Saturday, 18 January 2014

Food Court: One Stop - Jalan Burma, Pulau Tikus (Top Pick)

Well, after what seems an age of not venturing in to any places worthy of a 'Top Pick' we get three in a row and all of differing styles.  A marina restaurant, a chic restaurant featuring North Indian cuisine and now, subject of this article, a food court with an excellent stall selling one of my favourite foods - Thai!

The stall in question is quite large and actually seems to encompass 3-4 separate sections, all under the same ownership.  It doesn't appear to have a name but it's located on the mezannine floor of the 'Midland - One Stop' shopping mall in Jalan Burma.  To find it, once parked you walk up the central steps of 'One Stop' and go straight ahead.  This food stall is actually to the right of a large cluster of stalls in the centre of this level of One Stop, you can't miss it really.  Despite living here all this time I've never come across this place before so I'm indebted to my good chum Kevin from Hat Yai for pointing this place out.  The reason it came to light is that we were chatting online about my craving for ka-nom-jeen, the delicious Thai style vermicelli noodles served with a variety of, often curry style, sauces.  He advised me to try here and wow, am I glad he did!

There is a bewildering array of food on offer here and what is pleasing to see is that the place is VERY popular so there is a high turn-over, no food left stewing in the eat for days on end here.  Honestly it all looked delicious and I was tempted to just plunge in and load up a plate or three.  Next time I likely will.

But, this time we were here for the ka-nom-jeen and that's what we opted for.  I have to say, the lady and other staff at the store were quite taken aback when I spoke to them and ordered in Thai, I guess a 'falang' speaking Thai is a rarity enough, especially in Malaysia LOL.  The dish was prepared quickly and the sauce was absolutely delicious, a slightly spicy, creamy curry style sauce with more than hint of coconut, it really was superb.  There is a nice array of vegetables that you are also expected to add yourself including bean-sprouts, chopped cabbage, diced French beans and Thai Holy Basil (an absolute MUST have).  The tables also have traditional Thai condiments including flaked dried and chopped fresh chilli.  Awesome!

To accompany the noodle dish we also opted for another Thai classic, somtam, a very fiery shredded green papaya (NOT mango as some seem to think) salad served with tomato, fresh chilli (and often Blue Crab) and dressed with the very salty nam-plaa (Thai fish sauce) and lemon juice.  This was freshly prepared and again was superb.

As a desert I ordered a traditional Thai style coconut ice cream.  The portion was very generous and was served with a coconut infused green sticky rice and Thai style cake cubes (more akin to brioche) soaked in coconut milk.  That I have to say was out of this world and it took me all my will-power to stop having another!

To round it off, or rather to eat later at home, we opted for yet another Thai classic.  'Khâo nǐiao má mûuang' or mango sticky rice.  Again two very generous portions with freshly prepared mango, two varieties of sticky rice and a very creamy coconut milk sauce.  Yum!!!  With a couple of cokes the whole lot came to a VERY reasonable RM 32!!

I was most impressed with the food and the staff here and plan to return often.  The standard and sheer variety of the food was so high that it easily justifies a 'Top Pick' from me.

They are open daily from around 10am until late and lovers, or even casual fans, of Thai food I think would struggle to be disappointed with the food and welcome on offer here.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Restaurant: D'Tandoor - Precinct 10, Tanjung Tokong (Top Pick)

D'Tandoor is well established franchise chain of restaurants serving Mogul style cuisine which emanates from the North of India.  The D'Tandoor brand is well known in SE Asia having a string of awards to its name including 'Best Malaysian Indian Restaurant', 'Most Innovative Restaurant' and 'Most Recognised Brand' to name but a few so it was with a fair degree of excitement that I learned some time back that D'Tandoor were opening a branch in Penang.

Located in the prestigious development of Precinct 10 at Tanjung Tokong, D'Tandoor is a very stylish stylish restaurant offering a Mogul fine dining experience in an easily accessible location with great parking.  One of the things that sets D'Tandoor apart from the majority of the Indian restaurants you will encounter here is the style and environment that it provides for diners which is just perfect for that special occasion, a romantic dinner for two or even just a casual long or dinner in more sophisticated surroundings.  That's not to say that the food in other restaurants is not good, merely stressing the point that at times you want something special, somewhere with a bit of class, at which point the options get much more limited.

