Spicy Lemak

Automall has a substantial number of restaurants. One of them is Spicy Lemak (辣死你妈). Occupying the former location of Le Toma Cuisine, Spicy Lemak is sandwiched between Penang Street (老街) and Sae Ma Eul BBQ. Its Chinese name is a double entendre. Not only is it a transliteration of the Malay phrase "nasi lemak", the name also hints that the food here is very spicy.
Spicy Lemak uses three types of rice: red, yellow and blue. The colors come from pitaya (dragon fruit), turmeric and butterfly-pea flower respectively. Overall, the rice is tasteless and lacks aroma. If any coconut milk is used, its amount must be minimal.
The Chicken Whole Leg (RM14.90) also comes with a piece of lorbak (卤肉), hard-boiled egg, fried anchovies, roasted peanuts, sliced cucumber, chopped onions and fried cabbage. The dish is served on a piece of banana leaf. I think the fried chicken is way too dry. The saving grace is sambal (chili paste), which is moderately spicy and has mild sweetness.
Dragon Fruit (RM5.90) is a tangy drink with pitaya flavor. There are also several large pieces of longan. A lemongrass stalk serves as the stirrer. Nothing to shout about, really.

Address: 29D-3-8A, Automall Penang, Persiaran Karpal Singh, 11600 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 016-476-6426
Business hours: 11:00am-10:00pm, closed on Mondays

Coffee Bean

Special thanks to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for extending this food review invitation.

Founded in 1963 in Los Angeles, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is an international chain that specializes in coffee and tea. In Penang, there are around 10 outlets, the latest of which is located at Automall. The store is sandwiched between Macau Street and Droptop on the Ground Floor.
Besides coffee and tea, Coffee Bean also serves proper meals such as breakfast, pasta and pastry. Like most outlets, this store also sells store merchandise such as coffee beans, tea leaves, tumblers, coffee capsules and capsule machines.
Just recently, Coffee Bean has introduced Nitro Cold Brew in selected outlets in Penang. Unlike espresso, cold brewed coffee is prepared by steeping ground coffee in cold water. After steeping for 20 hours, the coffee is filtered and infused with pressurized nitrogen gas. Dispensed from a tap, the fizzy Nitro Cold Brew has a creamy head similar to draft beer.
Nitro Cold Brew is prepared from a blend of Bali Blue Moon and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee beans. The former contains a hint of spice notes, while the latter carries more earthy flavors. Because the temperature of water affects the solubility of each chemical, cold brewing leaches different composition of compounds from coffee beans. Most notably, cold brewed coffee has lower caffeine, oils and fatty acids than typical espresso. This fact is a plus for casual coffee drinkers because the former can be enjoyed slowly over an extended period of time.
There are three ways to appreciate Coffee Bean's Nitro Cold Brew. The titular Nitro Cold Brew (RM13.50) is dispensed fresh from the tap, ideal for customers who are wary of their caloric intake - coffee without milk or sugar contains virtually zero calories. Meanwhile, Nitro Cold Brew Latte (RM14.50) has fresh milk added to give a creamy consistency. Last but not least, Mint Nitro Latte (RM15.50) also contains cool peppermint to lend a refreshing breath.
At present, Nitro Cold Brew is only offered in selected outlets in Penang: G Hotel, Queensbay Mall, e-Gate, Automall, Gleneagles Penang and Auto-City. More outlets will be covered as this drink gains more momentum from its customers.

Name: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Address: 29C-1-7, Automall Penang, Persiaran Karpal Singh, 11600 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-609-1647
Business hours: 8:00am-12:00am (Sunday-Thursday), 8:00am-1:00am (Friday-Saturday)
Website: https://www.coffeebean.com.my
Coordinates: 5.39810 N, 100.32967 E
Directions: From Lebuhraya Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu, take the Sungai Pinang exit and head east. Drive to the end of the road, then turn left. Automall is within a short distance on the left, while The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is one of the shops on the ground floor. Street parking and indoor mall parking are available.

