Sticks & Spoon @ Elit Avenue, Penang

Those of you who know me well enough would know that I generally have a rather low tolerance for Penang’s dim sum. I don’t dislike Penang’s dim sum, but I also don’t like them.

But then, I have read a few food bloggers write about this place already, and they seem to think this is a not bad dim sum place. And then a few of my friends have tried this place and told me: “Leong, you gonna love this place, their dim sum is not the usual Penang style”. Huh…

Which is why after ignoring this place for a few months, I finally got my sorry ass to this place last Saturday for my weekend brunch before doing my grocery run. I am talking about Sticks & Spoon, a cafe that apparently specializes on dim sum. This cafe is located in Elit Avenue, right next to Oz Restaurant, that restaurant that thinks it serves Aussie cuisine.

sticksspoon

The moment I stepped into this cafe, I kind of felt doubtful already. I heard wonderful things about the dim sum here, so I was expecting the place to be crowded on a Saturday morning. But, no… there was a couple sitting at one table, and then there was me. No other customers, until when I was getting ready to leave when a family of four entered. Not a good sign, this…

Let’s talk about the dining experience here. Like most of the newer cafes and restaurants that operate out of this area, I find the Sticks & Spoon to be a rather small, square area. They have probably a full house capacity of less than 50 people. Because of this smallness, there is this feeling of a lack of privacy, especially when the place is empty. And you know, in a proper restaurant, the floor staff will usually disappear from your sight and remain inconspicuous except for when taking your orders or when serving your food. The staff here, they were hanging out at one of the tables meant for customers while waiting for business. In other words, they remained conspicuously visible throughout my time here. In fact, a few times I caught some of them staring at me, which made me extremely uncomfortable. This is actually not an issue unique to this cafe, I find that quite a number of these new cafes and restaurants in Penang have this issue too. Maybe it is just an issue for me and most of other people have no problems with being observed by their waiters/waitresses while dining

Anyway, let’s talk about the food. Maybe the food will blow my mind away. After all, Penangites mostly only care about food quality and nothing else, so if Penang food bloggers think this place is worth a shot, it must be because the food is great, right?

My drink came first. I ordered 鸳鸯 Yin Yong, which is supposed to be a Hong Kong styled coffee + milk tea concoction. This came instead…

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鸳鸯 Yin Yong (Iced) – RM 3.20

If you have ever had a HK-styled Yin Yong before, you would know that it would not look as light as this. No matter how I looked at it, it seemed to be a glass of 奶茶 milk tea. But then the server did mention “Sir, your Yin Yong” when he served this to me, so it is not likely to be a mistake, I thought. I took a sip and got even more confused. I am pretty sure that there was NO coffee in this drink, but it also didn’t taste like a plain milk tea. It tasted like milk tea + something else which I could not identify. But the taste was alright, different than usual but alright

And then my food arrived…

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荷叶饭 Japanese Glutinous Rice – RM 4.80
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虾饺 Har Gao – RM 4.80
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鱼蛋烧卖 Siew Mai with Fish Roe – RM 4.50

One of my main grouses with Penang dim sum is the (lack of) size of the dim sum pieces here. You see, I am not a very sensitive person when it comes to food taste. I am not at the level of “Wow! This dumpling has the perfect balance of the shrimp’s freshness, shallot’s crispiness and wonderful flavors of space age seasoning!”. I am not that. To me, the food is either delicious, alright, or crap. And the dim sums in Penang generally tasted alright. Not great, but alright. What pisses me off is how small Penangites make their dim sum pieces, regardless of which dim sum restaurant I go to.

Now I think this is my personal problem. But then this is MY blog, so if it is a personal problem for me, then it is a problem.

Most people would prefer smaller pieces and argue that they can eat more variety with smaller pieces. I am not one of most people though. I like my dim sum to be big pieces. To me, a good piece of dim sum should be worth a big mouthful. Eating into it should fill my entire mouth with warmth and deliciousness. A small dim sum piece is like a cock-tease. Or a Youtube video that keeps buffering every 5 seconds. Makes me happy, but at the same time gives me an unnecessary dissatisfaction.

I am glad to announce that the har gao and siew mai pieces in Sticks & Spoon are of the correct size. Well, not 100% correct, but more correct than all my past dim sum experiences in Penang. They are not as big as what I remember eating in KL though. Well, so, maybe 80% correct. But then, I have not had dim sum in KL in a while. With all the stupid GST and inflation and whatnot, maybe dim sum sizes in KL have shrunk for all I know

Taste wise, the glutinous rice and har gao was alright (refer above for alright definition). Let’s talk a bit more about the siew mai

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See that shrimp there? Yes, they have not just one, but two un-minced shrimps inside the siew mai, along with a bit of minced fish or chicken as filling. Now I believe most of you will be rejoicing at the sight of this siew mai, thinking how wonderful and generous and good value for money this dish is.

That’s not what I felt though. In fact, I felt kind of disappointed. If you want me to put it simply, I think this piece of thing looks like a siew mai, but it is NOT a siew mai

What is a siew mai? To me, siew mai is a type of dumpling with minced pork filling and wrapped in such a way that the top is exposed with the filling. The keyword here is pork. You can have minced pork mixed with chives, or minced shrimp, or minced fish, etc as the filling, but there must be pork. If there is no minced pork in the filling, then it is NOT a siew mai. The taste would be totally different…

Hence, the siew mai in this cafe, is NOT siew mai… I could not taste any pork in the filling. The taste was totally wrong… and that kind of sucks…

Seriously… why do you think I would want a siew mai with intact shrimps as filling? If I want that I’d go for har gao…

Will I come here again? Well, let’s weigh the pros and cons…

Pros: not too expensive, no GST, taste okay, close to where I stay in, DECENT DIM SUM SIZE (this is a big pro).
Cons: staring staff when dining, siew mai wannabe (this is a big con).

I don’t know. I’ll probably come again when I have dim sum craving, but I’ll most likely tapao (takeaway) rather than dine in if I am alone. And I will order other items. I will NOT order siew mai here anymore…

24 Comments

  1. I am a Penang born and well bred fella who could swear that all the BKT and Dim Sum there cannot beat the KL ones. The other hawker fares are definitely the best from Penang like Char Koay Teow, Prawn Mee and Assam Laksa etc etc. I normally brought my Penang kawans to eat BKT and Dim Sum in KL instead to convince them. They were very amazed to see the restaurants full with people standing outside like vultures waiting for tables as testimonials that food eatery is good.

    • Well, I always get into trouble when trying to convince Penangites. If I mention the long queue as testimonial, they would counter and say “Of course lah, because that is the best of the worst. If they can choose between Penang and KL, sure no more queue in the KL one”…

  2. Interesting. Wannabe siew mai. Maybe it was a halal siew mai or something. To be honest, I am not a pork fan at all but siew mai with pork filling is one of the few timess I eat pork. Actually, I think the wannabe siew mai might taste better than the ones here we have in Australia.

    • At first I thought maybe it was halal, but then, cannot be, because this place also sells pork ribs..

      I’ve seen pictures of my friends having dim sum in Melbourne, honestly those photos looked glorious! Are you sure they are not good?

      • Your friends are probably great food photographers. The dim sum in Melbourne come in bigger portions than what you get in KL. Like the siew mais and har gaos bigger. The pork in the siew mais – and pork in general in Australia – is, well, more rough (or “chou” in Cantonese if you get it) and that always throws me off guard.

        If you know where to go in Melbourne, dim sum can be a tasty feed (aka the yum cha places packed with Asians) 😀

        • I get what you mean with the “roughness”. I think it might not be due to differing breeds of pork. Here our minced pork would always have a portion of fatty pork in the mix. That’s what gives the minced pork a softer texture. I suspect Australian minced pork doesn’t have fatty pork in the mix, hence the “roughness”.

  3. The drink looks like tea+Horlicks, I mean the colour la.. I like dimsum, but I don’t always eat them.. Ohh you are right, siew-mai means minced pork.. I love my siew-mai packed with meat.. Siew-mai wannabe, I’m laughing now..

  4. I’m hoping to be back in Penang in a couple of months. I’d love your list of the most delicious spots to visit. (healthy and non-healthy – cheesecake included 😉

    • Like I said before, I’m the worst possible source of Penang food advice! You’d do well looking up Ken Hunts Food instead! 😀

  5. maybe the yuen yong they serve there has more yuen and less yong, while the ones you tried in other places have less yuen and more yong??

    muahahahahaha!!!! excuse me for this lame joke.. but i wonder which is yuen and which is yong between the tea and coffee?? :p

    • I wouldn’t know which is which, hahaha! Sometimes, people call it cham 参 instead of yuen yong, maybe these guys think cham = cham anything you like.. 😐

  6. Did you ask to see the dim sum chef and ask the chef why are there prawns in siew mai when there should be minced pork?

    For me, I am all for prawns but I would expect it in har gao and not in siew mai.

    • I don’t normally ask for the chef, unless he come out to talk by himself. And I was running a bit late anyway, I was going to catch a movie after the meal..

  7. This is the first time I’ve seen a siew mai that’s filled with prawns instead of pork…and I agree totally, a siew mai is not a siew mai unless it is filled with minced pork! From your description, if a dim sum place is not packed on a weekend morning, it’s probably not that good coz, most of the time in KL, you have to wait (or queue) for tables on such mornings.

    • Sometimes with those high end restaurants, they would have a blend of minced meats as filling, either pork + fish or pork + prawns or something, but always with pork. Unless it is those halal dim sum in hotels lah, which I also don’t really fancy. This one, really not my cup of tea, or rather not my tray of siew mai!

      Well, first time I come. Previously I have only read from other bloggers… I don’t think it is that bad to be honest, just the siew mai…

  8. Yes, why is there whole prawn in the siew mai? Yes, we usually find that in har kao. Like you, I am not a big fan of dim sum – will go once in a while for a change but no, I would not be dying to have some at any one time…plus it is not all that cheap as well.

    Ya, I’m like you too – something is very (very very) nice, all right, ok…or not really great. Will not go into the fine details like some people…and one amazing thing that I know is that some of them do not even know how to cook or hardly ever do so!!!

    Another thing – most, if not all, of these dim sum places are very generous with their msg, an overdose of it in everything and I do not really fancy that!

    • Oh, I am a big fan of dim sum, just not Penang dim sum, for the reason I mentioned in the post.

      Well, if we eat out, msg is something that we can hardly avoid nowadays. 🙁

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