As you enter D'Tandoor you will notice the signature logo and also the large hallucinogenic mural on the wall of the main dining room which creates a warm and welcoming appeal....
 it contrasts with the dark wood tables, dazzling white plates and sparkling glasses.

The restaurant is split into two main areas.  Downstairs is the main restaurant which is very tastefully designed and appointed........

..........and a private dining area upstairs which can comfortably sit 16 pax with ease.

From the main dining room you can also see easily into the kitchens through the large viewing window, a nice touch which adds to the ambience and of course provides a level of confidence in the hygiene and standards of the establishment.

The food at the restaurant, which after all, will make or break the place, is really outstanding in my opinion.  I have tried several dishes there and each one has been exceptional, with the distinctive flavour found with Mogul cuisine which derives from the special mixes of freshly ground spices.

They have an extensive menu which is exclusively halal and also offer a wide range of beverages including excellent lassi, a traditional Indian accompaniment.

One of my favourite dishes there is a superb chicken curry (Murg Mughlai).  Pleasingly the curry is not swimming in gee and has a real warmth and depth of flavour.

The dish goes superbly with their special pilau rice........

...........and my favourite Indian roti, hot buttery freshly baked naan.

D'Tandoor can also cater for all manner of special occasions and turns out some really outstanding dishes which because of their nature, primarily the time needed to source, prepare and cook these gastronomical delights, do not feature on the regular menu.

The food at D'tandoor, especially when you consider the style and ambience of the outlet, is very reasonably priced, the restaurant provides a 'take-away' service and also does deliveries.  They can cater for all manner of private parties including wedding receptions, buffet lunches and dinners and themed events.

The restaurant can be contacted on 04 899 2525 and you can also visit the D'Tandoor website and the Penang outlet's Facebook Page.  The restaurant is well worth a visit and gets a very well earned 'Top Pick'.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Life with Honda's 2013 Airblade

It's been just a few months now since I switched my allegiance from Honda's excellent PCX motor scooter to the brand new Airblade and, given the growing numbers of enquiries I get about both bikes, motor cycling in Penang in general, and indeed other bikes I thought I'd put down a few thoughts about the biking here and the excellent Airblade in particular.

My previous article (here) about the introduction of the Airblade to Malaysia by Boon Siew Honda gives the primary reasons as to why I chose the Airblade over the PCX and as such I won't repeat those reasons here.  Suffice it to say both are great bikes with the PCX form me coming out on top if you do regular longer distance highway driving  and the Airblade if you drive a lot in town, especially in the heavier traffic or Georgetown or of course in KL.  For me the Airblade also wins if you are tall (e.g. over 6' 00").

I'll try to cover as many of the issues as I can that I've been asked about biking here but the article is mostly about the Airblade, not about biking in general.  One issue though I feel does need addressing, whether to ride a motorbike / scooter here in Penang.

It's a well know fact that biking is a higher risk form or transport than a car, a bike accident involving other vehicles will generally result in the rider and / or passenger coming off worse, but I have to say I have seen some out and out total drivel written by people about biking in Malaysia and indeed in Thailand and it's quite apparent that a lot of it comes from people who have absolutely no idea about biking at all, merely their own biased viewpoint which seems to perpetuate the scare-mongering.  A lot of it really is garbage.  Yes there are a lot motor cycle fatalities in SE Asia but you have to balance that against two very important factors.  Firstly, the sheer number of small bikes in these parts outnumbers those seen in Europe and USA by hundreds if not thousands of percentage points.  As such the level of motor cycle accidents is bound to be higher, a lot higher.  Secondly there is a very large percentage of young, inexperienced and poorly trained (if trained at all) riders who ride with a total disregard for the law, rules of the road and their own safety, almost as if they think they are protected by an 'invulnerability bubble'.  The issue widely reported around drivers of other vehicles being automatically at fault if they hit, or get hit by, a bike doesn't help with lots of riders pulling all sorts of strokes, expecting drivers of other vehicles to get out of the way (that said, the driving standards of those in many 4 wheeled (plus) vehicles leave a lot to be desired at times too).  Keep riding like that and it will inevitably end only one way.

But, and it's a big BUT, while you need to keep your wits about you, as long term big bike rider I see riding bikes here as no more inherently dangerous than anywhere else, it's mostly about how YOU ride the bike.  Riding a bike you need your wits about you everywhere!  Your skills, your concentration, your attitude and style of riding are what count most IMO.  Also, there's biking and biking and for me there is a WORLD of difference between burning up autobahns on large capacity big bikes with the right gear and with driver attitudes that are (generally) safety orientated and law abiding and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, pottering round Penang and other parts of SE Asia at sensible speeds on a small modern automatic scooter.  Keep that in mind when riding these 'scoots' as getting around here starts to become more of a pleasure rather than a chore as you gently weave your way between rush hour jams, ditch the bike just about anywhere outside you favourite eateries, go the gym, a mall or even pottering about getting stuff done.  A bike makes it SO SO easy, so much so that there is no way I could be without a bike here or in Thailand.  Now, onto the Airblade.....

The Airblade has always been poplar in SE Asia especially in Thailand and Vietnam where previous and current models are snapped up fast.  Introduced here in Malaysia in 2013 the Airblade has many features which are appealing including:
  • 125cc engine
  • Honda's famed PGM-FI (fuel injection)
  • Integrated ACG system (smooth, friction reduced starting - more fuel efficient)
  • Engine 'Idle Stop' (the excellent fuel saving innovation previously seen only on the top-range PCX)
  • Combination braking (pulling just one brake level applies both front and back brakes in correct proportion)
  • Remote key bike location (pressing this will sound the horn and flash the lights allowing you to quickly locate YOUR bike amongst what can often be hundreds of parked bikes)
  • Side stand engine cut-off (engine only starts if side stand is up)
  • Twin projector headlights
  • Tubeless tyres
  • Twin rear shock absorbers
  • Front disc brake
  • Kick-starter
  • Water cooled
The bike really is superb and it looks the part too!  I purchased mine from the excellent Sun Sum Motor located on Irving Road, Pulau Tikus.  I like Sun Sum as it's a big outlet with a very wide range of bikes and biking gear and all at good prices.  They will nearly always do offers with their bikes and also have good servicing facilities on site.  My chum 'Ah Boy' there looked after me very well indeed and they also handle all the registration, insurance and road taxing of the bike before you pick it up.  They often have a good stock of poplar machines and once you have paid a deposit you can generally pick up your new bike in a day or two.  The Airblade can be had for RM 7,708 on the road with an extra cost of RM 350 for fully comprehensive insurance.  So what's life like with the Airblade?

Overall I find the bike to be superb.  The electric starter is superb and has fired without fail every time after a short press.  If you let the bike stand for so long that the battery discharges there is also a kick-starter fitted which will allow you to get the machine started easily.  As a safety feature the bike will not start if the side stand is not in the raised position and the bike will cut out if you put the stand down with the engine running.  The bike is 125 cc 4 stroke with fully automatic centrifugal clutch (dry type).  Further spec details can be found here.

The instrument panel is very well laid out with PGM-FI 'problem' indicator light, main/dipped beam, indicator on flashers and of course an easily readable speedo.  There is a digital clock which also features trip and odometer.  Another excellent feature of the Airblade is the 'Engine Idle Stop' which cuts the engine once you have become stationary at traffic lights etc, an indicator light also lets you know if this is active.  

A 'talk back' system also lets you find the bike easily by flashing the indicators and sounding an audible warning when you press a button on the ignition key (the sound pattern and volume of the 'talk-back' can be programmed or even disabled).  Once you have pressed the talk-back button two lights also come on, one lighting up the ignition and the other the under seat central storage.  Nice, professional finishing touches.  

There is quite a lot of storage under the seat, ample for a raincoat and personal effects and even some shopping.  There are also two helmet hooks to lock up to two helmets on the bike by their 'D' rings should you wish.

One thing you may find is that depending on your helmet sizes the D ring may be too close to the helmet to reach the helmet hooks on the bike (an issue with all bikes with these helmet lock hooks).  I got round this simply by finding a stainless steel carabinier style clip in a hardware store for just a few $ which I leave in the bike and put on the smaller helmet D ring when I need to lock it on.  The seat cover closes down over the swing arm of the carabinier making it impossible to open and remove the helmet.  That said, leaving valuable helmets attached to the bike for protracted periods in some areas and at some times of the day would be unadvisable.

