[Penang, Malaysia] Lunch at Jaloux, 24 King Street

Fans of the temperamental but supremely-gifted 44-year-old Loh Choon Kueng (aka Chef Hong) and pastry chef Khor Gaik Ee (aka Chef Yen) of the now-defunct Cozy in the Rocket can finally breathe a sigh of relief - the dynamic duo is back at their latest venture, Jaloux, on 24 King Street.

Ever since they started the tiny but quirkily-pretty Amelie Cafe on Armenian Street back in 2009, Chefs Hong & Yen have built up quite a loyal following through their slow-food, artisanal culinary approach - using the best quality ingredients they can source from within Penang to churn out rustic, hearty Italian-inspired dishes.

In 2013, they upsized from the 6-table Amelie to a much larger Cozy in the Rocket, offering pretty much the same pasta-based menu at lunch & dinner, besides an ambitious addition of breakfast offerings.

With Jaloux, Hong & Yen seem to have decided to move a bit closer back to their Amelie roots, with a smaller, tighter menu, and only does lunch & dinner. ·

Loh Choon Kueng aka Chef Hong, is a trained graphics designer, but can also cook up a storm, with his meticulously prepared Italian-inspired dishes using the best ingredients which he and partner, Yen, carefully sourced themselves.

  1. Bruschetta Ricotta, with house-made salted caramel, ricotta and toasted almond flakes on grilled bread. Singularly, the best-tasting toast in Penang, bar none.

  1. Soup of the Day - chicken in spicy-tomato broth.

  1. Pasta Spaghetttini in White Truffle Oil - with mushrooms, French butter, shaved parmesan, onion confit & white truffle oil.

  2. Pasta Carbonara - spaghettini with bacon, parmesan cheese, cream and free-range hen’s egg-yolk.

  1. Smoked Pork-rib Ragu, served with Grilled Country Bread.

  1. Seafood Stew with Spicy-Cream Sauce - with king prawns, clams, bacon & grouper fish fillets.

  1. Cempedak Creme Brulee.

  2. Coconut Panna Cotta with Palm Sugar Syrup.

Best Italian in George Town - by far.

Address
Jaloux
24, Lebuh King, 10300 George Town
Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6016-452 9882
Opening hours: 12 noon - 3pm (lunch), 6pm-9pm (dinner) Daily, except Tue & Wed.

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Delicious, make me want to make mine too!

The smoked pork and the seafood stew looks also very promising, even the pasta!
How much was the meal may I ask?

Their shop front is so discret though. If I was walking on the street, I might have missed it.

The main dishes cost an average of MYR40-60 (US$9.30-11.60), so a meal there is not expensive at all.

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Back to Jaloux today - tried their shrimp risotto - perfect texture - al dente, the way Italians like it. I like the fact that Chef Hong doesn’t try to appease local Penang preference for fluffy rice, but stuck to authenticity.

Also had the day’s special: Tequila & orange grilled prawns with mashed potatoes. It was competently turned out, but didn’t really wow us. Maybe our expectations have become too high - Jaloux is still head-and-shoulders above its peers in Penang in delivering good, authentic Continental cuisine.

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Back to Jaloux for lunch today, and was instantly mesmerized by Chef Hong’s roasted Iberico loin ribs with passionfruit oil & herbs. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender, perfectly seasoned and with immaculately-timed roasting to ensure the meat is moist, tender and flavorsome. I could imagine having this every day.

There are only two ways to cook pasta - the right way, and the wrong way.
Chef Hong happens to be the only person in George Town whom I’d trust to cook pasta exactly the way one expects - artisanal, hand-kneaded, hand-cut, and cooked al dente. He’s an Italian grandma trapped in a young Chinese man’s body. :joy:

Today, Chef Hong served up pappardelle topped with a delicious ragu of beef short-ribs, sun-dried tomatoes, and a light, aromatic mix of herbs and spices. “Pappardelle” comes from the Italian verb pappare , meaning “to gobble up”. A pretty apt description, in this case.

I finished off with a tiramisu - a dessert which I was hooked onto ever since Gabriel Fratini introduced it to Singapore at his eponymously-named restaurant on Neil Road back in 1991, just two years before Rob Reiner mentioned it to Tom Hanks in “Sleepless in Seattle”. Chef Hong’s rendition, with a perfect balance of the 4 ingredients my cardiologist warned me against: fat, sugar, caffeine and alcohol - was sheer sinful indulgence. It’s the last thing one would want to have and then die happy,

In the age of the COVID pandemic which has rendered international travel pretty much next to impossible, it’s a miracle for Penangites here to have Jaloux, where echoes of Tuscany, with the accompanying tastes and aromas, permeate. That Chef Hong managed to conjure up authentic Italian flavours using largely fresh, local ingredients, augmented by Italian herbs and spices where none can be attained domestically, is nothing short of a miracle, and spoke volumes of the gifted chef’s talent.

Jaloux’s interior is cool and Zen-like in its simplicity. I don’t see it as “small” - I think it’s the perfect right size, exactly like those mom-and-pop places one runs into during a traipse through the Italian countryside. Hard to imagine one is actually right next to George Town’s old banking district here.

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Nice meal. How did he learn pasta making, in Italy or in Penang?

One thing I’ve noticed that outside Italy, pasta or risotto are always serve as second course, not first.

In Italy. He actually goes on long working holidays in Italy annually, but not this year due to the pandemic and lockdowns internationally.

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Back to Jaloux for lunch today. We knew we could count on Chef Hong and Chef Yen to provide meticulously-prepared pasta dishes when we yearn for them.

We started off with some antipasti options:

  • Burrata Caprese - burrata cheese, cherry tomatoes and basil, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

  • Iberico sticky ribs - this was more American than Italian, but tasty all the same and very satisfying: fall-off-the-bone tender pork-ribs, blanketed with a sticky-sweet glaze that’s finger-licking good.

