C'est Si Bon

This article is part of my Ramadan 2018 compilation.

Special thanks to VOUK Hotel Suites for extending this food review invitation.

VOUK Hotel Suites is a 4-star hotel at Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah. Located between Gleneagles Penang and The Northam, the hotel shares the main building with a serviced apartment, Mansion One. The most prominent feature of VOUK Hotel Suites is a colonial-era mansion at the front.
The flagship restaurant of VOUK Hotel Suites is C'est Si Bon Restaurant. Located at Level 2 of the main building, this coffeehouse is also where in-house guests are served breakfast. By the way, the French phrase "c'est si bon" means "this is so good".
Today's visit is to join the preview of the upcoming festive buffet dinner. The dinner theme is "Ali Baba & The 40 Dishes", an obvious parody of the Arabian folktale "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" (علي بابا والأربعون لصا). Featuring more than 40 dishes, the menu covers a variety of local Malay delicacies, street food and Middle Eastern fare.

Several warung (food stalls) have been set up to mimic a Ramadan bazaar. The first one serves Sup Gear Box. Infused with beef bones and lots of spices, the soup is very flavorful indeed. The soup is called "gear box" because the cattle's femur resembles a gear stick. The bone marrow is considered a delicacy; straws are provided to extract them.
Roasted Lamb is an essential delicacy in iftar meals. The lamb shank is marinated for more than 10 hours such that the meat becomes flavorful. The lamb is accompanied by roasted vegetables like corn, broccoli, capsicum and garlic. Black pepper and rosemary sauces are provided too.
Gulai Kawah Daging Harimau Menangis is cooked in a large wok called "kawah". The beef curry contains lots of spices, making it very satisfying to my palate. The phrase "harimau menangis" amusingly literally translates to "weeping tiger". This term refers to the sirloin, which is highly sought for its tenderness.
The grilling station churns out an endless supply of seafood including ikan pari (stingray), ikan kembung (mackerel), slipper lobsters, shrimps and scallops. Two types of condiments are provided: air asam (tamarind sauce) and lime juice. Pak Hazery's Chicken & Beef satay are also prepared here.
Kampung Desa Murtabak is a pan-fried snack stuffed with minced chicken or beef. The pancake also contains onions and other spices. Murtabak is typically eaten with chicken curry or dal (lentil curry). An adjacent warung prepares Penang Mee Udang (prawn noodle) but I did not have the opportunity to try the noodle dish this round.
Moving on to hot dishes, Nasi Briyani uses long-grain basmati rice and spices from the Indian subcontinent. The rice is also served with chicken. The overall taste is quite appetizing.
As for Daging Rendang Bujang Lapok, this beef recipe is of Minangkabau origin but is now widely enjoyed by all Malaysians. To prepare this dish, beef slices are slow-cooked with coconut milk and spices until most liquid has boiled away. Due to the tedious cooking process, rendang is usually reserved for festive occasions like weddings and Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
Still on the topic of red meats, Kurma Kambing Matakaji consists of mutton slices and potatoes braised in thick yellowish gravy. The gravy is not as spicy as other dishes today. In fact, it is quite savory. Meanwhile, diners who prefer poultry can try the signature Ayam Masak Merah (braised chicken in tomato sauce) too.
