The pork fillet is substantially firmer than chicken, so it is ideal for people who prefer denser texture of meat. Personally, I think the pork is slightly on the dry side, so chicken is still my personal preference. Like its chicken counterpart, Pork Parmigiana is topped with bacon and molten mozzarella cheese.
Olive Rice is infused with some amount of chicken stock, which gives it the slightly oily texture and aromatic presence. A small amount of chopped olive contributes to taste.
Meanwhile, Tilapia Parmigiana (RM17.90) is tenderer than pork but still not quite on par with chicken in terms of texture. However, I feel that the mozzarella cheese topping works harmoniously with the fish.
Pilaf Rice is heavily seasoned with chicken broth, to a greater extent compared to Olive Rice. The appearance is resembles Hainanese chicken rice or poule au riz in French cuisine. The rice is light and bursting with savory flavor - an expectation when rice is infused with so much chicken essence.
Going off a tangent, Oven Baked Sea Bream (RM15.90) takes a different preparation method with different result. The fish itself is exquisite - delicate and tender - making it very agreeable in the mouth. The fillet is flavored with capsicum coulis, which I think is very mild in terms of spiciness.
In lieu of rice, one may also go for mashed potato. The mashed potato here is prepared from actual potatoes, not from instant ones. Mashed by hand, the entire preparation process is laborious but rewarding. I can feel the "grainy" texture of potato granules within each mouthful.
The lunch menu also includes several types of pasta. A recommended dish is Linguine Pork Bolognese (RM9.90). Bolognese sauce is made from minced pork, onion and tomato, resulting in something between creamy and watery consistencies. Eaten with linguine, bold flavor of pork resonates well with the milder taste of pasta. The serving size of this dish is quite large but does not feel too taxing to the stomach.
Crème Brûlée (RM4.00) is prepared by caramelizing a layer of sugar on top of custard. Usually, a butane torch is used. The hard, transparent layer helps to keep the custard moist. There are two types of custard here: vanilla and orange zest. The latter is served today. In either case, vanilla fruits or fresh oranges are used. Up And Above does not use artificial essence in its food.
Last but not least, the cup of Latte (RM5.00) is prepared from espresso coffee. The drink is quite smooth and has pleasant sweetness thanks to the presence of fresh milk. Brewed from organic, fair trade beans, the coffee is surprisingly affordable especially in an upscale setting.
At Up And Above, much effort is expended in food preparation. The restaurant favors fresh ingredients and manual preparation to present maximum freshness - even if it means higher cost that many restaurants are unwilling to afford. Nevertheless, the lunch menu is surprisingly inexpensive when ambience and service are taken into consideration. The restaurant has an entirely different menu for breakfast and dinner, both of which I am eager to savor next.

Name: Up And Above European Cuisine
Address: 37-D, Jalan Cantonment, 10250 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 012-407-9168
Business hours: 7:30am-3:00pm, 6:00pm-10:00pm
Coordinates: 5.43224 N, 100.31189 E
Directions: From Burmah Road (Jalan Burma), turn left into Lintang Burma at Kedai Makan Chang Senr (昌胜咖啡室). Immediately, drive along the service road parallel to Burmah Road. After the corner, Up And Above is located on the left. Street parking is available along the service road, but vacant spaces may be scarce during peak hours.

D' Fat Mona Lisa

Special thanks to D' Fat Mona Lisa Café for extending this food review invitation.

D' Fat Mona Lisa Café is located within walking distance from 3 institutes of learning: Penang Free School, Heng Ee High School and Han Chiang College. With ample of parking spaces within its spacious compound, D' Fat Mona Lisa is popular place for youngsters and families alike.
The entrance of the restaurant is a spot of photographic opportunity. The restaurant's mascot is a plump version of Mona Lisa. This is the work of Fernando Botero, a Colombian artist and who is known for depicting people in exaggerated forms.
A year and a half has transpired since my last visit to this eatery. The food menu has been revised and expanded since the restaurant's opening. The kitchen is led by an experienced chef with life-long career in the hoteling industry. D' Fat Mona Lisa has brought him out of retirement; it seems that career chefs cannot permanently retire.
D' Fat Mona Lisa serves all-day breakfast such as the Big Platter (RM19.00). The hearty meal includes beef bacon, sausage, sautéed mushrooms, scrambled egg, baked beans, hash browns, toasted baguette and salad. The breakfast menu includes free flow of coffee and tea until 11:00am (or until 11:30am on Sundays).
Although I have tried the Expresso Chicken (RM19.00) before, the recipe has been modified significantly. Whole chicken leg is marinated with espresso, allowing muscle fibers to tear down and become extremely tender. Due to lengthy preparation process and the desire to maintain freshness, only a limited quantity is available every day.
The gravy is also formulated from espresso, carrying a unique sense of bitterness which tends to polarize people. Just like durians, it is understandable why some people love it while other hate it. Nevertheless, I think it is a good idea for one to give this dish a try before deciding for oneself.
The dish of Salmon Cup (RM24.50) is presented in an interesting manner which I have not seen before. Served over crispy sheets of rice flour are salmon and various seasoning. Almond flakes are used as garnish to deliver some crisp in each bite.
If I were not told that the salmon was deep-fried, I would have thought that it was baked. Indeed, the salmon does not feel greasy at all. Savoriness is enhanced using fresh egg yolk, not salted egg although the result is quite similar. In addition, salmon is infused with herbs like tarragon to give the desired fragrant aroma.
Grilled BBQ Chicken features a boneless chicken fillet that is glazed with specially-prepared barbecue sauce. The sauce also includes tomato purée for mild sense of tanginess. Garnished with dried parsley, the chicken is succulent bite after bite. Served on the side are roasted potato, sweet potato and pumpkin.
Carbonara Beef (RM28.00) is prepared using creamy roux made from cream. Egg is not used. Besides the creamy sauce, al dente fettuccine pasta is also flavored with smoked beef bacon and sautéed mushrooms, whose roles are to provide salty and savory tastes respectively. Meanwhile, people who do not take beef may consider the chicken, seafood or vegetarian versions of this dish.
D' Fat Mona Lisa has special menus occasionally in order to introduce new dishes before they appear on the main menu. An example is Karaage Fish (RM22.00) which includes a free drink during lunch. For this dish, snapper is coated in flour batter, then deep-fried to golden perfection. Another key appeal is wasabi mayonnaise sauce, a creamy emulsion with sweet-tangy overtones.
Moving on to desserts, the Lava Cake (RM18.00) is a cocoa-rich treat for the most faithful chocolate lovers. The unmistakable aroma of cocoa permeates the immediate vicinity as soon as the cake is served. On the side, there is a scoop of strawberry ice cream topped with chunky strawberry sauce, almond flakes and chocolate chips.
The chocolate cake is filled with chocolate sauce, which when warm, appears as viscous liquid. As soon as the cake is punctured, chocolate sauce oozes out like lava from an erupting volcano. The sauce eventually solidifies as it cools down.
Last but not least, I like the distinctive aroma of Salted Caramel Coffee (RM13.50) as well as its milky consistency. However, I feel that the drink is too sweet; the barista may want to tone down the amount of caramel to an extent where the aromatic aspect is served.
With a relaxing ambience and quality food ingredients, I think the food at D' Fat Mona Lisa is reasonably priced. As far as I can tell, the waiting staff is also very attentive to my needs. I think this is a nice place to dine regardless whether it's for a business lunch or a family dinner.

