Areca Cafe

Special thanks to Areca Hotel Penang for extending this food review invitation.

Areca Cafe is the sole eatery in Areca Hotel Penang. It is located on the ground floor, towards the wing closer to Burmah Road (Jalan Burma). Besides catering breakfast for hotel guests, the restaurant is also open to walk-in customers.
Areca Cafe features an open kitchen to give diners an assurance that food is prepared from scratch. The menu is crafted by a Swiss-trained chef who specializes in European cuisine. However, Areca Cafe also incorporates many elements of local flavors.
The main dining section of the restaurant has air conditioning. Behind a row of candlelit tables are displays of potteries and Japanese ornaments. Many of these items are the owner's personal collection. As for customers who prefer al fresco dining, there is an outdoor section where the dining tables are made from old sewing machines.
To keep up with the evolving dining trend, Areca Cafe has recently revamped its food menus. There are separate menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our visit today is to review the dinner menu. Dinner is served from 6:00pm to 11:00pm. Last order is at 10:30pm.
The Mixed Green Salad (RM15.00) consists of fresh vegetables and tofu served with roasted sesame dressing. For something with stronger taste, go for Mixed Green Salad With Mushroom (RM21.00). The upgraded salad also comes with smoked duck, onsen tamago (温泉玉子), truffle oil and sweet soy sauce.
Green Pea Soup (RM16.00) is infused with coconut cream, lemongrass and kaffir lime juice. Thanks to its rich taste, the soup is fairly satisfying. The bowl of soup is accompanied by two slices of toasted bread.
Homemade Ravioli With Ricotta (RM35.00) comprises of three pieces of pasta filled with ricotta cheese. The dumplings are topped with delectable slices of smoked duck breast. Arugula (rocket salad) and tomatoes serve as garnishes.
There are two possible sauces for raviolo (plural for "ravioli"). The standard version is made from beef jus and grated horseradish. Meanwhile, the beef-free variant uses Hollandaise sauce instead. Ironically, I find the latter to be more appealing.

As for red meat, Grilled Grain-Fed Australian Beef Strip Loin (RM75.00) is the perfect choice. Flavored with fermented bean paste (豆酱), the beef au jus is cooked to perfection. In particular, I love the beef's scrumptious juiciness. Assorted vegetables and mashed potatoes are served on the side.
Areca Cafe has a modest collection of wines. Red meat usually goes well with red wine. This is where the glass of Cabernet Sauvignon (RM22.00 per glass) comes in. Red wine is usually consumed at room temperature.
Another main dish to consider is the Grilled Salmon Fillet (RM39.00). We are intrigued by how the fillet is prepared. The salmon's red flesh remains fairly tender but does not suffer from "rawness" of sashimi (刺身). In addition, the salmon's crispy skin is scrumptious too.
The fish is flavored with spiced coconut sauce. Accompanying the salmon fillet are several medium-size tiger prawns. I think the presentation of this dish can be improved by using larger shrimps.

In most cases, seafood is best paired with white wine. Shown here is a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc (RM22.00 per glass) from Australia.
Moving on to desserts, Lemon Tart (RM16.00) provides a hint of citrus tanginess amid the crumbly pastry crust. The accompanying chocolate ice cream melts rather quickly, so it is best to consume the ice cream first. Also included is a small serving of fruit relish.
Homemade Crème Caramel (RM16.00) is a sweet custard with soft caramel on top. I love the creamy mouthfeel that the dessert presents in the mouth. The crème caramel is topped with fresh fruits like blueberries, pineapples, watermelon, honeydew and lychee. A sprig of mint contributes refreshing aroma.
Last but not least, the Chocolate Mousse (RM18.00) is perfect for cocoa lovers such as yours truly. The rich mousse is presented over a piece of hazelnut sponge cake. Lychee, blueberries and salted caramel sauce on the side conclude this evening's dinner on a sweet note.
Besides the à la carte menu, Areca Cafe also offers 2-course set lunch and set dinner for RM25.00 and RM60.00 net respectively. For the set dinner, the main dish is either steak or pasta. Customers can choose between soup and salad. According to the hotel manager, there are plans to expand Areca Cafe to include a lounge.
Name: Areca Cafe
Address: 27, Jalan Khoo Sian Ewe, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-261-0050
Business hours: 8:00am-3:00pm (Sunday-Monday), 8:00am-3:00pm, 6:00pm-10:00pm (Tuesday-Saturday)
Website: http://www.arecahotelpenang.com/caf%C3%A9
Coordinates: 5.41723 N, 100.32996 E
Directions: From Burmah Road (Jalan Burma), turn right to Transfer Road (Jalan Transfer), and then take the next right to Jalan Phee Choon. Follow the road as it curves right to Jalan Khoo Sian Ewe. Areca Cafe is at the row of shops on the left. Street parking is available on Jalan Khoo Sian Ewe and Jalan Phee Choon.

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