Ice Estate

Special thanks to Ice Estate for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Like China House, Reunion Heritage House is located between Victoria Street (Lebuh Victoria) and Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai). The sole eatery of this hotel, Ice Estate, faces Victoria Street.
Ice Estate provides hotel guests with breakfast, but the café also operates throughout the day to cater walk-in customers. Its dine-in menu here has a combination of pasta, Western dishes, snacks, coffee and ice cream. The signature item here is liquid nitrogen (LN2) ice cream; more on this later. The menu here is pork-free.
Following the tradition of neighborhood coffee houses, Ice Estate offers a range of seating options to keep customers comfortable. Customers may choose to sip a cup of coffee on a comfortable sofa/couch, or enjoy waffles while being seated at a garden table.
At one section of Ice Estate is an air shaft covered potted plants against the wall. Maintaining this 2-floor greenery is not an easy feat. Alternatively, one can climb a flight of stairs to access the upper floor of the dining area.
The ambience at Ice Estate is quite relaxing, as long as you do not mind the occasional sound of liquid nitrogen tank releasing pressure every few minutes.
Speaking of Reunion Heritage House, it was refurbished from 3 historical buildings that date back more than a century ago. Restoration work began in 2014 and this undertaking took 2 years to complete.
The hotel is divided into 3 blocks with 2 floors each. Divided between them are 14 hotel units comprising of 4 room types: Superior King Room, Deluxe King Room, Premium Duplex Suite, Exclusive Duplex Suite. Although Reunion Heritage House lacks amenities like a swimming pool or fitness center, it provides reasonably comfortable accommodation at surprisingly affordable prices (from RM205.00 per night).
As mentioned before, the specialty at Ice Estate is liquid nitrogen ice cream. Liquid nitrogen is colder than dry ice (-195.8oC vs. -78.5oC), which results in finer ice crystals and more compact texture. In addition, boiling vapor produces aesthetic effect which is popular among youngsters nowadays.
Ice Estate has a handful of ice cream flavors, ranging from fruity versions to chocolate ones. Among the popular types is Mango Estate (RM14.00). Besides using fresh mango to prepare ice cream, mango is also used as toppings. Amid the pleasant sweetness of mango is delightful crisp of corn flakes.
La Coffee Estate (RM15.00) is prepared using espresso, although I feel that an extra shot would make the taste of coffee more pronounced. The ice cream is carpeted by crumbs of butter waffle biscuit and light drizzle of caramel.
K-Pop Kimchi (RM23.00) is a pasta dish whose sauce is infused with unmistakable spicy-sourness of Korean kimchi (김치). Additional kimchi is also used as topping. This dish also includes chicken chunks and seaweed strips. The overall taste of this pasta is quite satisfying as long as one is fine with its sharp spiciness.
Triple Cheese Chicken Chop (RM24.00) is flavored using 3 types of cheese: parmesan, mozzarella and cream cheese. While cheese lovers will rejoice with glee, others may find the chicken too salty for comfort. The chicken thigh is served with deep-fried potato wedges, spaghetti and vegetables.
N2 Laksa (RM20.00) comes with a slice of garlic bread, which is flash-frozen by liquid nitrogen when the dish is served. This allows the bread to retain its crisp for much longer duration, but I think the greater appeal is the visual effect.
As for the noodle, spaghetti is given a touch of modernity using asam laksa ingredients like cabbage, ginger flower and spices. Unfortunately, I think the shrimp is not as fresh as it should be.
If you are looking for finger food in lieu of proper meal, Mix Snack Combo (RM20.00) is one way to go. Each order comes with two miniature shopping carts. The carts are filled with Golden Crispy Fries, Cheesy Wedges, Juicy BBQ Nuggets and Chicken Pop Corn. Individual items can be ordered separately too.
The beverage menu includes a number of coffee and tea choices. Freshly-squeezed fruit juices are also available. For coffee, espresso is extracted from La Tazza dark-roasted beans from Dimattina Coffee. Meanwhile, tea selections are supplied by Harney & Sons. Many cafés tend to use this brand nowadays.
My pot of tea is Organic English Breakfast (RM11.00), brewed from keemun (Chinese black tea) which has pleasant floral scent. The tea is soothing to sip slowly and its taste is not overpowering either. It is served in an elegant-looking teapot.
Name: Ice Estate
Address: 107, Lebuh Victoria, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-251-9640
Business hours: 8:00am-11:30pm (Monday-Thursday), 8:00am-12:00am (Friday-Sunday)
Coordinates: 5.41215 N, 100.33661 E
Directions: Reunion Heritage House is located on Victoria Street (Lebuh Victoria), approximately 50 meters after the intersection with Gat Lebuh Melayu. The hotel is located on the left side of this one-way street. Ice Estate is directly at this entrance of the hotel. Street parking is available along Victoria Street and Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai).