Name: D' Fat Mona Lisa Café
Address: 43, Jalan Free School, 11600 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-281-0797
Business hours: 8:00am-11:00pm, closed on Mondays
Coordinates: 5.40284 N, 100.30763 E
Directions: From Penang Free School, drive along Jalan Free School towards the round-about. D' Fat Mona Lisa Café is about 100 meters before the round-about, just opposite the retirement home. There is ample parking space within the compound.

Projek Nasi Lemak

Special thanks to Projek Nasi Lemak for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Projek Nasi Lemak took the food arena by storm since its opening several months ago. The restaurant is often filled to capacity during peak hours. I took me a while to visit this place and to find out what the hype is all about.
This restaurant specializes in nasi lemak (coconut milk rice) with several types of side dishes. One of its main attraction is blue-colored rice, which is dyed with essence of butterfly-pea flower. The flower only provides coloring; it has hardly any fragrance nor taste.
Rice is cooked using coconut milk, salt, water and nothing else. The restaurant does not use meat stock to cook rice because rich flavors tend to overwhelm the palate and divert attention away from side dishes.

Projek Nasi Lemak uses fast food concept to streamline the ordering process. There are originally 5 set meals to choose from. Optionally, customer can add side dishes from the à la carte menu, such as ayam goreng (fried chicken), ikan kari (curry fish), sotong goreng (fried squid) and udang (shrimp). Food is cooked in small batches at a time to ensure freshness.
According to the restaurant operator, the food menu is based on his parents' traditional recipe. He has also incorporated new ideas from various places like Johor, Malacca, Kelantan and Hat Yai. The food is pork-free, which at least partially explains why it is popular among people from all walks of life.

In addition to the 5 set meals, the restaurant has recently introduced Black Sweet Sauce Chicken (RM8.50) to cater customers who cannot take spicy food. The meal consists of colored rice, chicken fillet, hard-boiled egg, roasted peanuts, anchovies and cucumber. All items are served over a sheet of banana leaf.
The chicken fillet is fried to lovely crispiness, then coated with sweet dark sauce. The boneless chicken is tender and succulent. Served on the side are 2 types of chili sauce: with shrimp (salty-spicy) and with onion (sweet-spicy). Both are tantalizing to my tongue. Meanwhile, sambal belacan (spicy shrimp paste) on the cucumber is too intense for me.
Eggplant With Homemade Onion & Sambal (RM4.50) is another new item on the menu. Resting on a banana leaf is a surprisingly large eggplant - over 6 inches in length!
The eggplant is cut into servings of 200 grams each. Each piece is deep-fried briefly to prevent it from absorbing too much oil. Once cooked, the eggplant is seasoned with sambal (chili paste) and fried onion. As the dish is served while piping hot, fried onion carries its aroma far and wide. The level of spiciness is not something to be trifled with!
The jumbo size Sotong Goreng (RM10.00) is prepared from Argentine shortfin squid. As the supply of squid is uncertain, it is not always available. I have not tasted the squid yet, but it has certainly caught my attention. Perhaps I should try this dish next time.
The Coconut Milk Shake Special (RM4.50) is blended from coconut water, coconut kernel and ice. An infusion of gula melaka (palm sugar) provides a unique sense of sweetness, resulting in brownish hue in the process. A scoop of durian-flavored ice cream is like icing on the cake. Although the milk shake is enjoyable overall, it is punctuated by residual bits of coconut husk.
Name: Projek Nasi Lemak
Address: 498, Jalan Dato Keramat, 10460 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 018-989-8018
Business hours: 12:00pm-2:30pm, 6:00pm-11:00pm, closed on Mondays
Coordinates: 5.41353 N, 100.31471 E
Directions: Traveling westward along Jalan Ayer Itam, Projek Nasi Lemak is located on the right. The shop is directly opposite of Shell gas station and Stadium Bandaraya Pulau Pinang (Penang City Stadium). There is a limited number of parking spaces in front of the restaurant and along nearby roads.