Friday, December 13, 2013

The Secret Supper Club Series

Baby Sis always has in-roads into the many interesting activities happening around town. Last week she booked me for 3 nights to attend the In-Between Arts Festival that is sandwiched between George Town Literary Festival and Penang Island Jazz Festival. 

The In-Between Festival kicked off with a Baba & Nyonya Supper & Play at Ren I Tang Hotel on Monday night. Smart move, 'cos you really cannot go wrong with Nyonya food. 

Pearly Kee's Kacang Botol Kerabu really whetted my appetite. I went back for more! I can say that her otak-otak is one of the best I have ever tasted and I was delighted to find a big piece of firm and white fish meat in the otak-otak. She really doesn't stint on her ingredients.

Her Sambal Goreng was also fantastic and she surprised us with Spicy Savoury Parcels which are actually fried wontons with sambal hare bee (Dried Shrimp Sambal) filling. That's so creative. 

Look at my plate piled high with all the yummy dishes!

Clockwise from top left: Kacang Botol Kerabu, 5 Spiced Chicken Roll,
Jiu Hu Char, Nasi Ulam, Otak-Otak, Blue Rice, Kari Kapitan,
Spicy Savoury Parcels; and Sambal Goreng in the middle

The food was great but I could not say the same for the entertainment that followed. It was such a disappointment. A couple was so fed-up that they left half-way through the playlet. 

Apparently, the Penang Players had only one practice before the show, and so they play-read instead of acted. They were also sharing mics which makes it very difficult for us to hear much of what was being said. 

Towards the end there was a part where certain members of the audience (including my Baby Sis) were asked to insert punctuation marks into strings of words in order to make sentences. None of the sentences made much sense to me. 

I checked with Baby Sis and she said that they were already cued 
on where to insert the punctuation marks. There were no mistakes 
with regards to the order of the words on the placards 
held by the actors. So what happened?

On the second night, we had a royal Moghul feast prepared by Dr Tripat Narayanan. The location was Salsas Restaurant at Gurney Paragon Mall. I thought it a very odd combination to serve Indian food in a western food outlet. The Indian atmosphere was lost. 

I love the attention given to the table setting and the sit-down arrangement. This was the only meal that was not served buffet style.  

I couldn't stop eating the dry roasted cashews
and almonds. They were super crunchy
and not sweet 'cos they're fried
with chillis, cumin and brown sugar

Baby Sis was dressed to the theme while I looked so tired
in my work clothes. Going for dinner straight from work
is not a good idea.

I couldn't resist taking a photo with Tan Twan Eng,
the author of "The Garden of Evening Mists." The book,
published in 2012, 
won the Man Asian Literary Prize,
and the 
Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.
Tan was born in Penang.
The starter: Cardamon scented Lamb Kebabs with Mint Chutney
served with small parathas

Raita, Chicken Kurma, Pan-fried Cauliflower with Tomatoes,
Saffron Basmati Rice, and Sweet Hot Mango Chutney
for dinner with Rose-scented Apple Kheer for dessert

Spiced tea and a digestive mix of crushed almonds,
rock sugar and fennel seeds to end our meal

Our entertainment for the evening - an Indian dance
 by dancers from the Temple of Fine Arts

On the third night, the spotlight was on Malay food and the menu was supposed to feature P. Ramlee's favourite dishes.

Clockwise from top left-hand corner: Rose Sherbet;
Chef Shuk showing us the spices used in the Beef Rendang
demonstration; Bubur Kacang; Chef Shuk's son stirring
the Beef Rendang; my dinner plate with Singapore Beehoon,
Kacang Panjang, Hang Tuah Beef Rendang, rice,
and Fish Curry with Roti Bengali;
Chef Shuk's Beef Rendang served on baguette
 This was the worst dinner of the lot. The place, Jawi House Cafe Gallery, was small and cramped. They were obviously short of workers. They kept telling us that they would get around to serving us our drinks but the drinks never came. Eventually one of the guys from our table decided to take things into his own hands because we were dying from thirst. He simply went to the service area and hijacked some bottles of water.

When it was time for dinner we had to bring the plates from our table to the buffet line to collect our meal. We thought the Fish Curry with Roti Bengali was a weird combination and true enough, it tasted weird. I'll settle for Chicken Curry with Roti Bengali any time. And the bubur kacang was also the worst bubur kacang I have ever tasted in my whole life. 

The only consolation was the entertainment. Viv Adram & the Northern Jazz Unit were really good. Unfortunately Baby Sis was not feeling too good and so we left early. I would have loved to joget the night away. 


Jasmine Low said...

Dear Mel,

Thank you for your very detailed account of our first 'Secret Suppers' series of dinners, at the 2nd In-between Arts Fest.

I read your account and comments with much interest and we have taken note to help improve our planning in future.

Thank you for your earnest account and we sincerely hope that you had good fun despite some of the hiccups.

At your service,
Jasmine Low
Festival Director

Melsong said...

Hi Jasmine,

I took a hiatus from blogging and had just come back.

The Secret Supper series is a splendid idea and I would encourage you to continue organising it. I will be looking forward to more secret suppers being organised and, don't worry, we take the good and the bad in our stride. We'll be back!

Melsong said...
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