The lights on the bike are very good with the front twin projector headlights lighting up the road at night with a good pattern whether on full or main beam and of course increasing your visibility during the day.  By default in SE Asia, dipped beam headlight will be on whenever the engine is started, as will the tail lights.

The tail and stop lights are very bright but of the low power consumption LED variety and it's nice to see that the indicators are integral to the front and rear panels, rather than being stuck out on stalks that are always prone to getting damaged.  Indicators are operated by a slider switch near the left handlebar and cancelled by pushing the switch again once your manoeuvre is completed.  The horn button is also located in the same area along with the full/dipped beam switch.

On the road the bike handles very well indeed and is very quiet.  Thankfully, at last, a fuel tank that can be topped up without lifting the seat, the filler cap lies in the underbone between the seat and the front fairing.  The only minor gripe is the size of the fuel tank, just 4.1 litres making fuel stops more frequent than I'd like.  It's hard to judge economy at the moment as 90% of the riding has been 'two-up' so fuel consumption will drop somewhat, that said I still manage to get around 140 km out of a tank before I fill up at a cost of around RM 8.  That's around 35 km per litre or around 97 MPG!  I intend to do a more in depth study of fuel economy one the bike is run in and the engine bedded down properly but I expect to get close to 45-50 km per litre riding solo after running in.  On that front, the manual says that for the first 500 km full throttle starts and harsh acceleration should be avoided which, back to the 'there's biking and biking' comments above, I do any way, running in or not, there's just no need to ride so harshly.

The manual (which is actually quite good - in both Bahasa Malay and English) also includes service intervals (basically every 4K km after the first 1,000) and while it suggests the first service at 1,000 I plan to do a full oil change at 500 km, just to be on the safe side.  I also plan to switch over to semi-synthetic 'Hi-Rev' 4T Scooter 15W-40 oil at the first change.  Luckily all the essential fluids on the bike can be easily checked (and should be - weekly at least), including coolant, brake fluid and oil.  The oil is topped up via the dipstick channel and this is ever so slightly difficult to get to without using a funnel.  That said, my preference is to use one of the RM 3 plastic sauce bottles that the kopitiams use for chilli sauce etc, readily available from places like Tesco.  Much less mess and faffing around than with funnels or oil jugs, no drips and no waste and the oil goes exactly where you want it to go with more precise flow control.

Braking is very efficient.  Honda uses a combi-braking system on many of their new bikes where pulling on the left lever automatically applies a portion of front brake as well as the back.  I still tend to come to a stop using both, big bike habits dying hard in this regard.  Under general conditions the brakes will stop the bike with consummate ease and stability and if pushed harder that front disc sure comes into its own, again with no loss of stability.

Acceleration I find to be very nifty indeed, even two up, though as I've said, I've not really put the bike through the motions yet as, with the style of riding I tend to use these bikes for, there's just no need.  But suffice it to say, especially when riding solo, there is ample torque with power to spare when you do need it.  For those interested I plan to update the article with 0-50 kph and 0-75 kph acceleration times once the bike has been fully run in.  I know there are folks who don't bother with any 'running in' on bikes these days and say that with engineering developments there's no need.  Fine, your bike, you do what you want, I run in per the manual :)

In traffic I find the bike to be very manoeuvrable with a great riding position, the more forward and upright position compared to the PCX allowing you to flip the bike with ease, counter steering also dials in superbly in higher speed cornering with just a touch needed to get the bike over.  The lower weight of the bike compared to the PCX 150 I suspect would mean that the machine is just as fast and, as mentioned before, there is plenty of torque right up to 50 kph allowing almost instant changes in speed.  Engine braking is also very very effective.  Slow speed handling I also find a real breeze on this bike with the tendency to topple coming in at a much lower speed that I have gotten used to on similar bikes.  The tyres I suspect help in the handling, tubeless and set on 14" wheels being of a wider profile than is found on many similar size / style bikes.  Specifically they are:

Front: 80/90 - 14M/C 40 P
Cheng Shin

Rear: 90/90 - 14M/C 46P
Cheng Shin

So for now, that's about it.  I'll update this article later, rather than post another one, once more performance information is available so check after a month or two if that interests you.   As a couple of further asides there are two other issues that I've been asked about often:

Givi M11.0 D Visor JET Helmet
1) What brand / style of helmet do you use?  I've seen a few folks buy helmets outside of Malaysia and bring them in.  I would advise strongly against this.  Why?  Because they need to be SIRIM and / or JPJ approved which will be denoted by a sticker on the helmet.  If you are stopped riding a non approved helmet you could be summonsed by the police or JPJ.  I also find there are enough good quality helmets here.  Personally I use Givi (again from Sun Sum Motor), a three quarter face helmet with a good visor and built in retractable sun-visor.  There's always a trade off between safety and comfort and you need to make your own choice.  Full face or even modular are of course safer and I'd wear nothing else on long distance and highway runs but in town, you will get hot quick with frequent stops wearing them (do try to stop in the shade if you can at lights, it really helps) and it comes back to the biking vs biking comments.  A good helmet like this will set you back only around RM 250.  I also use the very good Givi Rain Suit and of course Givi makes a good range of top-boxes and other biking accessories.

2) What do you use for cleaning helmet visors? In the West there is a great product called Plexus available.  It's not cheap but it's superb for cleaning plexiglass that helmet visors are made of.  Here, I use the old-school tried and trusted favourite, Lemon Pledge (yes the furniture polish!).  Used with a lint free micro-fibre style cloth its superb for maintaining visor clarity and good water run-off.  You will also see Orange Pledge but I find this to be more smear prone. Obviously it's better to wash the visor off first with a VERY mild soap and water if it's very dirty before polishing with Pledge once it's dry.  Lemon Pledge is also great as a polish on bike panels after you've washed your pride and joy :)

*Airblade promotional pictures courtesy of Boon Siew Honda, Malaysia

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Restaurant: Uncle Albert's - Straits Quay, Tanjung Tokong (Top Pick)

Uncle Albert's is a newly opened restaurant at Straits Quay that specialises in traditional English style fish and chips.  Now there are those who seem to think that fish and chips is the only dish that British cooking is famed for, for me though, this belief merely demonstrates the EXTREMELY limited knowledge that the 'critic' or individual has about international cuisine, fine dining and catering in general, as is evidenced by the growing numbers of 1, 2 and 3 Michelin starred restaurants in the UK and the increasing range of classical British dishes, especially those featuring 'game', appearing on the menus of fine dining restaurants world wide.  Note we are talking fine dining restaurants here, not food courts!  Anyway, I digress.  Back to Uncle Albert's! The restaurant is owned by the same group that own's the popular Healy Mac's Irish pubs both here and in KL.  As in KL, Uncle Albert's is actually located next door to Healy Mac's at Straits Quay.

As one might expect the focus of the menu is on fish which can be served to your liking with the top options being battered or grilled.  The restaurant does however have a rotisserie that allows it to cook very good roast chicken, available in portion, quarter or half bird sizes.  A wide range of salads is also on offer along with soups and deserts.  Of course the restaurant also serves a wide range of beverages including draught and bottled beer.  It's important to point out that prices on the menu here are net as opposed the prices that appear on most restaurants that are then subjected to the ++ taxes (totalling 16% upon paying the bill).  The restaurant also offers a fixed price set menu at lunch time of RM 26 which includes soup, a soft drink and the 'Catch of the day' fish dish or chicken, very very good value for money!

The restaurant is very nicely decorated and furnished and you can see into the kitchens through the large viewing window.  When the weather is suitable you can also opt to sit outside under the covered canopy which allows views across the marina and promenade.  The seating inside ranges from chairs around round tables or more private 'booth' style tables along one wall seating from 4-6 people (though 6 might be a bit cramped).

We opted to select dishes off the menu and went for battered fish and chips and a chicken roast dinner.

Starting with the fish and chips I have to say it was very very good.  The signature dish here is cod and chips and the restaurant prides itself in using fresh fish of only the highest quality.  This reflects somewhat in the price with cod and chips being a tad pricey at around RM 69.  I'm not the greatest fan of cod I have to say and opted for halibut at RM 32.  The fish was well cooked, nicely seasoned and the batter was just right, thin and crispy without having absorbed any oil.  One of the things really off-putting with fish and chips is when the batter absorbs so much oil you can taste it.  The chips were also excellent, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, a far cry from the thin 'burger-joint' style tasteless and (often) re-heated fries many places serve.  The dish was also served with some very nice minted mushy peas which were very tastily indeed, a little stiff and too dry for my liking (would probably have benefited either by not being 'cooked off' so much or by the addition of a little chicken stock).  The only thing I would be critical of with this dish was the rather bedraggled stem of greenery that seemed to serve no other purpose than garnish.  Albert's do yourselves a favour, lose it.  It adds NO visual appeal whatsoever (actually quite the contrary) and you sure wouldn't look to eat it.  If you must do the (somewhat overused these days and decidedly old school) cheffy garnish thing, a simple spring of parsley would look 20 times better!

The chicken dish was also very good.  Nicely roast chicken that retained its moisture and had a delicious crispy skin.  The carrots and peas were very nice and the stuffing very tasty, albeit it could probably stand some more onion.  The roast potatoes I have to say were just OK, but better than most I've tried in restaurants here.  But to be cooked well they need to be fresh, par boiled first, roughed at the edges by shaking in the pan and then roasted in a hot oven WITHOUT basting with oil to get that really crisp outside and fluffy interior.  The gravy I have to say though was outstanding!! Really tasty and with a good depth of flavour.

I was really impressed with Uncle Albert's and would have no hesitation in recommending it, so much so that it gets a 'Top Pick' award.  Inevitably it will be compared to another of my 'Top Picks', The Blue Reef Restaurant, also at Straits Quay and also serving the same style of food (except the chicken).  They are both good but differ in the way the dishes are presented, it would all be down to what you wanted on the day.  Albert's does have the chicken on offer and also that signature cod and chips, a little pricey but then you need to pay for quality.  Overall I don't think there's actually much in it price wise, aside from the signature dish which is merely an added bonus, it doesn't make the restaurant more pricey per se, and remember, those prices at Albert's are net!  About the only thing I'd like to see at the Straits Quay branch is the ability to order at least some of the dishes to be brought to be served at Healy Mac's, as you can in KL, for the times you fancy the meal in a pub environment.  Albert's is a great addition to the eateries at Straits Quay and well worth a visit and you can visit the Uncle Albert's Facebook Page here.

CNY Dining: Copthorne Orchid Hotel

Not surprisingly with Chinese New Year rapidly approaching I am starting to get notifications about CNY dining promotions.  First up is from the Copthorne Orchid Hotel in Tanjung Bungah.  More to follow.

Restaurant: Home Style - Permai 32, Tanjung Bungah

I had been meaning to try this restaurant for ages and finally got round to it a few days ago. I had heard numerous reports about how good it was and was keen to try.

Home Style is open in the evenings (only) from around 6pm and is located on the corner of the two blocks that make up the Permai 32 Food Court off Lebuh Lembah Permai 1 in Tanjung Bungah. There is quite a lot of free parking around but the slots closest to Permai 32 can get full quickly as there are a growing number of food-court style eateries here also.

First impressions are that the restaurant is very clean and well maintained with seating for around 30-40 people inside (fitted with fans) and probably another 20-30 outside under their canopy. Sitting outside is actually quite pleasant if the weather is good as the restaurant is opposite a playing field in a residential area so there is no traffic noise. Being up on the hillside makes the air a little more cool and fresh I find also. If you go around 6-7pm getting a table shouldn't be too much of a problem, go later and especially at the weekends and it can be a little hit or miss so it might be advisable to try and call to book if you are set on a busy time. During the festive seasons and especially over Chinese New Year is gets very, very busy indeed. Unlike many eateries you can encounter, I have never seen Home Style empty.

Upon entering the restaurant and throughout the service I have to say I didn't find the staff to be particularly welcoming or friendly, with even a smile seeming to be too much trouble, great if you are opening a restaurant just to feed your mates I suppose but if you want to attract customers and keep them coming back a more hospitable welcome from the staff would not go amiss! The staff were not rude as such, just no customer engagement at all, no smile, no chat, nothing.

We ordered several dishes including the tofu with mango (note this is the sour unripe green mango found in Thai somtam, not the sweet yellow ripe version), sweet and sour pork, chicken with plum sauce, french beans with shrimp samba, egg foo young and steamed rice.

Without doubt the favourite dish was the sweet and sour pork, perfectly balanced, nicely cooked, quality meet and a good size portion (in fact all the portions are very generous).

The mango with tofu was also excellent, the crispy and slightly sour mango going perfectly with the fried tofu and accompanying sauce.

The chicken was also very good but I did find the sauce a little sweet and somewhat bland. The egg foo young was nice also.

The french beans with shrimp sambal was marked as spicy but I didn't find it spicy at all, for me this dish was quite dissapointing, somewhat salty and a little bitter, the sambal had an almost burned look about it. I'll likely try it again and check whether we'd just had an unlucky encounter with this dish.

All in all, with a beer, bottle of water and fruit juice (this was an apple juice and was clearly freshly blended, not out of a carton) I think the total bill was around RM 68 which I thought was exceptionally good value. I have seen some comments on the internet that the restaurant is expensive, I suppose that it MIGHT be considered pricey if you are used to eating in RM 5 food courts every day but we are not talking about a food court here either in terms of the restaurant or the food. In terms of the latter the quality and quantity alone is higher.

Overall I was very satisfied with the Home Style restaurant and will certainly return regularly, I would also happily recommend it to others.  I would like to have seen a slightly wider range of dishes on the menu and especially some more spicy dishes, something like kung-po chicken for example.  Other than that the only reason the review isn't more glowing is the somewhat inhospitable attitude from the staff which was reflected in the tip we left!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Event: Comedy Club Penang - Hard Rock Hotel (Sun 12 Jan)

For those who fancy a bit of traditional stand-up comedy you'll be please to hear that the Hard Rock Hotel in Batu Ferringhi is hosting a Comedy Club event at the hotel on Sunday 12 January 2014.

Headlining at the event is Glen Wool from Canada.  Glenn began his comedy career in his hometown of Vancouver in 1995. He moved to London in 1998 and quickly became one of the rising stars of the London and international comedy circuit having performed in Australia, New Zealand, the USA, South Africa, Switzerland, France, Croatia and the Middle East. Glenn was nominated for 'Best International Stand Up' at the New Zealand Comedy Awards and Best Headliner at the Chortle Awards.

In recent years Glenn has hit the International circuit in a big way, performing to huge crowds in Singapore, Holland, Dubai, New York and Los Angeles where he is currently living. He's also a popular addition to many of the great Summer music Festivals in the UK, including Reading & Leeds, Latitude, Bestival, Download and of course Glastonbury.

Glenn is a regular TV face having made appearances on Russell Howards Good News, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, The BBC Stand Up Show, The Live Floor Show, 28 Acts in 28 Minutes and The Comic side of Seven Days for the BBC. The World Stands Up, Comedy Blue and Edinburgh and Beyond for Comedy Central, He continues to be a regular in Comedy Cuts, the comedy show from ITV2. Glenn also wrote and starred in What's The Story?' broadcast on Channel 4 as part of the Comedy Lab season.

The event starts at 3pm (prompt) and runs until 6pm and at just RM 60 per ticket (inclusive of one drink) it promises to be an excellent afternoon's entertainment.  For further information you can visit the Hard Rock's event page here.

Bagan: The Phoenix rises from the ashes!!

Long term followers of the blog will know that one of my absolute favourite haunts in Penang was the 'Bagan' club in Jalan Bagan Jermal, Tg Tokong.  It really was a superb place, heritage look and feel, a good mix of bar, lounge and restaurant with good live music and superb DJs.  I think that for me, one of the reasons I liked it so much was the look and feel of the place a contemporary take on a classic heritage look, sort of 'shabby chic' - I don't know how but it just worked.

Sadly Bagan closed it's doors a couple of years ago but the cloud seemed to have a silver lining as the owners of Bagan intended to open up a 'New Bagan' at Macalister Mansion (MM), one of my fave hotels and restaurants in Penang.  Despite the excitement, and despite the success of the rest of what makes up MM sadly, for me, New Bagan didn't work.  It failed to capture the essence of the old Bagan and if entirely new was what was being looked for, I have to say, that didn't work also.  New Bagan eventually closed becoming The Cellar wine bar, a concept that is actually much more in keeping with the classy MM theme.

Recently however, a little bird told me of the intention of the owners to open up a Bagan again, in the centre of Georgetown.  Further, I was told that the intention is to re-capture the look, feel and success of the original Bagan.  I can't say too much more now but stay tuned for more information.  The good news is you won't have to wait long!  

So, the Phoenix rises from the ashes again!!!  Let's hope the latest iteration of Bagan really does bring back the very unique theme of Bagan I, something which is now sadly lacking in Penang.