3G Noodle House

Special thanks to 3G Noodle House for extending this food review invitation.

Permatang Tinggi is a small village between Bukit Minyak and Simpang Ampat. The most prominent landmark in Permatang Tinggi is the Church Of The Holy Name Of Mary, which is located along the main road.
3G Noodle House (三代面馆) is a local eatery in the village. The family business has been operating since 1970 but did not have a formal name. Just recently, the shop has been inherited by the third generation and was rebranded to keep up with the times. What has not changed is the food recipe, which remains a family secret to this date.
3G Noodle House is renowned for its Hokkien Mee (福建面, RM4.50). Unlike most recipes, the broth here is made from anchovies (江鱼仔) as opposed to pork. Another vital element in this dish is the signature chili paste. Its moderate spiciness serves to heighten the soup's savory flavors.
As for the choice of noodles, Hokkien Mee is best enjoyed with a mixture of lye water noodle (碱面) and rice vermicelli (米粉). Other ingredients in the broth are sliced pork, fishcakes, hard-boiled egg and fried shallots.
Koay Teow Soup (粿条汤, RM4.50) is boiled from pork bones for several hours, resulting in a soup with rich flavors. I am also quite satisfied with the succulent minced pork. In addition, the bowl also contains fish balls, fishcakes and chopped scallions.
Flat rice noodle (粿条) is used for Koay Teow Soup. To get maximum springiness, the noodle must be blanched beforehand and served with boiling-hot soup.
The Curry Mee (咖哩面, RM4.50) here is substantially different from Penang White Curry Mee that is prevalent in the state. For one, no meat stock is used for the soup itself. Another important distinction is that the homemade chili paste only serves to accentuate the soup's taste, but not to supplant the soup entirely.
Yardlong beans in the Curry Mee are pre-fried with curry, making them softer and avoiding "rawness" of the vegetable. The curried chicken and tofu puff (豆腐卜) are also unique to this shop. Note that 3G Noodle House serves Curry Mee on Sundays only.
Red Dates Tea (红枣茶, RM2.00) is best enjoyed hot. The herbal tea's gentle sweetness helps to reset the palate between different dishes. Alternatively, Bentong Ginger Tea (文冬姜, RM2.00) is also available.
Moving on to desserts, the proprietor's aunt prepares Western pastries such as Mille Crêpe (千层蛋糕, RM10.80). The homemade cake contains over 20 layers of pandan-flavored pastry interleaved with whipped cream. The type of dessert varies from day to day. Sometimes, Cheesecake is prepared instead.
3G Noodle House is very popular among locals as evidenced by the endless flow of customers. The shop is also seeing an increasing number of outsiders recently. On busier days, food may be sold out earlier than expected. Therefore, it is best to arrive before noon to avoid disappointment.
Name: 3G Noodle House (三代面馆)
Address: 992, Jalan Pasar, Permatang Tinggi, 14100 Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 012-575-9168
Business hours: 8:00am-3:00pm, closed on Thursdays
Website: Click here
Coordinates: 5.29928 N, 100.47987 E
Directions: Driving along Jalan Permatang Tinggi from Bukit Minyak, turn left after a Chinese school, SJK (C) Permatang Tinggi, on the left. There is a police station on the right. 3G Noodle House is located at the second crossroad ahead. Most customers park their cars at nearby roads.

Haidilao Hot Pot

Haidilao Hot Pot (海底捞火锅) is a popular chain of Sichuan hot pot (四川麻辣火锅) restaurants in China. Its overseas presence is represented by several outlets in Singapore. Today, we decided to visit the one in VivoCity, the largest shopping mall in the island republic.
Haidilao is best known for its outstanding hospitality. Every customer is treated like a VIP. While waiting for tables, customers are served popcorn, drinks and ice cream. Ladies are given complimentary manicure to a point that some of them are even reluctant to be seated. Once at the dining table, customers are provided aprons, warm towels, screen wipes and protective covers for mobile phone.
Each dining table has a built-in steamboat stove. There is a tablet computer at every table where diners can place their orders electronically. However for first-time customers, it is advisable to ask the server for recommendations. The waiting staff is very friendly and patient, making it a breeze to order food.
Haidilao's signature soup is Sichuan Spicy Soup (麻辣汤). We did not try this because we feared that it will be too spicy. Instead, we went for Twin Soup Base (SGD23.00). This allows us to choose any 2 types of soup. Actually, customers can order 4 types of soup for only SGD1.00 extra; we should have gone for this instead.
The 2 soups that we selected are Chicken Soup (鸡汤) and Tomato Soup (番茄汤). The Chicken Soup contains black chicken, shiitake mushrooms (香菇), tofu and wolfberries (枸杞). The rich soup is so satisfying that we could not refrain from finishing the entire pot at once. Fortunately at Haidilao, soup refills are free of charge. Meanwhile, the Tomato Soup contains fresh tomatoes and is perfect for diners who have an affinity for sweet and tangy flavors.
The stretching of Handmade Noodles (捞派捞面, SGD4.00 per serving) is probably the most eye-catching aspects of Haidilao. While the noodle can be easily prepared in the kitchen, Haidilao deliberate sends the noodle chef to do an elaborate tableside presentation. According to the staff, it takes about a month of practice in order to pull this off flawlessly.
The egg noodle goes well with any soup. Its texture is somewhat similar to pan mee (板面) or Mee Hoon Kueh (面粉粿). However, I feel that the taste is not really impressive when compared to other food items here. Nevertheless, the performance aspect of noodle is still worthwhile for first-time customers.
Most food items at Haidilao are available in half or full portions. Half portions are usually sufficient for 2 persons. We started the meal with Fried Chicken With Cumin (孜然鸡丁, SGD6.00 for half portion). Seasoned with a spicy marinade based on cumin, the chicken is best enjoyed with a non-spicy soup.
An order of Deboned Duck Webs (去骨鸭掌, SGD7.00 for half portion) has roughly 6 pairs of duck feet. This delicacy has a rubbery texture, so it is suitable if you fancy chicken feet or fish maw.
The Pork Belly (五花猪肉片, SGD7.50 for half portion) is mouth-watering indeed. These delectable slices of pork go well with any soup. Just dip them in boiling soup for a very brief duration as the slices are very thin.
Haidilao's Home-Made Tofu Pudding (自制豆花, SGD4.00 for half portion) is supposed to have a "toasty" aroma, but I am not able to perceive this. Overall, the tofu is not really that special; I have tasted better ones before.
Haidilao's menu includes several types of green vegetables. One such example is Crown Daisy (茼蒿, SGD3.50 for half portion). Vegetables are usually added towards the end of the meal to prevent the fragile leaves from disintegrating after prolonged heating.
For SGD4.00 per person, customers can help themselves at the seasoning buffet (自选小料). There are over a dozen types of seasoning ingredients such as chili sauce (特色辣椒酱), barbecue sauce (沙茶酱), fermented bean curd sauce (豆腐乳酱), beef cubes (牛肉末), pickled mustard (榨菜), coriander (香菜), crispy soy beans (酥黄豆) and crushed garlic (蒜泥).
The buffet counter provides mixing instructions for popular condiments like Haidilao Sauce (海底捞味碟), Seafood Sauce (海鲜味碟) and Sesame Sauce (芝麻酱味碟). Ask the server for help if needed. Besides seasoning ingredients, customers who opted for the seasoning buffet can also enjoy free flows of pumpkin porridge (南瓜粥), sweet desserts (糖水), jellies and fruits.
Overall, the food taste at Haidilao is fantastic. Both soups that we selected are tasty to the last drop. We are disappointed that we did not order the signature Sichuan Spicy Soup. Well, there will always be a next time.
Haidilao's table service is truly impeccable. The servers are exceptionally attentive. For instance, one server even offered us warm coats when she noticed that we felt chilly. Haidilao also allows customers to return any food item that is not consumed. Very few restaurants extend such courtesy to customers.
Haidilao is one of the most impressive steamboat restaurants that I have tasted to date. The combination of fantastic food, excellent service and VIP treatment makes our visit particularly memorable. While the price is pretty reasonable to an average Singaporean, the foreign exchange rate makes a meal here pretty hefty to Malaysians. I really hope to see Haidilao expanding to Malaysia soon.