Our pasta mains:

  • Tagliatelle with seafood, saffron cream, garlic, chili and sun-dried tomatoes - this was a taste sensation: perfectly al dente paste suffused in a rich, creamy-tangy sauce which tasted of the sea, topped with plump prawns and octopus. It was simple and relied on the freshness and quality of the ingredients.

  • Nero di seppia spaghetti with carbonara sauce- raw yolk, smoked bacon, peppers, Parmigiano-Reggiano - this dish has a depth of flavour like no other: the smoky-deliciousness of the bacon playing against the richness of the carbonara sauce and yolk. I could eat this every day.

Desserts:

  • Pandan Panna Cotta with salted caramel - absolutely delicious. Chef Yen is really at the top of her game as she created this fusion concoction: perfuming creamy panna cotta with the intoxicating scent of the pandan, then pairing it with a swirl of buttery, smoky salted caramel sauce. Sheer genius!

  • Crème brûlée with grapefruit, vanilla and lychees - I’m lesser inclined towards this dessert, as I was never a big grapefruit fan. The lychee pieces do provide bursts of fruitiness to offset the sweet, creamy crème brûlée, whilst the unmistakable bitter-tartness of the grapefruit adds another taste dimension. Still, too many flavour profiles going on in that little saucer - I wouldn’t have minded just a plain, old-fashioned crème brûlée.

One thing’s for sure here - no meal at Jaloux ever disappoints, nor fall short of our expectations.

Century-old Chinese clanhouses right next door

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Sometimes, I tend to forget that Malaysia and Singapore, being two separate countries since they split back in 1965, each have their own border rules & restrictions. Being a resident of both countries, I’d been able to shuttle back and forth with ease in the past but, when the international borders were shut in March due to the COVID pandemic, I really found out how complicated things can become.

A few weeks ago, I started experiencing bouts of breathlessness, and it got progressively worse. I couldn’t go back to Singapore to see my regular cardiologist (whom I’d been seeing quarterly since my first angioplasty procedure 14 years ago - I have a stent in my heart’s left artery ever since). Going back to Singapore from Penang would’ve meant a 14-day quarantine before anything can be done. So, I decided to see a Penang cardiologist instead. 3 days ago, I had my second angioplasty procedure - three stents inserted into my heart’s right artery after they detected a 95% blockage. Sigh, I now have to look at my diet more carefully.

Anyhoo, after a couple of days of hospital diet, my first port of call after discharge is my go-to place for good pasta: Jaloux - which, to me, is the BEST spot for pasta in the whole of Malaysia. As long as Penang has Jaloux, I won’t even miss dining out back in Singapore!

Started off lunch today with some marinated artichokes - it was perfect, as I dread over-pickled vegetables of any kind. The ones here had just that right level of tartness. No puckered lips. :joy:

The pasta dish today surpassed my expectations - tagliatelle al ragù alla Bolognese - duck-meat ragu, pistachios, cranberries, basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It had the deep flavors from a sauce that has to be cooked yesterday, and then left to mature overnight, to let its flavors develop. A generous handful of crushed pistachios gave the dish a delicious textural bite. The pasta was perfectly al dente as always.

What followed next - the Acqua Pazza - was sensational: an intensely-flavored seafood stew which reminded me of good French bouillabaisse, or San Franciscan cioppino. Thick slices of crusty farmer’s bread, lightly grilled, were served on the side - I’d have been willing come back here just for the bread alone. :joy:

Finished off my meal with a panna cotta with lychees & passionfruit. The perfect ending.

Never a bad meal for me here. :yum:

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Take good care, Peter.

New lockdown, very “strict” this time, comes into effect last night at midnight and will last until Jan 19. The border is closed so no on ecan enter or exit. Only supermarkets and pharmacies are open now.

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Thanks, I shall.

Ugh! Well, at least there’s some light at the end of the tunnel - with the roll-out of the vaccine. People are so COVID-fatigued these days - it’s been too long!

It’s a new deathblow to the hospitality sector but this raging infection rate is much too high the government has no choice.

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@klyeoh Stay healthy, please! I wake up every morning, looking forward to your dispatches from SEA. I guess they’ll be on the healthy side from now on. Which will make your devoted readers happy.

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Thanks, @digga - I’ll try to eat healthier but, as you know, old habits die hard! :joy:

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Peter, i am so glad that you took care of yourself despite not having access to your usual physician. Whew.

Your dispatches open my—well, our!—eyes to a larger world. Hope to see many, many, many more updates from your always wonderful perspective.

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Thanks, @tomatotomato - oh yes, I’ll have to be more careful with my diet from now on, but I still do intend to enjoy my meals! :grin:

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Take care @klyeoh!

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Hope a 100% recovery! 95% was dangerous. Good decision you’ve made. Yeah, diet is important, but sports too.

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Thanks, @naf!
I do a 1.5 to 2 hour brisk walk daily, and, thank goodness, this activity alerted me to the blockage to my heart’s right artery as I started feeling breathless after walking short distances about 2 months ago. I’d thought it was a temporary condition which would go away, but it didn’t. Instead, it got progressively worse, which was when I decided to consult a cardiologist here in Penang. The doctor told me that I was lucky to be able to come in promptly - many of his patients suffered heart attacks because either they were asymptomatic, or they ignored their symptoms.

Well, it’s been 11 days since my angioplasty, and I’m now back to my usual activities - including my daily walks. :grin: :pray:

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Peter, please do take care of your health/heart. Lots of exercises helps for sure. Diet only help if you completely avoid all animal fats and all the yummy stuffs. Not sure that is what you want to do. Take care and stay safe.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold