17 Kelawei

Special thanks to 17 Kelawei for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

17 Kelawei Fusion Cuisine occupies a two-storey heritage building on Kelawai Road (Jalan Kelawai). This restaurant is located across the road from Evergreen Laurel Hotel. The compound around the stand-alone building serves as parking space for customers. There is also a vegetable garden where several herbs are grown for kitchen use.
17 Kelawei is managed by the same team as D' Fat Mona Lisa Café at Jalan Free School. The décor of 17 Kelawei pays tribute to famed English comedian Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977). A comical statue of him stands at the restaurant's entrance. Placed at each table is a miniature figurine of Charlie with several of his famous quotes.
The ambience of 17 Kelawei has elements of British culture. Apart from proper dining setting, there are also several cozy sofas and a classy coffee table next to the mock fireplace. The latter is a nice place to be seated for afternoon tea.
Interestingly, there is a terrarium in the dining hall. A terrarium is a glass enclosure which contains soil and plants - think of it as a botanical equivalent of an aquarium. Apart from an LED lamp which supplies artificial sunlight, the terrarium is pretty much self-sustaining. The plants only require watering once a month to replenish lost moisture and nutrients.
The upper floor of 17 Kelawei provides extra dining space for special events such as the upcoming Valentine's Day. There is also a VIP room directly above the foyer.
Although 17 Kelawei's food menu revolves around fusion cuisine, there is also a fair range of Western fare. A recommended dish in this category is Pork Ribs (RM43.90). Served alongside the 4-rib steak is an assortment of grilled vegetables - sweet potato, cherry tomato, peas and pumpkin.
The ribs are prepared such that the flesh near the bones remains juicy, making the pork delectable bite after bite. The outer surface carries a lovely hint of smoky aroma. Smoky barbecue sauce on the side complements well with the slab of ribs.
The Seafood Combo (RM90.00) is meant for 2 or 3 persons. This large platter includes 3 types of seafood with different seasoning. Smoked BBQ sauce and lemon butter sauce are presented in separate bowls.
The grilled shrimps are extremely juicy thanks to their exceptional freshness. They are cooked with bell peppers, ginger and black pepper sauce.
Meanwhile, barramundi takes advantage of lemon butter dressing. I also like the pleasant texture of this fish.
As for salmon, chunks of fish are cooked in sweet and sour sauce, and then presented in an edible cup made from rice flour. Basil and sesame seeds serve to enhance aromatic appeal.
As for something more localized, it is recommended that you go for the Penang Famous (RM18.90). This is 17 Kelawei's very own char koay teow (炒粿条).
For this noodle dish, the restaurant spares no expense in using premium ingredients - shrimps, scallops, Chinese sausage (腊肠), pork lard (猪油渣), crab stick (蟹柳) and eggs. All elements are brought together through excellent "fiery aroma" (镬气).