As for seafood, Rampo Ngiseng Sotong Masak Berempah is highly recommended. I love the springy texture of squid rings. They are sufficiently soft and not too rubbery. Other notable seafood dishes are Ikan Asam Pedas (sour and spicy fish stew), Udang Emas Ali Baba (shrimps with salted egg paste) and Sambal Asparagus Dengan Scallop (spicy asparagus with scallops).
One of the major highlights this evening is Ampang Yong Tau Foo. This Hakka delicacy comprises of fish paste stuffed into other ingredients like soft tofu, fried tofu, eggplant (brinjal), okra (lady's fingers), red chili and bitter gourd. I enjoy the addictive taste of fish paste.
As for kerabu (Malay salad), the choices today are Kerabu Mangga (mango salad), Kerabu Betik (papaya salad), Kerabu Kerisik Ayam (coconut butter & chicken salad) and Kerabu Sotong Tang Hoon (squid & glass noodle salad). In addition, there are also a variety of ulam-ulaman (raw vegetables) and condiments like sambal belacan (spicy shrimp paste), budu (fermented anchovies) and cincalok (fermented shrimps).
Gado-Gado is an Indonesian salad dish that contains tempeh (fermented soybeans), hard-boiled egg, tofu, yardlong beans, kangkung (water spinach), cucumber, cabbage and peanut sauce. Meanwhile, serunding (meat floss) goes well with lemang and ketupat. As for something sweet, try some kurma (palm dates) or dodol (durian candy).
For a taste of Middle Eastern fare, sample some hummus (حُمُّص‎) with toasted pita bread. Hummus is made from chickpeas, tahini and olive oil. The smell of tahini is particularly strong, so hummus may not appeal to everyone's palate.
Today's buffet provides 4 types of jeruk (pickles). The pickled fruits are kedondong (ambarella), salak (snake fruit), betik (papaya) and pala (nutmeg). Several types of fresh fruits are also made available.
The desserts section features a variety of traditional Malay kuih such as kuih talam, kuih seri muka, kuih tako, kuih bingka ubi and kuih cara berlauk. Other sweet treats include sago gula melaka, mango pudding, crème caramel, French pastries, cupcakes and fruit tartlets.
I am glad to see several types of sweet porridges this evening: Bubur Serawa Durian (durian soup), Bubur Kacang Hijau (mung bean soup) and Bubur Pulut Hitam (black glutinous rice soup). There is also Bread & Butter Pudding with vanilla sauce.
As for something cooling, aiskrim potong (popsicle) is a sound choice. Several flavors are available; I like the durian version. Diners can also help themselves with endless rounds of iced drinks like corn juice, palm date juice and air mata kucing.
Personally, my favorite drink is Teh Tarik Ibrahim Pendek. This popular drink is prepared by "pulling" milk tea between metal containers. Not only does the drink become frothy, this also helps to cool teh tarik to a reasonable temperature. To stay in character, the stall is manned by a staff member with a fake mustache and a bright red fez (tarbush).
VOUK Hotel Suites' festive buffet dinner is served from 19 May 2018 to 13 June 2018. The walk-in price is RM88.00 net per adult, and RM60.00 per child or senior citizen. For every 7 paying customers, the 8th person dines for free. Early bird vouchers are available for purchase until 15 May 2018.
Furthermore, each full-paying adult will be automatically entered into a lucky draw. This year, VOUK Hotel Suites is giving away attractive prizes such as free rooms and dining vouchers. The grand prize is an electric scooter worth around RM5,600.00!