Address: 1 Harbourfront Walk, VivoCity #03-09, Singapore 098585
Contact: +65-6250-7557
Business hours: 10:30am-6:00am

Lobby Lounge

Special thanks to Shangri-La Hotel Singapore for extending this food review invitation.

There are plenty of dining options at Shangri-La Hotel Singapore. The Lobby Lounge is one of the many restaurants in this 5-star hotel. Located at the Tower Wing's lobby, the eatery is separated from the hotel's reception by an infinity pool with "floating candles". Behind the bar is an imposing basalt wall that rises to the ceiling. Crevices on the rock's surface are covered with ferns and mosses, presenting the appearance of a warm tropical oasis.
The Lobby Lounge provides a comfortable setting for casual family dining. Although there are proper dining tables, most guests prefer low coffee tables with comfortable café chairs. In addition, there are also cozy couches next to the glass walls. A small library at the back is stocked with reading materials for guests to pass the time.
The food menu here leans towards local Singaporean heritage fare. There are 6 signature dishes to choose from, each of which is inspired by a popular stall in Singapore's hawker scene. The Local Semi-Buffet Lunch is highly recommended. This offer allows the guest to pick a signature dish and drink, plus unlimited access to the buffet.
For the signature dish, we were eyeing for the Chilli Crab & Mantou (辣椒螃蟹和馒头) but this delicacy is unfortunately not available today. Therefore, our first choice is Bak Chor Mee (肉脞面), a noodle dish of Teochew (潮州) origin. This dish is inspired by the recipe at Seng Kee Mushroom Minced Meat Noodle (胜记香菇肉脞面) at Serangoon Garden Market.
Bak Chor Mee is tossed in a dark sauce that is prepared from soy sauce, vinegar and pork lard. Minced pork, mushrooms and chopped scallion are added on top. However, it is the dried sole (鳎目鱼干) that does the heavy lifting to the overall taste.
Served with Bak Chor Mee is a bowl of fish maw soup (鱼肚汤). Stewed from pork bones, the soup is loaded with threadfin (马鲛鱼) fish maw, pork slices and eggs. The soup's taste is absolutely satisfying.

