Thursday, May 14, 2015

More than just coffee at Black Canyon Coffee

Black Canyon Coffee is a place easily mistaken for one that serves coffee and tea along with light snacks as the name suggests at a glance as one takes a walk down the outer boulevard where it is located in Gurney Plaza.
There is no way one could have associated the place with main courses or even Asian food dining, simply due to the sound of the name itself, let alone think of proper course set meals or spicy food; unless of course, one has actually heard or been to the cafe itself.
It does not help with the clarification of their identity with their location along/beside cafes such as Starbucks and Dome either.

Originating from our neighboring country, Thailand, Black Canyon Coffee is indeed a cafe that specializes in their own local style coffee designed to their business's identity.
From iced coffee, lattes and tea, Black Canyon Coffee is just that kind of cafe for one to enjoy a good chilled drink and just well, chill.
Its roots from a land famed for exotic tasting food particularly in the hot and spicy department is just justification enough for them to include their local cuisine food; the pride of their cultural origins even in a cafe themed environment and that was how Black Canyon Coffee revolved into also a cafe-restaurant, serving more than just your regular dose of caffeine fix.

It is a little unusual and tad a bit weird (perhaps it's psychological) to imagine a menu bursting with full-fledged main course meals of an Asian origin in a place which is associated with coffee.
At least it is to me.
As I say, it must be psychological for I had made up my mind that this was no more than a coffee place and I dare say it must have also slipped past the mind of the many who have just walked past the place with a mere glance casted in their direction.
I think something has got to be done with the naming of the place, perhaps locally here?

I was surprised with the variety of meals and dishes offered on their menu and even set lunches designed to cater specific numbers are available (two pax, 4 pax, 6 pax).
They are just eager to attract their own share of diners who are on the hunt of set meals which come with recommended and pre-set courses which saves the trouble of deciding on what to eat from the menu itself.
It is a wise idea.

When you are in a place which started off as a cafe, you must pay homage by ordering drinks with a caffeine-theme.
It is an unspoken rule, and while I am not a caffeine person, I am glad my other half is.

Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte (MYR7.90)
It was tad a little diluted in its taste though the ice and chilled part of the drink came in useful when the food arrives...

Spicy Seafood Tom Yum (MYR16.90)


Well, the name says it all, and it was truly spicy that one could break into sweat within the first few spoonfuls (not that there is much to begin with). Of course our hot weather could be the reason for the perspiration but this is truly one spicy tom yum.


Portions were moderately sized and I would say it fits the serving size of a cafe themed restaurant, offering just that right amount to tempt your appetite but not leaving you stuffed with no room to breathe, if you get my meaning.


The seafood tom yum came with quite a generous amount of fish fillets, prawns, squids, mushrooms and tomatoes swimming in the flavorful soup spiced with lemongrass, tamarind pulps, coriander leaves and tomatoes.
It was quite addictive with that exotic taste, not to mention appetizing despite the 30 degrees Celsius temperature out there.


I was delighted to see that they have this, Pad Kee Mao, which was Spicy Stir Fried Seafood with Hot Basil (MYR13.90)


I used to enjoy this at one of my regular Thai restaurants that I haunt, but since they have ceased operations, I could hardly find this in most of the places I went despite this being a relatively simple and regular Thai dish. It is one of the most basic and probably one of the common street style dishes even.
This was again another spicy dish and while it is not too bad, with the generous amount of seafood (prawns, fish fillets, squids) along with an assortment of long breaks, button mushrooms and of course, wickedly fat slices of red chilies where the seeds were tossed all over the dish for that tantalizing taste, I would say I have tasted better.


Surprisingly, the salad which was supposed to be the appetizing start to my meal came to the table the last.

This, I must say, is the star dish of my entire meal.
If the theme of the Spicy Tom Yum and Pad Kee Mao did not do enough to stir up that sweat glands and trigger that excitement on the taste buds, this, just kicked it up a notch to remind one that they are truly at a Thai restaurant.

