Kesum Art Restaurant

Special thanks to Kesum Art Restaurant for extending this food review invitation.

Kesum Art Restaurant is located at the corner of Stewart Lane (Lorong Stewart) and Chulia Lane (Lorong Chulia). Surrounded by narrow alleys and heritage buildings, this restaurant doubles as an art gallery. Its name "kesum" refers to a tropical herb that is often used in Southeast Asian cooking. Kesum leaf is also known as laksa leaf because it is an essential ingredient of laksa.
The art gallery takes up the upper floor of this shop. On the walls are a number of oil paintings created by resident artists Rosli Jaafar and Shaparel Salleh. The displayed arts are for sale. On occasion, this art gallery also serves as the venue for art exhibitions and forums. Kesum Art Restaurant often participates in cultural events such as George Town Festival, during which some proceeds from art sales are donated to charities.
The dining section at the ground floor is decorated with more oil paintings. With a color scheme of black and purple, the restaurant presents a mystical charming ambience. As for the menu, Kesum Art Restaurant specializes in Johorean cuisine, which is currently a rarity here in Penang. The cooking recipes are based on the proprietor's home cooking from the southern state.
Today's meal commences with Chicken Satay and Beef Satay (RM9.00 for 6 skewers). Marinated with a blend of spices especially kunyit (turmeric), the meats are gently roasted over flame to retain their juiciness. Satay is nearly always eaten with spicy peanut sauce. Sliced cucumber and shallots are also present.
An alternative appetizer is Gado-Gado (RM9.00), a popular salad dish from Indonesia. "Gado" means "to mix" in Indonesian. The name reflects the fact that a variety of ingredients are mixed together to create Gado-Gado. Included here are tempeh (fermented soybeans), tofu, potatoes, kacang panjang (yardlong beans), kangkung (water spinach), quail eggs and keropok (crackers). Gado-Gado is served with another type of spicy peanut sauce, which has slightly different composition compared to the one used for satay.
Hailing from Java, Botok Botok (RM19.00) is a popular delicacy made from fish and kelapa parut (grated coconut kernel). Although the traditional recipe calls for ikan kembung (mackerel), this restaurant uses sea bass instead because the latter appeals better to the local palate. The fish is marinated with daun kesum (laksa leaf), daun selasih (basil leaf), daun cekur (galangal leaf), daun bebuas (premna mint leaf), daun kunyit (turmeric leaf) and daun limau purut (kaffir lime leaf). The fish is then blanketed in several layers of pucuk mengkudu (noni leaf), pucuk ubi (tapioca leaf) and pucuk kaduk (wild betel leaf).
Steamed in banana leaf, the seasoned fish is delightfully delicate and flavorful. On the side, a saucer of chili paste with limau kasturi (calamansi) provides sharp pungency. There is also a special blend of soy sauce infused with fiery sensation of cili padi (bird's eye chili). Botok Botok comes with a heap of steamed rice, crackers, cucumber and salted duck egg. A truly exquisite dish, I must say.
Another dish that strikes a chord with my palate is Lontong (RM15.00). Also originating in Indonesia, Lontong has become very popular in Johor and Singapore. This dish is named after its main ingredient: compressed rice cake. Although similar to nasi impit in appearance, the rice cake for Lontong is prepared in a different manner.
The milk-rich soup, called "soto", is infused with aromatic essence of turmeric. Other ingredients in this dish are glass noodle, tempeh, tofu, tofu skin, sengkuang (jicama), yardlong beans, carrots and quail eggs. A small serving of crackers is presented on the side. Lontong comes with two condiments: sambal tumis ikan bilis (fried anchovy sauce) and spicy peanut sauce.

Compared to laksa recipes from other states, Laksa Johor (RM15.00) is most peculiar in the sense that it uses spaghetti instead of rice noodle. This Western influence was inspired by the late Sultan Abu Bakar (Father of Modern Johor) during a tour in Europe.
Meanwhile, the spicy fish gravy has noticeably thicker consistency compared to Penang's asam laksa due to the presence of kerisik (coconut butter). Other essential ingredients for laksa are bean sprouts, cucumber, onions, mint leaves, calamansi and chili paste.

