[Penang, Malaysia] Nyonya lunch at π—•π—Ήπ˜‚π—² π—•π—²π—Ήπ—Ήπ˜ƒπ—Άπ—»π—², Noordin Street

Lunch today at the latest addition to George Town’s bevy of Nyonya restaurants - the stylish Blue Bellvine on Noordin Street. It actually opened on 8 Jan 2021, just 5 days before the start of this latest MCO Lockdown, so we didn’t manage to check it out till today. It’s got a modernistic decor, a departure from the more traditional set-up favoured by most Nyonya restaurants around George Town.

Fronted by the friendly, personable Elaine Ch’ng, the cooking is done by her Nyonya mother, according to their family heirloom recipes - her maternal grandmother used to own a Nyonya kueh business on Kinta Lane.

Our lunch today consisted of:
Jiu hu char with kueh pie tie - this one was, frankly, a disaster: jiu hu char contained dried cuttlefish which doesn’t really go with the crisp pastry shells at all. Traditionally, the filling consisted of shredded jicama, flavored with chicken, shrimps, onions and perhaps shredded carrot. Mild, savory flavors - nothing strongly fishy to throw the combined flavors off-balance.

Sambal udang - very nice, fresh shrimps, but the sambal sauce was a bit too watery.

Grouper fish otak-otak - this was very good: well-spiced fish mousse with a slightly firm texture, as expected of this dish. It was served, strangely, with cream crackers.

Chicken curry with mantou - not a good rendition, as the curry lacked the spice aroma, and the deep, rich flavors I expect from a Nyonya curry. The chicken tasted overcooked whilst the accompanying potatoes were undercooked - which was weird. The accompanying mantou tasted dry and tasteless - a bit over-fried.

Ladyfingers cooked with sambal belacan - one of the more β€œpassable” dishes today. It’s mushier than I’d have liked, and the flavors were also a bit too mild.

Nyonya bakchang - this dish was a cracker: perfect balance of flavors: coriander-scented minced pork, and just the right amounts of candied winter-melon mixed into the filling. The texture of the sticky rice was perfect. If I should ever return here - this is the one dish I’d order.

Drinks:
Chilled Blue Bellvine orange - beautiful to look at but, frankly, a bit tasteless for me.

Popsicle, a mixture of hibiscus, raspberry and lemon myrtle - this one fared better: a sourish, fruity drink. Not too sure about the β€œpopsicle” name, as it was served at room temperature, rather than cold or frozen as we thought it would be.

Dessert:
Pulot tai-tai - they really know how to cook their sticky rice here, which is, again, perfectly textured. Can’t say much about the β€œkaya” topping, though - it was way too soft and bland, more liquid than the eggy, curd-like texture that it should be. Also, we did not detect any pandan aroma, nor the caramelized, eggy flavors I expect from a good β€œkaya”. Too bad.

Quite an ambitious little place, but still more than a few kinks to iron out here.

Address
Blue Bellvine Restaurant
27, Lebuh Noordin, 10300 George Town, Penang
Tel: +6012-416 8901
Opening hours: 11am-9pm Tue-Thu, 10am-10pm Fri-Sun. Closed on Mondays.

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STUNNING! The food, the interior and the employee pictured.

I would be a regular if I were living there. Hope they survive the unpredictable future.

Restaurant designs will need to change after the pandemic is over. I’m in favour of Booths with high partitions.

They already have this kind of restaurants in Korea long before Covid. Exactly how I like it. :laughing:

!eatalone

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Gosh, those looked like office workstations! :joy:

I dunno. Peter’s review pointed to issues with nearly every dish. But they are photogenic.

Koreans are weird. :wink:

A fairly rare disappointment for you, Peter. And, mate, for your followers here.

I’m not keen on booths. Can never get quite comfortable with the fixed seating. And, unless they are designed for, ahem, the generously proportioned, it can be a squeeze to get

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I’m hoping it’s teething problems, but I suspect the problems might lie deeper - in their family heirloom recipes used.

Like most food cultures borne out of home kitchens (as compared to cooking schools), Nyonya cooking varies from family to family. So, whilst the basic recipes are pretty β€œstandard” for each traditional dish, we often encounter some quirks from place to place - sometimes, the family’s chief cook, e.g. the grandmother, might dislike tamarind, so she’d substitute tomatoes for it. So, that family’s rendition of the dish would differ from everyone else’s. And if they should offer that in a restaurant which they run, they would then open themselves up to criticism!

In Blue Bellvine, I encountered more β€œdepartures from the norm” than I’d have liked. The problem is, more often than not, their versions don’t work!

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Hopefully, they hear you. It’s a frustration that decor and presentation takes over the food. I remember a restaurateur saying it’s easier to make people come to your new restaurant the first time, but quite a challenge for the second time.

The crackers served with otak otak is really weird. :rofl:

Did the grandma cooked the same way?

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My brother in law is Spanish and now living in the UK. He’s often criticised the cooking of Spanish food on British TV programmes saying it’s β€œnot traditional”. When we’ve discussed further, it turns out he really meant it’s not being cooked the way his mother cooked it.

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I hardly think so! Her mother does the cooking nowadays, and I suspected that she may have tweaked the recipes.

Yup! With regards to our Nyonya cooking here, there is an old saying, β€œ10 homes, 10 flavours” - every family have their own take on each dish!

Day 541 since Malaysia started its Movement Control Order (MCO) back in 18 March 2020. We were deathly bored with being unable to dine-out so, despite being a working day (Thursday), we decided to order Blue Bellvine Nyonya Cuisine’s afternoon tea set, home-delivered, just to indulge ourselves.

The set for two, priced at MYR 88 (US$21/Β£15.35) did seem a bit steep (by Penang standards) for what we had. It consisted of:

  1. Signature chicken curry with Chinese mantou buns

  1. Blue Bellvine lor bak (5-spiced pork meat rolls), with chili sauce dip, jiu hu char popiah (deep-fried spring rolls) and chicken nuggets (don’t ask how they got here!!)

  2. Grouper otak-otak (steamed spicy fish mousse)with Ritz crackers & Scottish oatcakes

  3. Dessert: Jelly, topped with peach and longan

  4. We had an extra order of pulut tai tai (steamed glutinous rice topped with coconut milk-egg custard jam).

Overall, a bit on the expensive side here. But it’s been a struggle for many restaurants here in Penang, like elsewhere in the world, in the face of the pandemic. So we do want to support their business wherever we can.

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What a lovely spread, Peter. Certainly the sort of thing that’s going to cheer you up.

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Thanks, John. I tend to look for sweet stuff when I feel that I need a lift. This evening, it was Eccles cakes before dinner-time! :joy:

Otak-otak was one my fav dish to order when traveling in Asia. Grouper version is a lux.
About Ritz crackers, I seem to have saw it a few times in your meals, was it part of MY cuisine?

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Not really - it’s just Blue Bellvine’s odd inclusion into its serving of otak-otak.

:laughing: For me, it’s always egg, whatever form. Starch and sweet comes next.

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There is never a wrong time for an Eccles cake.

I doubt whether they are ever exported but, if you are ever in my part of the world, look out for Chorley cakes. Like an Eccles cake but made with shortcrust pastry. I prefer them. FWIW, Chorley is a town about a 45 minute drive north of me (and about 30 minutes north of Eccles)

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I’d love to go to Chorley & eat there!