I mean, this is kicking spicy.

Spicy Salmon Salad (MYR10.90)

17601631165_7c40ec1061_o_Fotor Who would have thought that the salad, which was supposed to be one to balance and even out the tastes turned out to be the main killer of the entire meal?
I have truly underestimated you.
It did well, and it really pushed up that adrenaline and sweat glands and I was just panting and the ice in the drink, that was the savior.

I was enticed by the name and theme of the salad which uses salmon and at such a reasonable price that the salmon-crazed me just have to have this.
The colors were just brightly appealing and drawing one to just enjoy the dish.
Deep fried salmon chunks tossed with largely diced tomatoes, cashew nuts, onion slices, stalks of spring onions and coriander leaves drenched with a sweet and sourish tasting sauce on a bed of lettuce leaves were just luring one into its colorful lair.
Those evil bird's eye chili did all they could to just numb your senses and just sends that hot sensation down your tongue, throat and straight into your tummies to just give them that surge of warmth.


Salad as an appetizer or a safe choice?
This is definitely not and is all about spunky attitude.
I have underestimated the power of the salad.
I have learnt my lesson and I will never do that again.

The food is truly a mind-blowing feast and if that is not enough, the presentation of their rice here could be something to draw your attention to.


I just love the creativity and this "square box" of rice is just too cute to be eaten, but is necessary to help cushion the effect of the spices on the lining of the stomach.
Can I have a "Square box of rice"?
It is just too adorable.
I love it when people get creative with their food presentation.

Black Canyon Coffee is definitely more than just plain coffee and tea and their move with set meals and even the affordable prices of their food and drinks at a well-sized portion could be attracting more to their turf soon.
They have definitely brought along the alluring tastes of their homeland to warm the hearts and of course stomachs of the local Malaysians, or rather, Penangites where they are currently based.


I know I am definitely pumped up, not to mention spiced up on my first visit!

All the experiences are based on my personal tastes and are in no way representing the general.
This is not a sponsored post by the restaurant, and is purely based on my personal opinions.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Meals made more affordable at Eld’s 22 Pasta & Grill


Set lunches and dinners, waived GST and service tax charges along with reasonably priced food and beverages are the main marketing tools for this quaint little diner-style restaurant located on the 5th floor of one of Penang’s upscale and most happening shopping mall, Gurney Paragon.

It is a wise move, with such offering to attract the budget-savvy local folks and even tourists especially with the recent changes in the nation’s economy.
Additional taxes imposed are additional deduction from one’s monthly allowance accumulatively and this could be a burden for those in the lower and medium income earners, who are already faced with the rising costs of living. It is just a perplexing situation when the existing income or earning is not in the growth quadrant but the costs of the basic necessities and amenities take the opposite direction and pose that additional stress in the financial management.
Dining out is now a luxury more than ever, especially for those with multiple headcounts in the families depending on sole breadwinners and even for the singles who would need to manage their living expenses.

Eld’s 22 is quick to hop onto the bandwagon to seize the attention of the population waning in the current situation and offering that glimmer of hope to enjoy that option to dine out while keeping a conscious tab on their expenses.
It is an initiative much welcomed by many, I am sure as their weekend outings with families and friends need not be compromised with the many attractive courses offered by Eld’s 22 menu.

I was drawn to their advertising and being a visitor to the mall, I have often passed by the place though I have never really tried any of their offerings.
Well, mainly because I am usually a comfort diner and I tend to stick to my own preferred places and then there’s just that usual routine craving that I simply must satisfy.
On days when I am adventurous and wanting something different, that’s where you spot posts like these much to the delight of the places I decided to try.

Eld’s 22 Pasta and Grill just happened on one of my weekends in Gurney Paragon and I was quite impressed with the attentive servers who quickly ushered me to my table in no time and took my orders.
That is one important criterion to capture a new customer’s heart, I must say and I was pleasantly surprised though happy about it at the same time.

I was early but business was brisk and it did not take long for the place to be filled with the ardent weekend crowd of lunch hunters while on their shopping spree. It is proof of the popularity of the place as a choice for lunch among the locals; and the crowd comprises of a combination of both the young, old, and even families.
That is what reasonable costs and waivers do to people. It is all about the dollars and cents.

Set Lunches are available on weekends, unlike most restaurants or cafes and that is another winning factor.

The set lunches are designed especially for the sets available on a separate menu, and are priced at a reasonable range from MYR15.00 onwards, inclusive of a soup, drink and dessert.


Grilled Saba Fish with Tropicana Salsa Set Lunch (MYR18.90)


I was a little disappointed with the portion though I know there is not much to ask for when it is a set to begin with. I was expecting the portion to be petite and well, it was as expected.
For the price and the overall package of the set, I guess it is reasonably designed?
I just could not help comparing to my other set lunch which caught me off guard at Blackwood, but then again, they are two different entities. Still…


The Saba, pretty much mackerel, was quite minute in its size served along with thin angel hair spaghetti spruced up with the Tropicana salsa sauce.
It would be a sufficient portion for a decisive and conscious eater definitely, but I would recommend ala carte orders or additional side dishes if one is on the higher metabolism side.

Taste wise, the saba was done quite well, depending on one’s taste, but it was not too bad for me.
I don’t usually order the saba fish but this was quite appetizing, though it was a tad bit oily as well.
The Tropicana salsa added flavor (and colors) to this dish, and just created that wholesome balance of the tastes with its exciting and mildly exotic combination of sweet and sour in just that appropriate amount to spice up the plain grill of the fish packed with nutrients and the ordinary spaghetti.



The drink which accompanied the set came in the form of a glass of cordial fruit punch.


The soup of the day, is their Homemade Pumpkin Soup with Dried Shrimps (priced at MYR7.80 ala carte)


Grilled Seasonal Fish with Honey Mustard Sauce was ordered ala carte (MYR17.80)


Served with purple sweet potatoes, carrots, pickles, roast tomatoes and nachos chips, this was quite pleasant to taste, in my opinion.


Portion was average but it was more than enough for me, and it was not too bad where the flesh of the fish was maintained in its tenderness and the honey mustard sauce, of course, honey mustard sauce is always a good complement to almost everything.

17407023679_a005e234c9_o_Fotor 17405536318_e8de1c35cc_o_Fotor

Dessert for the set lunch is a scoop of ice-cream presented nicely on a plate, and I must say, this is an appreciated effort for I have seen places where the dessert is just a slab on the plate, since it is just part of the set.


The attitude is set right by Eld’s 22 in their presentation of their set meals, and I applaud that.

My first impression of Eld’s 22 was not too bad and their menu does attract me with a few things that I would love to try, maybe on my next visit, hopefully?

Now, if I can step out of my comfort zone more often when it comes to eating….

For more information, check out their Facebook Page here

163D-Level 5-16, 18 & 19, Gurney Paragon Mall, Persiaran Gurney, Pulau Pinang

All the experiences are based on my personal tastes and are in no way representing the general.
This is not a sponsored post by the restaurant, and is purely based on my personal opinions.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Special Cendol (Cendol Istimewa) - Best Cendol in Kulim


Imagine a bowl of icy cold palm syrup and coconut milk in light brown color tone filled with shaved ice, red beans and green jelly strips, in your hand.

That is the image of the popular traditional dessert; Cendol.

Cendol refers to the short noodle strips flavored and owing its color to the green pandan leaves crushed for its juices found in the dessert, but this main ingredient is often highlighted as the star of the dessert that the name of the dessert itself takes after this green noodle/worm-like jelly substance.

A good bowl of cendol is always welcomed by the locals and can be easily found on the streets.
It is a dessert fare favored by the local folks in the region.

I am not a fan of cendol; never was and still is not.

The wriggly worm-like texture of the rice flour concoction which come in short-length strips just suppress my mind of thoughts to associate it with anything edible and it is not hard to figure why.
It is though, personal judgments aside, a popular ingredient found commonly in desserts especially in the regions of Southeast Asia; such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei and Myanmar.

The term cendol is believed to originate from the term ‘jendol’; of Indonesian origin, or as widely believed in Indonesia as it strongly resembles the green-colored worm-like rice flour jelly which appears to be bulging or swollen in shape.
Interestingly too, the term “jendol” itself is a word for swollen, bulge, or a bump in the local languages of the Indonesian, Javanese and Sundanese.
(Source: Wikipedia)

It is a perfectly logical reference to the cendol we know; in its ultimate squiggly form as it is made out from the rice flour dough immersed with that green dye, which obtains its color from the natural pandan juice squeezed from the pandan leaves themselves (or sometimes just the pandan essence).
The pandan leaves itself too could be included in the preparation of this dessert, to lend that pleasantly natural aroma to the bowl of dessert.
The rice flour dough is pressed through a sieve as it is warm to fall into its wriggly strips in a container filled with cold water; to maintain the natural bounce yet firm nature of the strips, as described in the process of the making of these dessert favorites.
It is not too difficult to make these green wormy strips, as it was made out to be.

Due to its rice flour origin which is purely the dough paste, the cendol is bland in taste (rice flour) and is seldom used on its own but rather as the complement in the desserts where it is usually one of the ingredients. The cendol is often given its taste with the sweet soup; along with ice and milk or coconut milk to create that exotic taste familiar to the Asian taste buds.
The variations of the cendol are almost similar to each other; as it is served in the different countries and one can simply be prepared to enjoy that same cendol when one travels to the countries mentioned above where cendol is almost synonymous to that part of their local delicacies.

In Malaysia, cendol is also associated with the notion of desserts and can be found in its sweet relishing variations almost everywhere in the region. From street stalls (most common) to cafes and restaurants, it is not too difficult to find a version of this in the dessert sections of most menus though it remains in its popularity as one of the street food.
The cendol in Malaysia has much to owe to the Peranakan origins and is a popular favorite in the sweet soup of palm sugar (Gula Melaka) further thickened with the fragrant coconut milk.
Throw in the red beans and shaved ice, and you have got yourself one of the most popular desserts favored by the local Malaysians.

Cendol is usually served in bowl as described above, or one can also opt for the drink which is still the same formula as above sans the red bean (or even with the red beans for those who are fans of the protein-packed buddies).

The popularity of cendol has been the source of inspiration for the business owners who have incorporated the very concept of cendol recipes and serving mouth-watering cendol-themed desserts to the food savvy locals in the country.
Creativity is always inspiring but in the case of cendol, creativity could step aside for the convention wins this time where the traditional way of plain serving cendol with the concoction of palm sugar syrup laden soup mixed with coconut milk, shaved ice and red beans is just the way to go.
Nothing could top that and there are many stalls found by the roadside and even in markets selling just that exact version.

Ask for cendol, and you will be presented with a bowl of dessert as depicted.


To date, the most famous cendol stalls are found in both Penang and Melaka; the two sister straits states which also share the Peranakan heritage in their legacy.

Mention Penang Road Cendol which is purportedly a Teochew styled-version and the Melaka’s Jonker Street Cendol, and you will have many approving nods with smiles on their faces.

Now, onto the highlight of this post, the discovery of an existing popular gem in the heart of the town of Lunas, Kulim.

Best Cendol in Kulim: Cendol Istimewa

Little did we know that there is another gem hidden all the way up north; in the humble dainty town of Kulim, now on the rise with the settlement of industrialization on its land since almost a decade ago.
(Perhaps there are even more hidden gems which we are probably unaware all around the country; in places less explored).