Shrimp lovers will be infatuated with the bowl of Mee Rebus Udang (RM19.00). The sweet-spicy gravy is made from shrimp broth. 4 pieces of fairly-large shrimps make the gravy richer than it already is.
Besides yellow noodle, this dish also contains bean sprouts, tomato, water spinach and hard-boiled egg. Fried shallots help to accentuate the dish's aroma and flavor. Green chili peppers and calamansi are provided as condiments.

Moving on to traditional Malay desserts, the creamy Pengat (RM4.00) is rich in coconut milk. Sweetened with gula melaka (palm sugar), Pengat can be served with either bananas or sweet potatoes; the former is used today. Pisang raja is a suitable cultivar because the fruit is soft and sweet. Also included in this sweet dessert are jelly-like sago pearls.
Pulut Hitam (RM4.00) is another sweet dessert which takes advantage of the creaminess of coconut milk. Loaded with black glutinous rice, this dessert is a great way to conclude a meal. Finally, a scoop of vanilla ice cream serves as icing on the cake.

The drinks menu covers many hot and cold drinks that Malaysians are very familiar with. Some of these drinks are Sirap Limau (RM4.00), Lemon Tea (RM4.50), Sirap Bandung (RM5.00) and Sirap Selasih (RM4.00). The last drink contains basil seeds that resemble frog eggs.
Savoring its home-cooked food, it is clear that Kesum Art Restaurant does not cut corners when it comes to food preparation. The restaurant's dishes provide a window into authentic Johorean cuisine. In lieu of à la carte orders, the restaurant also offers 3-course meals from RM23.00. Kesum Art Restaurant also caters private events and provides food delivery to nearby areas.

Name: Kesum Art Restaurant
Address: 57, Lorong Stewart, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-262-5757
Business hours: 11:30am-6:30pm, closed on Fridays
Coordinates: 5.41916 N, 100.33764 E
Directions: Kesum Art Restaurant is located at the corner of Stewart Lane (Lorong Stewart) and Chulia Lane (Lorong Chulia). There are some parking spaces along Chulia Lane and towards the end of Stewart Lane. For more parking, try the further end of Love Lane.

Tiffin Cottage

Special thanks to Tiffin Cottage Taste Of Home for extending this food review invitation.

Tiffin Cottage Taste Of Home is a small eatery next to Restoran Seafood MYS. The restaurant used to focus on Nyonya cuisine. But after some renovation work earlier this year, Tiffin Cottage has revised its menu to cover Western dishes and mini steamboat.
The dining section of this restaurant is relatively small, yet its homely ambience presents a cozy setting for casual dining. Operated daily by the proprietor and her family, Tiffin Cottage emphasizes on family-style cooking. Most dishes are prepared fresh in the kitchen and do not contain added MSG.
The merit of home-cooked food is reflected in how Creamy Mushroom Soup (RM10.00) is prepared: from actual mushrooms. Indeed, one can feel the chunky bits of mushroom in this appetizing soup. Chopped parsley is sprinkled on the soup for aesthetic appeal.
The Creamy Mushroom Soup comes with two slices of matcha-flavored garlic bread. Although garlic butter still takes precedence in the overall taste, I appreciate the novelty that this unique bread presents. Garlic bread is also available in the à la carte menu for RM7.00 per serving.
BBQ Chicken (RM16.00) is dressed in savory barbecue sauce, but I feel that the sauce overpowers the natural sweetness of chicken. As for texture, the deboned chicken thigh is tender and juicy to my satisfaction. Side dishes are crinkle-cut fries and salad with mayonnaise dressing.
Tiffin Cottage's menu also includes several rice dishes in line with the local palate. One of the more popular choices is Chicken Havenland (RM13.00): pan-fried chicken chop with Asian-style dressing. Loaded with strong taste of onions, garlic and bird's eye chili (cili padi), the gravy makes the chicken succulent indeed.
Taocheow Prawn (RM15.00) is another rice dish that resonates well with locals. The bowl of shrimps is flavored with salty gravy made from doubanjiang (豆瓣酱). Made from fermented bean paste, doubanjiang is typically used to season tofu and vegetables. But this is truly the first time that I encounter doubanjiang with shrimps.
Milk Tomyum (牛奶东炎, RM11.00) is easily one of my favorite dishes today. The creamy soup is prepared from milk as opposed to coconut milk. Although tom yum (ต้มยำ) is often too spicy for me, the presence of milk seems to tone down the soup's sharp taste. Besides instant noodle, the pot of Milk Tomyum also contains minced pork, crab sticks (蟹柳), fish balls, shiitake mushrooms (黑菇) and enoki mushrooms (金针菇).
Each of the main dishes comes with a free drink such as Iced Lemon Tea. Meanwhile, customers who prefer fizzy drinks can check out the Tiffin Soda series. Apple Passion (RM8.00) and Blue Lagoon Soda (RM8.00) are both made from soda pop but contain different types of fruit-flavored syrup.
Tiffin Cottage also serves homemade ice cream that is supplied by a home-based producer. A different set of flavors is featured each month. Ice cream is sold at RM7.90 for a single scoop and RM14.90 for two scoops.
I enjoy the Brown Rice flavor very much thanks to its unique aroma reminiscent of rice husk. Meanwhile, Charcoal Cheese ice cream is prepared from charcoal powder. Last but not least, Banana Walnut is popular among children due to the ice cream's pleasurable sweetness.
Tiffin Cottage has several sets of tiffin carriers on sale. With 3 or 4 bowls stacked on top one another, a tiffin carrier is a popular form of lunch box in Asia because it keeps different dishes in separate compartments during transportation.
Finally, Tiffin Cottage also accepts orders for homemade chilled cheesecakes and 3D jelly cakes. The cakes are not stocked upfront, so customers are advised to place their orders 2 days in advance.