Muse Dining Bar

Special thanks to Muse Dining Bar for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Elit Avenue has been increasingly recognized as Bayan Baru's foremost food haven outside Queensbay Mall. Tonight's dinner brings me to Muse Dining Bar By R. Emuang, a Western style casual dining restaurant operated by Chef Richard Emuang.
The ambience of the restaurant caters both the lunch crowd and small family diners in the evening. There is also a bar to serve the drinking clientele. Especially after the sun has set, al fresco dining is also a viable option.
Muse Dining Bar takes a bold step beyond the typical Western-style menu. Each of its dishes is thoughtfully crafted to imbue a sense of uniqueness and perfection. For example, the Thai Infused Seafood Soup (RM25.90) is saturated with rich, appetizing flavors of mussels, scallops, shrimps and fish. The savoriness of this soup persists on the palate, making the experience gratifying indeed. I cannot recommend this soup highly enough.
Baked Mushroom With Air-Flown Alaskan Crab-Meat (RM24.90) is another highly-acclaimed dish. The highlight of this salad is two pieces of juicy portobello mushroom, whose gills have been stuffed and baked with parmesan cheese. Boasting juicy goodness which allows portobello mushrooms to really shine, "very delicious" would be an understatement to describe this intriguing salad dish.
Braised Pork Ribs (RM39.90) is a carnivore's feasting paradise. The ribs are braised with a unique blend of herbs and spices, then glazed with sweet-tangy barbecue sauce to give an irresistible appeal. Each rib is scrumptious down to the bone. Due to its intense flavors, I believe this pork dish goes well with alcoholic beverages.
Braised Pork Ribs is served with garden salad and truffle fries on the side. Cooking with truffle oil allows potato to attain unique fungal aroma that regular cooking oil cannot provide.
Stewed Lamb Leg (RM27.90) is also pleasing to my palate. This dish consists of a piece of deboned lamb leg, stewed with vegetables and spicy stock until the lamb becomes extremely tender. Mashed potato and vegetable salad are included in this meat-centric dish.
The next dish is Char Siew BBQ Duck Breast (RM27.90), where the marinating and roasting of duck is done in-house. Duck meat is coated with sweet sauce, then barbecued thoroughly such that the surface gains an attractive layer of glaze. Two types of sauces are used: barbecue sauce and mustard sauce. This dish is accompanied by mashed potato and garden salad.
One of my favorites this evening is the Homemade Beef Burger (RM21.90). The 180-gram patty is made from genuine Australian beef, which is ground and seasoned in the kitchen. The ground beef remains juicy yet not oily, making it heavenly to my palate. Other items in the burger are bacon, caramelized onion, cheese slice, egg, iceberg lettuce and two halves of a sesame bun. There are also truffle fries on the side.
Moving on to pasta, Roasted Pork Belly & Chorizo Aglio Olio Spaghetti (RM25.90) a nicely-pieced dish. Derived from the swine are two delicacies: roasted pork belly and chorizo. Spaghetti is prepared al dente, which sets up the tone for this olive oil-infused dish. Grated parmesan cheese also serves to provide creamy finish to the otherwise dry pasta.
The roasted pork belly has a succulent sense of crispiness especially while it is still warm. Meanwhile, chorizo is a type of pork sausage which is salty on its own but plays a vital role in the overall appraisal.
It is nice to know that Muse Dining Bar has a separate menu that is dedicated to children. From this kids menu is the Jumbo Sausage (RM12.90), comprising of two halves of a supersized chicken sausage. The sausage is served over mashed potato and with salad in the side. I am surprised that junior managed to finish nearly the whole plate on his own!
Today's dessert of the day is Pancake & Peanut Butter Ice Cream (RM12.90). Besides ice cream, other toppings on the pancake include blueberries, strawberries and several types of edible flowers.
Muse Dining Bar brews coffee from Honduran medium roast beans from Lamis Café. The cup of Café Mocha (RM10.90) and the glass of Hazelnut Latte (RM10.90) both turn up to be reasonably satisfying.
Casual drinkers may want to go for something with lower alcohol content, such as Strongbow Apple Ciders Elderflower (RM16.90). Served chilled, the apple cider carries fruity sweetness with very mild sense of alcohol. There is an ongoing offer of 2 bottles for mere RM21.10.
Muse Dining Bar offers several types of draught beer from the tap. The restaurant also pours wine by the glass. The kitchen closes at 10:00pm but the bar remains open until 12:00am midnight. Although I am not an authority figure in the best drinking establishment in town, I must say that the food here has impressed me decisively.

Name: Muse Dining Bar By R. Emuang
Address: 1-1-2, Elit Avenue, Jalan Mayang Pasir 3, 11950 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-618-0255
Business hours: 11:00am-3:00pm, 6:00pm-10:00pm
Coordinates: 5.32241 N, 100.28301 E
Directions: Muse Dining Bar is located at the eastern side of Elit Avenue in Bayan Baru. Roadside and garage parking are available.


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

They say that third time's a charm, and charming indeed is my third visit to J-Garden. As experienced previously, J-Garden is known for innovative dishes that combine Japanese ingredients with Western culinary know-how. During my earlier visits, I encountered intriguing dishes such as carbonara with shimeji mushrooms and finger food with smoked duck.
The indoor dining section of J-Garden is spacious and well-lit. This makes this restaurant a suitable place for working people and families alike.
There is also an outdoor section with greenery and garden-style tables and chairs. Indeed, it would have been ironic if J-Garden did not have a garden!
In its continuous effort to delight customers, J-Garden is introducing new dishes from time to time. One such example is Salmon Cream Croquettes (サーモンクリームコロッケ, RM23.00), which come with rice and a bowl of miso soup (味噌汁). The croquettes are served with Japanese curry, whose aroma has noticeable improved using 4 types of spice from Japan.
Each piece of croquette is filled with a creamy mixture of salmon and seasoning. Although its surface is crispy, the overall texture of croquette is dominated by the creamy filling. The croquette is slightly sweet, blending well with curry as well as other ingredients like shimeji mushrooms, snow peas, broccoli, carrots and baby corn.
The next dish is Chicken Roulade (チキンルラード), whereby a slice of chicken breast is wrapped around a core of walnuts and onions. The appearance is similar to negimaki (ねぎ巻き) except that the latter uses beef and scallion. The chicken is reasonably tender while walnuts provide unmistakably delightful sense of crunchiness. I think this roulade can benefit from additional flavoring, perhaps with help of mint sauce or pesto sauce.
Taking advantage of the chef's expertise in Western culinary arts, this dish is plated elegantly through the use of batter crisp and a variety of colorful vegetables. Teriyaki sauce (照り焼きのたれ) is provided in a small pitcher on the side. Due to its lengthy preparation process, the Chicken Roulade is only available through advanced ordering.
J-Garden is also rolling out several types of fondue (フォンデュ) in conjunction with its new menu. There are 3 types of fondue (chocolate, cheese and Japanese curry), each comes with 4 compatible food items. There are 2 fondue sizes: small (for 1 to 3 persons) and standard (for 4 to 6 persons). Each caquelon (fondue pot) is kept warm by a burning candle underneath.
The Chocolate Fondue (チョコレートフォンデュ, RM38.00 for standard size, RM32.00 for small size) is my personal favorite. Made from 70% cocoa, the fondue packs a strong punch which should pacify most chocolate lovers. Fortunately for me, it is not too sweet either. The Chocolate Fondue comes with sata andagi, chocolate brownie, marshmallow and mixed fruit.
Sata andagi (サーターアンダーギー) is a popular pastry from Okinawa (沖縄). It is made from flour, eggs and sugar, but distinctively absent of butter. Eaten directly, sata andagi has mild sweetness and delightful crisp. I think the size of each piece should be reduced to avoid double-dipping.
Chocolate brownie is delectable too. Unlike sata andagi, brownie only requires brief dipping because it tends to flake off when making contact with chocolate sauce.
Reception to Cheese Fondue (チーズフォンデュ, RM42.00 for standard size, RM36.00 for small size) is a matter of extremes - either you like it or you don't. In my humble opinion, I prefer the parmesan cheese sauce to be thicker and has small amount of sweetness. This fondue comes with pork meatballs, toasts, potato wedges and mixed vegetables.
Pork meatballs are tasty on their own, but they are too salty after dipping in cheese sauce. For the purpose of fondue, I think the meatballs can work with little or no salt.
Also included are toasted bread with grated cheese; the latter was initially mistaken as grated coconut kernel. As the toasts absorb cheese sauce very quickly, I think a light dip should suffice.
As for the Japanese Curry Fondue (カレーフォンデュ, RM38.00 for standard size, RM32.00 for small size), the curry recipe is similar to the one used for Salmon Cream Croquette. However, the 4 spices are blended in a different composition. As the curry has a salty edge on its own, this version of fondue is best enjoyed with beer. The 4 food items that come with Japanese Curry Fondue are fish fillets, chicken fillets, potato wedges and toasts.
Fish fillets are delectable on their own, but I feel that they become too salty when coated in curry.
The same can be said for chicken fillets. I think it works better if the fillets were lighter in seasoning.
J-Garden is planning to introduce these new food items gradually, so the available dates of these new dishes are uncertain at time of writing. It is advisable to contact the restaurant for reservations as some dishes need to be prepared in advance.

Name: J-Garden
Address: 64-G, Persiaran Bayan Indah, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-637-1139
Business hours: 12:00pm-3:00pm, 6:30pm-9:30pm, closed on Mondays
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.