Name: C'est Si Bon Restaurant
Address: 57-G-3, Mansion One, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-370-8333
Business hours: 6:30am-11:00pm
Website: http://www.voukhotelsuites.com.my/facilities
Coordinates: 5.42743 N, 100.32081 E
Directions: VOUK Hotel Suites is located on Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, right before The Northam and across the road from Gurney Beach Food Gallery. C'est Si Bon Restaurant is located at Level 2 of the main building. Parking is available in front of Hardwicke House. Dine-in customers enjoy complimentary parking; parking tickets can be validated at the restaurant.

My Armenian

Special thanks to My Armenian for extending this food review invitation.

Armenian Street (Lebuh Armenian) is a popular tourist spot in George Town. One of the cafés here is My Armenian. Although the official address is at Armenian Street, the back door at Jalan Kampung Kolam is the more prominent entrance. Decorated with potted plants, shop's facade resembles a classic Mediterranean eatery.
My Armenian started off as a durian specialty store. It is the main distributor for D'King in Penang. D'King is renowned for using expensive durian cultivars such as Musang King. Examples of durian products here are Durian Dodol, Durian Chocolate and more.
Adjacent to the shop is My Armenian's restaurant section. To encourage communal dining, there is a long wooden table right at the middle. The walls on both sides are decorated with paintings that are also for sale. The painters are Dr. Kang Bean Chong from Alor Setar and Massimiliano Muratori from Italy.
My Armenian's menu revolves around Western cuisine with substantial elements of local cooking. The dishes use home cooking techniques and focus on using wholesome ingredients. Besides proper meals, My Armenian also serves breakfast, light snacks, desserts and coffee. The food here is entirely pork-free.
Spanish Garlic Prawns (RM12.90) is a new appetizer on the menu. It is known in Spanish as "gambas al ajillo". The shrimps are fried with olive oil and garlic, and then garnished with parsley. Slices of baguette and balsamic vinegar are provided too.
Comby Salad (RM9.90) contains a hearty mix of vegetables like Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, sweet corn kernels and dried cranberries. Asian-style sesame dressing is used. While grilled chicken and hard-boiled eggs are included, the kitchen can prepare a vegan version too.
Prawn Croissant is another interesting snack. Besides shrimps, the mini croissants also contain cherry tomatoes and green olives. I am also delighted to try the salad combination of Watermelon & Feta Cheese.
Tomato Bruschetta comes in three slices per serving. Each slice of baguette is topped with cherry tomato, onions, fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. The baguette is charred to give a toasty touch.
Shishamo & Fish Skin (RM12.90) combines two popular Japanese snacks. Shishamo is a slender fish which resembles a willow leaf. The fish is prized for the delectable roe in its belly. Meanwhile, the deep-fried salmon skin has a scrumptious crisp, making it the perfect finger food to go with beer.
Seafood Fried Rice (RM18.90) is cooked with squids and shrimps, culminating in a tantalizing aroma that induces appetite. Presented prominently on top are a pair of yabbies and mussels. Also included are honey-glazed chicken wings and fried egg. I cannot recommend this dish highly enough.
Fried Cendol (RM12.90) is a unique dish at My Armenian. This stir-fried dish is inspired by Penang Char Koay Teow. But in lieu of koay teow, My Armenian instead uses green jelly noodle that is often associated with cendol. This results in a springy and "wetter" sensation in the mouth. I think the Fried Cendol is worth trying.
Spaghetti Carbonara (RM16.90) is served with chicken ham, parmesan cheese and a slice of baguette. The large serving size and creamy homemade sauce make the dish quite filling for one person.
As for poultry, Grilled Chicken With Mashed Potato (RM18.90) is a good choice. The boneless chicken thigh is cooked to golden perfection, and then served over mashed potatoes. Also included are cream gravy, brown gravy and garden salad.
The Vegan Patty On Bagel (RM10.90) is unique in its own right. The chickpea patty is sandwiched between two halves of a bagel. I appreciate the delightful sprinkle of poppy seeds on the bagel.
Moving on, BBQ Roasted Beef Wrap (RM16.90) is filled with marinated beef briskets. The beef is seasoned with barbecue sauce and wrapped in toasted wheat tortilla. Upon request, the kitchen can also prepare the wrap using chicken.
The bestselling dessert at My Armenian is Raja Cendol (RM38.00). For the most part, it is the Penang-style cendol with gula melaka (palm sugar) that Malaysians know and love. What sets it apart from regular cendol is the presence of Musang King durian. The heavenly taste of the durian is gratifying to the last morsel.
Other durian desserts are supplied by D'King and can also be found at the specialty store. My personal favorite is D24 Durian Mochi (RM15.00 for 4 pieces, RM32.00 for 10 pieces), which is filled with genuine durian paste. Meanwhile, the D24 Durian Pancake (RM20.00 for 6 pieces) has a more subtle taste as it is wrapped in crêpes. Other notable mentions are Musang King Snowy Mooncake and Durian Egg Pudding.
Moving on to drinks, Passion Fruit Juice (RM8.90) is concocted from genuine passion fruit juice. The top layer is the extract of butterfly-pea flowers. Mixing the drink results in an alluring purplish hue. This chilled drink is an excellent thirst quencher.
Espresso-based coffee is available too. I find the choice of beans to be pretty satisfying. My cup of Cappuccino (RM9.90) comes with a piece of biscotti.
The beverage menu also includes alcoholic drinks like Mojito (RM23.00). Mojito is prepared by mixing lime juice, carbonated water, syrup and mint leaves. The mixture is mashed with a muddler to allow mint leaves to release their aroma more prominently. Mojito usually contains some rum too, but customers who prefer to avoid alcohol can order Virgin Mojito instead.
Based on the dishes that I tried today, it is obvious that the proprietor invested substantial effort in crafting the restaurant's food menu. Fried Cendol and Seafood Fried Rice are definitely recommended, and so are the durian-based desserts. In fact, I think My Armenian will appeal to anyone who loves durians.
Name: My Armenian
Address: 96, Lebuh Armenian, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-262-9698
Business hours: 10:00am-9:00pm, closed on Wednesdays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/myarmeniancafe
Coordinates: 5.41584 N, 100.33668 E
Directions: My Armenian is accessible from Armenian Street (Lebuh Armenian) and Jalan Kampung Kolam. For the former, look out for a large mock durian around the corner. As for the latter, the entrance is just behind a bus stop. Parking is available along both roads.

Feringgi Grill

Special thanks to Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa for extending this food review invitation.