Name: Tiffin Cottage Taste Of Home
Address: 6, Lorong Mesra Permai 4, Taman Mesra Permai, 13400 Butterworth, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 012-645-1512
Business hours: 12:00pm-3:00pm, 6:30pm-10:30pm, closed on Thursdays
Coordinates: 5.43050 N, 100.39325 E
Directions: Tiffin Cottage is located in Taman Mesra Permai, Butterworth. The restaurant is adjacent to Restoran Seafood MYS and faces Jalan Ong Yi How. Street parking is available in front of the restaurant.

Mr & Mrs Fruit

Special thanks to Mr & Mrs Fruit Natural's Candy for extending this food review invitation.

Mr & Mrs Fruit Natural's Candy is a fruit store at i-Avenue. The shop occupies the former location of Happy Meal and is sandwiched between 7-Eleven and Shen Food & Beverages (陞卤味专卖店).
Mr & Mrs Fruit supplies local and imported fruits at the retail level. Unlike most fruit stores, Mr & Mrs Fruit also specializes in bringing in exotic fruits that are not commonly stocked elsewhere. Some of these fruits are seasonal, so customers can expect to see different varieties every month.
Examples of fruits sold here are pineapples, mango, banana, papaya, watermelon, guava, plum and peach. More exotic fruits include kiwifruit (green, red and golden), pitaya (dragon fruit), avocado, persimmon, hami melon and sugar-apple.
Mr & Mrs Fruit also sells fresh palm dates from Egypt and China. Sweet in nature, these dates produce sappy sensation in the mouth. It is uncommon to see fresh palm dates in retail stores. Usually the dried version, called kurma in Malay, is sold instead.
Another attraction at Mr & Mrs Fruit are its blended juices and cold-pressed juices. Taken directly from the shelves, actual fruits are used to produce pure fruit juices.

One such example is Shingo pear (신고배), which is a special cultivar of Asian pear from Korea. Taking advantage of the fruit's honey-like sweetness, the drink does not contain any added sugar. Optionally, customers can also sprinkle some chia seeds onto the drink at no extra charge.
The best pomegranates are grown in India, and these are the most suitable ones for juicing. Unlike those from other regions, Indian pomegranates do not taste sour at all. The drink's intrinsic sweetness is soothing as it trickles down the throat. Preparing pomegranate juice is tedious because the seeds have to be plucked by hand. White membrane must be removed as its intense bitterness ruins the overall enjoyment.
Besides fresh fruits, Mr & Mrs Fruit also sells dried fruits, oats, quinoa, nuts and seeds. Employees of large companies like Intel and Motorola enjoy 5% discount on fresh fruits and juices. Despite being small in scale, Mr & Mrs Fruit is able to offer competitive pricing even when compared to large hypermarkets.

Name: Mr & Mrs Fruit Natural's Candy
Address: 1-1-42, Medan Kampung Relau 1, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 017-461-5556
Business hours: 8:00am-7:00pm (Monday-Friday), 9:00am-6:00pm (Saturday), closed on Sundays
Coordinates: 5.33315 N, 100.29329 E
Directions: Mr & Mrs Fruit is located at i-Avenue. The shop is sandwiched between 7-Eleven and Shen Food & Beverages (陞卤味专卖店). Street parking is available in front of the shop.


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

Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul is a 4-star business hotel along Jalan Bukit Gambir. This 423-room hotel takes advantage of its close proximity to the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone (FIZ). On weekends, the hotel also enjoys a fair share of casual vacationers.
Arriving guests are greeted by Vistana's spacious lobby with marble flooring. Facing the reception counters are comfortable sofa chairs where early arrival guests can rest while waiting to be checked in. Vistana's official check-in and check-out times are 3:00pm and 12:00pm respectively.
Level 2 is where most of the hotel's amenities are located. A modest-size swimming pool allows guests to wade in its refreshing water - not a bad idea in the morning and the evening. Guests who wish to keep their feet dry can relax on sunloungers next to the pool. There are no lifeguards on duty, so for safety reasons, the pool is closed after 7:00pm.
Vistana's fitness center is located adjacent to the swimming pool. Open around the clock, the gym is surprisingly spacious. There are roughly a dozen pieces of exercise equipment including treadmills in view of the pool. Drinking water and clean towels are provided for guests' convenience.
Vistana does not provide in-room dining service. Instead, guests are welcomed to take advantage of the 24-hour coffee bar at the lobby area. Known as Barista, this eatery offers quick bites such as instant noodles, cookies, pies, sandwiches, pastries and snacks. The drinks menu features a reasonable selection of espresso coffee, tea, juice, smoothie, soda, beer and wine.
Hub 247 is a small business center and communications hub next to Barista. Equipped with two computer terminals (PC and Apple) and a printer, Hub 247 is handy for business travelers who need to get important work done. Guests can also take advantage of this facility to print their boarding passes or check the local weather forecast. By the way, Wi-Fi connection is available throughout the entire hotel.
Vistana's main block, the Hotel Wing, has 19 floors in total. The most common room category is the Executive Deluxe. This standard hotel room comes with either a single king-size bed or two single beds. Meanwhile, Club Deluxe and Club Suite are tailored to guests who appreciate a premium degree of comfort. Club Level guests also enjoy exclusive access to the Executive Lounge.
The Club Suite has the living area and sleeping quarters in separate rooms. There are two bathrooms in the unit - not something that you normally encounter. The living room is furnished with a television, sofa chairs, coffee table, small dining table and coffee counter. Located below the television, the minibar is stocked with carbonated drinks - complimentary for Club Level guests.
In the bedroom, a king-size bed faces the second television set. There are around 20 television channels, covering both local and foreign ones - some with 24-hour programming. The bedroom also leads to a dressing table and a large wardrobe. Inside the wardrobe is an electronic safe for guests to store their valuables.
As for the bathroom, the Club Suite is one of the few units to feature a bathtub. Bath salts are provided to guests who desire to be pampered. Alternatively, there is a segregated shower stall with pressurized heated water. Also included are complimentary toiletries and bathroom essentials from Mangosteen Basics.
Club Level guests enjoy exclusive access to the Executive Lounge. Furnished with comfortable seats, the lounge presents a tranquil ambience for guests to relax and mingle. The Executive Lounge is open from 8:00am to 10:00pm. Throughout the day, Club Level guests can help themselves to espresso coffee, English tea, cookies and fruits.
Evening drinks are served at the Executive Lounge between 5:30pm and 7:30pm. The food counter presents a handful of tapas and pastries that the kitchen has specially prepared for its privileged guests.
Guests who fancy wine can get a glass or two to celebrate the evening. This evening, the hotel has prepared red wine and white wine from Chile. Should guests prefer beer, there is also Carlsberg Draught in the ice tub.
Vistana's hotel rooms are catered for 2 guests each. For larger families, the Suite Wing offers Two Bedroom Suite and Three Bedroom Suite for 4 and 6 guests respectively. Each unit includes a common living area for the family to get together. There is also a small balcony for guests to catch a mesmerizing view at night.
Each hotel room includes breakfast for 2 persons (4 or 6 in the case of suites). Breakfast is served from 6:30am to 10:30am on the Ground Floor. This halal-certified coffeehouse is simply called Cafe. The restaurant is usually closed for other parts of the day unless there are special events.
The most popular section of the buffet line is the action counter. Here, egg dishes such as fried egg, scrambled egg and omelette are prepared. It is advisable to inform the chef if you need have special dietary restrictions like onions or butter.
Meanwhile for English breakfast, the buffet includes familiar comfort foods such as baked beans, sausages and baked tomatoes. Mashed potato, prawn fritters and chicken nuggets are also available on certain days. As for something more local, try some spring rolls, samosa and pandan chicken.
White bread and wholemeal bread are sliced and presented in a basket. There is an electric toaster should guests prefer their bread to be browned. The bread spreads here include butter, jam, orange marmalade, peanut butter and kaya (coconut jam).
French toast is prepared from bread slices that are soaked with beaten eggs, and then fried with butter. Older bread is usually used because it is firmer and does not fall apart so easily.
Moving on to the pastry section, the kitchen has prepared sweet treats such as Danish pastries, croissants, muffins, chiffon cake and marble butter cake. In addition, the counter also presents several types of Malay kuih.
Breakfast cereals are particularly appealing to children. There are three types this morning: Corn Flakes, Koko Krunch and Honey Stars. Fresh milk is provided. Other dairy products are plain yogurt and strawberry yogurt.
Roti canai has become one of Malaysia's favorite breakfast dishes. The dough is stretched beforehand and cooked on a griddle. Once cooked, the flatbread attains buttery fragrance that strikes a chord with most Malaysians. Roti canai can be eaten plain or with dhal (lentil curry).
Next, rice porridge is served with several condiments such as omelette, tofu, boiled peanuts and preserved vegetable. Scallion and soy sauce are provided too.
For something heavier, chicken rice is a sensible choice. The roasted chicken has browned skin which is a delicacy to those who enjoy poultry. Chicken rice is cooked with chicken stock, making the rice quite tasty in its own right. Sweet soy sauce and chili sauce are condiments that go well with this dish.
The breakfast also covers other crowd favorites like nasi lemak (Malay fragrant rice), fried noodle, dim sum (点心), pasta, salad and fruits. As for drinks, there are black coffee, tea and two types of fruit juice.
Vistana's pillarless Grand Ballroom is sufficiently large to seat 500 people in a banquet setting. This makes Vistana a popular choice for corporate functions and wedding dinners. Tapping into the bridal market, Vistana has several wedding packages that start from RM800.00++ per table.
For smaller events, Vistana has smaller conference rooms to fit seminars and conferences of any size. Priced at RM85.00++ per person per day, a full-day event covers 2 coffee breaks and lunch at the Cafe. Unlike most hotels, Vistana has an overflow parking area to accommodate an increased surge of visitors.
In-house guests enjoy complimentary parking at the basement levels, while event attendees are charged RM3.00 per entry. There are also additional parking spaces along the perimeter of the hotel. For guests who do not have personal transportation, the hotel provides free shuttle services to Queensbay Mall, Bayan Lepas and Seberang Perai.
Hotel rooms can be booked via Vistana's website or through its 24-hour WhatsApp hotline (018-688-0010). Besides this property, Vistana has two more sister hotels in Kuala Lumpur and Kuantan.

Name: Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul
Address: 213, Jalan Bukit Gambir, 11950 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-646-8000
Business hours: 24 hours
Coordinates: 5.33623 N, 100.29152 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. Parking is complimentary for hotel guests.