I was not a fan of cendol to begin with, and therefore this is definitely an unbiased commentary based on my own experience.
It would be rather hard to even entice me to take just a taste, and I am just that stubborn skeptic who could just sit there while someone enjoys mouthfuls of sweet dessert and watch.
Yes, I will not take even a tiny spoonful even if you make me, if I really do not want to, especially when it comes to food that I have made up my mind not to like.
I just am that picky.
Cendol is unfortunately on that list, but the very publication of this post is proof that I have taken that unimaginable step to taste the dessert this time round, just to justify for the much-acclaimed popularity.

I was not surprised, and it is a move that I did not regret.
I have tried cendol before (a very very long time ago, and perhaps only once in a blue moon – almost close to never) and most of them are just the usual with its sweet taste overwhelmed by the palm sugar syrup.
(I am already not a fan of sweet stuffs to begin with, so most of them did not catch my fancy after just one taste).
(I am sorry that I am such a picky eater, read that blog name).


This version; did just the unexpected.
I was pleasantly surprised by the mild sweetness yet enticing flavorful taste of the palm sugar syrup concoction diluted with the perfect amount of shaved ice to even the sugary taste and also the light barely-there coconut milk.
I am not exactly friendly with dairy products and coconut milk is one ground that I thread on with extreme care due to the rejection and intolerance issues, but this was quite mild and I really mean light.



Pulut or sticky glutinous rice is used in this version; an addition to the usual suspects of cendol and red bean and in thick coagulated lumps found in the dessert. The pulut enhances the flavor of the cendol and lends its savory taste to even out the congregation of its other companions in the combination.
Pulut lovers would be delighted to see the generous amount of the glutinous rice which also helps with that silky smooth taste of the soup and chunks of the pulut would definitely make a serving filling for even the adventurous eaters.

The star is however, the Cendol itself; the theme of where the entire combination is centered upon and rightfully so, for it is called Cendol for a reason and this particular version nodded to its existence.


The cendol is not forgettable; evident from its delicate and ultra smooth texture which just seems to slip through the tongue and straight into the throat as one takes a bite.
Imagine a spoonful of these slinky babies and you won’t even know they were there; they were just that slippery smooth.
I was amazed by the slick nature of these handmade rice flour strips; for most could still remind one of its rice flour origins with its taste but these were just perfect, or almost.
I can’t imagine myself proclaiming my love for these slimy stuffs which I never even liked in the first place, but I am a convert.

This truly gives a brand new definition to cendol, and it made quite an impression.


I was told that this is the second branch of the Kulim Cendol; where they originally run a small stall right outside their house along the Kulim main road.



They are open for only two hours daily (previously in the original and first stall); for their cendol sells faster than hot cakes out of the oven.
Their success is attributed to the hordes of cendol fans from the local population and of course, the industrial folks.

It is not hard to see why and I am glad that they have since expanded their business to their second outlet; which has just begun its operations early this year in this shoplot located in the quaint little town of Lunas which is famous for their duck rice (the duck rice shop is located right opposite this row of shophouses).



Opening Hours
Now they are open daily, except on Mondays
Operating Hours: Not stated on the time they open (TBD), but they should be there by 12 noon and until 6.30pm

Per Bowl: MYR2.00
Takeaway in packet: MYR2.50
Serving in cup with spoon: MYR2.20

They do sell some snacks such as the Cucur Udang (fried prawn fritters) which could go fairly well with the icy cold dessert.
I did not get to try this out, so I can't comment much.


Cendol Istimewa (translated as Special Cendol) is truly worthy of its name, and I say they deserve every bit the crown of being the Best Cendol in Kulim; or maybe even in the northern region.


This is truly one special Cendol one has got to try, thumbs-up!


*Take this from a non-Cendol fan*

I think it needs no further justification for the Cendol being declared as a Malaysian heritage food by our very own Malaysian Department of National Heritage.