During a visit to Penang to pay a courtesy call to my Adjunct Supervisor in USM, Dad played tourist and brought me on a coastal drive. One place he made a point to stop at was the Tropical Spice Garden in Teluk Bahang. Apparently, the last time he visited with Mum, they loved it and felt that I would like it, too.
I was too hungry to listen to his lengthy explanation of how interesting they found the garden to be. Instead, the word "restaurant" on this sign caught my attention.
"Are you hungry?" I nodded. "Sigh, okay, let's go grab some makan then."
We walked up the stairs, which were pretty steep, and found an open-air restaurant atop the hill.
I really liked the outdoor dining area, as in addition to the scenic ocean view, it felt as though we were treetop dining. A few months down the road on another trip up to the island, I brought some friends here, too.
The menu had a fusion of local, Western and Thai dishes. We could smell the Pandan Chicken (maximum four pieces per serve), from our table as it was brought out from the kitchen. The succulent pieces of marinated chicken wrapped in pandan leaf were mouthfuls of crunchy delight. Be careful not to dig into them as soon as they get served because they are extremely hot (temperature-wise).
Their Satay was so-so, especially when compared to those available in the local hawker places.
The fish fillets of the Fish & Chips were crumbed and fried to perfection. They could have given more of the salad, though.
A small serve of Tomyum is a single bowl of thick lemongrass soup with mushroom, fresh chilli and lime juice. A little too thick for my liking but the sour and spicy balance was acceptable.
I am a sucker for Pad Thai and so it was no surprise that I would give theirs a try. The dish of Thai fried noodles with prawns, eggs, dried shrimps, shallots and bean sprouts was too big for me but oh, so nice. With a dash of chilli powder, it was mouth-watering.
Instead of normal nasi lemak, they serve Thai Nasi Lemak, coconut rice with Massaman curry chicken and condiments. Nicely presented and the chicken was fragrant.
The Seafood Fried Rice, fried rice with prawns, squid, egg and vegetables served with fried egg looked small but actually was quite filling. The sambal that came with it was quite spicy.
The Belacan Fried Rice, shrimp paste fried rice served with sweet chicken and condiments was a plateful of contrasting flavours. Sweet, sour, spicy and salty, all in one.
Another beautifully presented dish was the Pineapple Fried Rice. Served in a half-cut pineapple, the fried rice with chicken, egg, ham, onion, pineapple and cashew nut came in a big serve, too! It was fragrant, fried well (still moist and not too dry) and if not spicy enough, it is served with a dollop of sambal at the side.
Their drinks did not disappoint, too. Their freshly pressed juiced come without sugar, such as the apple juice below.
They also serve an interesting combination of mocktails, such as this Monkey Juice, which is a combination of mango, banana, pineapple, orange and basil leaves.
Another refreshing healthy drink is the LGH, which is a concoction of lemongrass, ginger, honey and lime. Dad and I love this drink!
During my first visit, as I was staring into space, I noticed something moving in the trees. Was that a face? Oh my goodness! It was! A really adorable one at that!
Look, a dusky leaf monkey! Aw, cuteness!!!
Not just one but a whole family! No wonder the place is called Tree Monkey.
Should you not mind the price (which I think is reasonable for such fantastic ambience), do not give this place a miss the next time you visit Penang. You will like this place, even more so if you are a nature person.
Lone Crag Villa, Lot 595 Mukim 2, Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11100 Penang, Malaysia.
Tel: +60 4 881 3493/4, Fax: +60 4 881 3494
Open daily from 9:00am to 11:00pm