Another popular dish from the menu is Fish Bee Hoon (鲜鱼米粉汤). This crowd favorite is based on the original recipe at Ka-Soh Restaurant (家嫂). Boiling hamachi (鰤鱼) bones for several hours culminated in a rich soup of creamy consistency. However unlike most recipes in Malaysia, no evaporated milk is used to prepare this soup.
Thick rice noodle called "lai fun" (濑粉) is used here. We also enjoy the delectable slices of giant snakehead (巨型鳢鱼). The fish is tender and succulent, making every bite gratifying indeed. Just before serving, a dash of XO brandy is added to suppress the strong fishy smell.
Meanwhile, the buffet counters present a variety of Peranakan dishes. Also known as Nyonya, the Peranakan culture is the legacy of early Chinese migrants who settled down in Penang, Malacca and Singapore several centuries ago. Back then, these territories were under direct British control and were collectively known as the Straits Settlements.
Starting with appetizers, Pie Tee consists of crispy tart shells filled with shredded carrots and jicama (凉薯). Cooked shrimps, omelette, dark sauce, chili sauce and coriander are also added to enhance its flavor.
Popiah (薄饼) is a snack from Fujian (福建), a province in China from which the majority of ethnic Chinese in Singapore descended from. Wrapped in soft skin made from wheat flour, Popiah is typically filled with carrots, jicama, omelette, crushed peanuts, lettuce and fried shallots. Unlike Spring Roll, Popiah is never deep-fried.
Achar is a pickled vegetable dish that consists of julienned cucumbers and carrots in sweet-sour-spicy dressing. Crushed peanuts and sesame seeds are sprinkled on top to improve the salad's mouthfeel. Like other Nyonya dishes, Achar is served using porcelain tableware reminiscent of the pre-modern days of China.
Beef Rendang is a traditional Minangkabau delicacy that is usually reserved for festive occasions and wedding ceremonies. The spicy dish contains bite-size chunks of beef seasoned with galangal, turmeric, lemongrass and other spices. Beef is slow-braised for hours until most liquid has boiled away, resulting in a savory dish saturated with essences of coconut milk and spices.
Ayam Ponteh is a popular Nyonya dish which contains chunks of chicken and potato. The thick gravy is made from fermented soybean paste (豆酱) and gula melaka (palm sugar). Another poultry dish which deserves special mention is Duck With Salted Vegetable Soup.
Jellyfish With Sesame has similar taste and texture to its Japanese counterpart, chuka kurage (中華クラゲ). Meanwhile for Tofu Skin, yuba sheets are cut into long, thin strips that resemble noodles.
Next, Nyonya Assam Pedas Fish is cooked in spicy gravy. The gravy's fiery aroma comes from red chili peppers, while tamarind pulp is responsible for providing sourness. Cooked with battered fish fillets are assorted vegetables such as okra (lady's fingers), eggplant (brinjal), yardlong beans, shallots and tomato. Sambal Vegetables is the vegetarian equivalent of this dish.
The desserts section presents a number of traditional Nyonya kuih. These traditional snacks are supplied by HarriAnns, a local family business which specializes in Peranakan recipes. Kueh Sago Melaka is made from sago pearls and gula melaka, while Kueh Lavender is infused with genuine lavender extract. Other delectable choices are Ondeh Ondeh, Peanut Ang Ku Kueh, Kueh Salat, Kueh Lapis and Kueh Rainbow Lapis.
Cheng Teng (清汤) is a sweet syrup with scrumptious ingredients like white fungus (银耳) and longan (龙眼). The dessert is usually served warm. Meanwhile, Bubur Cha-Cha derives its creaminess from coconut milk. The warm, starchy soup also contains sweet potatoes, taro, black-eyed peas and sago pearls.
As for drinks, guests may opt for endless flow of Teh Tarik and Kopi C. Each drink is prepared by repeatedly "pulling" it between two cups. This process allows the drink to cool down and gives it a frothy top. Other drinks of the menu are Barley, Bandung, Chin Chow, Milo Dinosaur and Milo Over-The-Top.
The Local Semi-Buffet Lunch is available from 11:30am to 2:30pm on weekdays (SGD42.00), and from 11:30am to 4:00pm on weekends and public holidays (SGD48.00). As for entertainment, live music is performed here every evening except on Sundays. The current star is the lovely Tria Bascon, who will be delighting the audience with classic jazz songs until 12 May 2018.

Name: The Lobby Lounge
Address: 22 Orange Grove Road, Singapore 258350
Contact: +65-6213-4288
Business hours: 7:30am-1:00am
Website: http://www.shangri-la.com/singapore/shangrila/dining/bars-lounges/lobby-lounge
Coordinates: 1.31141 N, 103.82639 E
Directions: Shangri-La Hotel Singapore is located along Orange Grove Road. The Lobby Lounge is located at the lobby of the Tower Wing. Shangri-La Hotel provides complimentary parking for its guests.