Close to every Ramadhan, a foodie friend I have, posts an ode to nasi lemuni (lemuni rice). She found it at a Ramadhan bazaar and waxed lyrical over it, so that got me curious over what is nasi lemuni and how good can it be exactly.
The only issue ... where do I find it in Penang?
When a little bird told me that Jawi House at Armenian Street does an authentic version, I insisted to Hubs that we go over to try it. As usual, parking in the heritage area of Georgetown is limited and all side parking so I'm pretty glad it was Hubs that did the driving. We'd to park quite a distance away and do some walking.
Apart from the scorching sun, it was quite a nice walk and I enjoyed looking at how restoration of the area is bringing the heritage houses back to life. Take a look at this beauty, for instance.
Hubs and I weren't sure if this was a boutique hotel or someone's immaculately restored private residence - and in my favourite shade of mint grade.
I was whipped out my mobile to take photos of everything and anything. I stopped under this arch for a moment, thinking that the swaying air plants look eerily pretty ... until a bug dropped on me and I ran off screeching.
This was me post screech, wearing (as usual) a Dorothy Perkins black lace sweetheart top and an inky blue pair of skinny jeans. My cousin text-ed me to say that she had something very similar to this ... and also from Dorothy Perkins! Hubs rolled his eyes and said that our similar tastes must be genetic.
Jawi House is part cafe, part gallery and another part (if that's even mathematically possible) museum. It celebrates the Jawi/Malay Peranakan culture by focusing on spices brought in by the Arabian, Turkish, Persian and yes, Armenian traders back then.
The stylish little courtyard with a covered skylight.
I don't usually order drinks at restaurants but I couldn't resist the intriguingly named Arabian sherbet while Hubs settled on the nutmeg juice. The Arabian sherbet tastes as beautiful it looks. Think the sweetness of air bandung tempered with the slight headiness of spices sprinkled with jelly-like basil seeds. Fairy Godma, if you are reading this: this tastes so much better than the one you took me to last time.
Served with cucumber pickles, a boiled egg, ikan bilis, sambal, the nasi lemuni (RM15) was fragrant, went marvelously with the accompanying bowls of chicken curry and vegetable curry. I thought it was a huge spread and well worth the price considering that it's located in a hip, tourist-y area. I think I almost shed a tear eating it. NOW I see the hype ;)
Hub's nasi briyani (RM15) comes with a choice of chicken or beef rendang and it's dished up with the same cucumber pickles and papadums. Jawi House will be an Atkins dieter's worst nightmare - the rice is just superb. It is studded with cashews for an unexpected texture and taste along with herbs that just makes all the flavours explode on my tongue. People, I've a confession to make. I finished all of my rice, right down to the last grain.
The chef was a very friendly and charming young man who described each dish for us and on top of that, described the history of Penang to us. He spent some time walking us through the gallery and showing us watercolour depictions of Penang during the 1790s. I've to admit I'd no idea that that long before the British arrived, Georgetown was a swampy forest with villages in it.
Visitors are requested to remove their shoes to preserve the wooden staircase and flooring before heading upstairs to the art gallery. Even though I don't know anything about modern art, I loved what I saw. Leaves Pressing Against Windows were framed behind a white wood and glass, designed to look like French doors. Pine was a rustic piece of a pine cone painted on (pine?) wood.
I can't wait to be back to try the rest of their dishes ... after burning off all the carbs on a long walk back to the car ;)
Address: 85, Lebuh Armenian, George Town, Penang.
Tel: +604 261 3680
Opening times: Mon - Sat, 10am-7pm