Facing the scenic beach of Batu Ferringhi, Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa defines the pinnacle of Penang's hospitality. The 5-star hotel has two wings; Rasa Wing is considered the more prestigious one. Not only does this wing have its own private swimming pool, Rasa Wing also sports a spacious lounge for its privileged guests.
Just above Rasa Wing Lounge is Feringgi Grill, the resort's highly acclaimed fine dining grillhouse. "The Grill", as the restaurant is colloquially called, is among the oldest of its kind in Penang. Feringgi Grill remains one of the most sought-after restaurants, as evidenced by a long waiting list.
Perched on the mezzanine floor, Feringgi Grill offers an aerial view of the resort's beautifully landscaped grounds. Throughout the restaurant, rugged brick walls reflect the rustic character of the original Feringgi Grill that opened in 1973. Each red brick has been meticulously handpicked and set in place by the interior designer.
Even by fine dining standards, the impeccable table service that Feringgi Grill offers is a league of its own. Smart casual attire is expected of diners in line with the restaurant's prestigious ambience. Children are generally not allowed in Feringgi Grill except during private dining events.
There are two private dining rooms here: "Francis Light" and "William Light"; both are named after the founders of Penang. Feringgi Grill features a climate-controlled wine cellar that is stocked with an extensive selection of wines from around the world. There is also a cigar room where smoking is permitted.
Feringgi Bar sets the stage for guests to mingle in a relaxed setting. The drinks menu features an extensive range of fine wines and liquor. Next to the bar is a grand piano where live music is performed every evening.
During the recent Malaysia Tourism Awards 2016/2017, Feringgi Grill stood out as the Innovative Restaurant in the International category. Beating hundreds of strong contenders throughout the nation, Feringgi Grill is the only winner from Penang during this biennial award. In celebration of this coveted recognition, Feringgi Grill is hosting an Appreciation Wine Dinner for its regulars, partners and suppliers.
The primary architect behind tonight's menu is Chef Thibaut Pouplard, the Chef de Cuisine of Feringgi Grill. Despite being trained in traditional French cuisine, Chef Thibaut takes a rather liberal approach in assimilating local flavors into his creations. His culinary philosophy is best expressed through the 8-course dégustation menu this evening.
While waiting for dinner to commence, diners are treated to freshly baked baguettes from the bread basket. The bread goes well with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
Next, the amuse-bouche resembles Spanish-style empanadas. The fried pastry is filled with ricotta cheese and is topped with thin slices of smoked salmon. Amuse-bouche is followed by cucumber gazpacho in order to cleanse the palate.
Bœuf "Tosa Province" borrows culinary elements from Japanese cuisine. Prized Japanese beef is used here. Flavored with tangy tataki sauce, the thin beef slices are garnished with radish, takuan (pickled daikon) and microgreens. A glass of Stimson Estate Cellars Chardonnay 2014 is poured to go with this dish.
Bouillon de Saint-Jacques au Safran is a gratifying delicacy indeed. The pan-seared Hokkaido scallops are saturated with natural juices, making them succulent to the last morsel. The scallops are served with potato emulsion, saffron broth and basil. This dish is paired with a glass of white wine, E Guigal Côtes Du Rhône Grenache Blanc.
The course meal moves on to Cabillaud, Beurre Blanc. The pan-seared cod is cooked with butter sauce, making the fish very aromatic indeed. The fillet is then topped with bacon crumbs and herbs, and flanked by a sweet carrot on the side. A glass of red wine, Pierre André Bourgogne Pinot Noir Réserve, is selected to go with this dish.
Sorbet Mangue serves as the interlude before proceeding to the next dish. The scoop of mango sorbet is given a light shower of black pepper in order to spice things up. In the meantime, peppermint contributes a refreshing aroma.
Next on the line is Ballotine de Volaille au Foie Gras et Fruits. Ballotine is made from chicken thigh and is stuffed with forcemeat. Next to it is a piece of foie gras. Renowned for its buttery texture, foie gras assumes the pinnacle of French gastronomical indulgence. The piece of seared goose liver is garnished with morels, fruits and vegetables. Served with this dish is a glass of Sterling Vintner's Collection California Cabernet Sauvignon 2015.
Pêche Melba comprises of poached peaches, raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream. The recipe was invented by French chef Auguste Escoffier around 1892. Paired with the chilled dessert is a glass of German white wine, Selbach Oster Mosel Riesling Incline Qualitätswein.
Petit Fours include several pieces of chocolate pralines and madeleines. Lingering sweetness on the tongue is washed down by a cup of coffee or tea. At the conclusion of dinner, a glass of cognac, Martell VSOP Nuit, is raised for one final toast for the evening.
Name: Feringgi Grill
Address: Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, Jalan Batu Ferringhi, 11100 Batu Ferringhi, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-888-8888
Business hours: 7:00am-10:30am, 6:30pm-10:30pm
Website: http://www.shangri-la.com/penang/rasasayangresort/dining/restaurants/feringgi-grill
Coordinates: 5.47839 N, 100.25374 E
Directions: From Tanjung Bungah, travel west towards Batu Ferringhi. Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa is approximately 4.2 kilometers from Tanjung Bungah's floating mosque, located on the right. Feringgi Grill is located at Rasa Wing, above a flight of stairs from the lobby.