In response to favorable response, 17 Kelawei is also introducing Nyonya (Peranakan) cuisine to its regular menu. The menu specializes in genuine Nyonya dishes as opposed to modern fusion. Customers can select any 3 (RM50.00) or 5 (RM88.00) dishes from the 9 available choices. Each additional dish is priced at RM20.00. This Nyonya menu is available for lunch (12:00pm-3:00pm) and dinner (6:00pm-9:00pm) on weekends, and only dinner on weekdays.
Bang Khuang Char (芒光炒), also known as Jiew Hu Char (鱿鱼炒), is a dish of shredded jicama (芒光) with thin slices of dried cuttlefish. The sweet-savory mixture is typically wrapped in lettuce leaves before being eaten.
Loh Bak (卤肉) is often eaten as a snack or as part of a full meal. To prepare Loh Bak, sliced pork is seasoned with five-spice powder (五香粉), rolled in tofu skin, and then deep-fried to a light crisp. Each order of Loh Bak comes with three pieces.
Gulai Tumis (娘惹酸辣鱼) is a curry featuring barramundi (siakap) and okra (lady's fingers). The curry's sourness comes from tamarind (asam) juice. Ginger flower (姜花) and mint are used to enhance aroma. Among other herbs, 17 Kelawei maintains a fresh supply of mint in its garden.
As for poultry, Serai Chicken (娘惹式香茅鸡) is usually eaten with rice as the rich flavors of gravy may be overpowering if consumed directly. The gravy is infused with coconut milk and a variety of spices like lemongrass and tamarind.
Using sambal (chili paste), Prawn Petai (叁巴臭豆虾) is yet another classic Nyonya dish. Once again, the freshness of shrimps is the key to its appeal. People who love petai (stink beans) will also appreciate the bean's unique smell and taste.
As for Black Soya Pork Fillet (豆油肉), slices of pork are braised in honey-sweet dark soy sauce. This dish is best enjoyed when hot to appreciate the pork's juiciness.
It is difficult to introduce Nyonya cuisine without mentioning Inchi Kabin (娘惹胭脂鸡). Pieces of chicken are coated in coconut milk and spices, before being fried to golden perfection. The chicken is irresistible thanks to lovely seasoning. As for dipping sauce, the saucer of cili padi (bird's eye chili) packs a respectable punch of pungency.
For Dry Asam Prawn (亚参虾), juicy shrimps are pan-fried with thick tamarind sauce and dark soy sauce. Once again, the shrimps are extremely fresh. This dish is satisfying indeed.
Rempah Fish (叁巴鱼) features several large mackerel (ikan kembung) whose flesh is firmer and more sizable than their lesser cousins. The fish is served with sambal and deep-fried in hot oil.
Complementary side dishes include acar timun (picked cucumber) and kerabu (unripe mango salad). As for condiments, homemade sambal goes well with many dishes especially fried ones.
The Nyonya meal includes tri-color rice. Blue, yellow and green pigments are derived from butterfly-pea flower, turmeric (kunyit) and pandan respectively. Rice is cooked with coconut water as opposed to coconut milk. As a result, the rice is not so surfeiting while still having the distinctive aroma of coconut.
As for drinks, I recommend the hot version of Jasmine Lemongrass (RM12.90) because it helps to cleanse the palate between flavorful Nyonya dishes. The warming sensation that this drink produces at the chest is really soothing.
Customers who visit 17 Kelawei between 3:00pm and 6:00pm can also indulge in the Charlie's Afternoon Tea (RM88.00). Instead of a tiered stand, food is served in a custom-made cabinet. Each order of Charlie's Afternoon Tea is meant for 2 persons and includes a pot of tea.
Main highlights of Charlie's Afternoon Tea are marble cheesecake, Swiss rolls, chicken pies and apple crumble. Tartlets use shortcrust pastry and contain fillings like apple, smoked duck and tuna. Ham and apple mayonnaise sandwiches are also included. As for scones, 17 Kelawei provides butter, apple or pineapple jam and cream. Most of these items are made fresh in the kitchen.
The blend of tea this afternoon is Fruit Basket by The Tea Depot. Examples of other tea blends are English Breakfast, Earl Grey and Chamomile.
Meanwhile for coffee, 17 Kelawei uses medium-dark roast which is similar to that used at D' Fat Mona Lisa. 17 Kelawei is the first café in Penang to introduce the Belgian Coffee, a novel way of brewing coffee. An order of Belgian Coffee (RM38.90) includes marble cheesecake and tuna crackers on the side.
Belgian Coffee is a special type of vacuum coffee maker in which two containers are affixed to a lever. The containers are also interconnected by a tube. Water is boiled in the metal container, in which hot steam is fed into the glass container. Ground coffee in the glass container is brewed by incoming steam.
As the glass container becomes heavier, it tilts the level to inhibit further heating of the metal container. This produces partial vacuum in the metal container, causing brewed coffee to be siphoned back. A tap near the base of the metal container dispenses coffee. To produce bolder flavor, it is recommended to repeat the brewing process once.
Overall, the food at 17 Kelawei is generally favorable. The kitchen spares no expense in using premium ingredients, including homegrown spices like rosemary and mint. The upscale ambience of the restaurant is also another reason to dine here.

Name: 17 Kelawei Fusion Cuisine
Address: 17, Jalan Kelawai, 10250 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-226-2005
Business hours: 8:00am-10:30pm, closed on Tuesdays
Website: http://www.17kelawei.com
Coordinates: 5.42976 N, 100.31780 E
Directions: 17 Kelawei is located on the left side of the one-way Jalan Kelawai. It is on the opposite side of the road from Evergreen Laurel Hotel. There are parking spaces within the restaurant's compound.